Sunday, April 22, 2012

the future of distance learning ...

Each year, the Sloan Consortium (“an institutional and professional leadership organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education, helping institutions and individual educators improve the quality, scale, and breadth of online education” (About Sloan-C, n.d)) conducts a survey on trends in online education (Allen & Seaman, 2011). It is likely that you won’t be surprised to hear that:

-       Over 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term; an increase of 560,000 students over the number reported the previous year;
-       The ten percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the less than one percent growth of the overall higher education student population; and
-       Thirty-one percent of all higher education students now take at least one course online (Allen & Seaman, 2011).
However, just because something is growing in popularity, doesn’t mean it is good. Ellen and Seaman explored this area as well finding that “the only dimension among those examined where online was seen as inferior to face-to-face instruction was in the area of student-to-student interactions. For most aspects, the two were rated fairly equally” (2011, p. 16).
Despite these growing numbers, general success and student satisfaction:
-       One-third of all academic leaders continue to believe that the learning outcomes for online education are inferior to those of face-to-face instruction (Allen & Seaman, 2011).
Academic leaders are not alone there. In a survey I conducted of 15 of my friends, I too found that one third (33..3%) felt that the quality of face-to-face learning could not be replicated online (Distance learning impressions, n.d).

what can be done?

As more and more people experience distance education and/or valuable distance communication, the overall perception of distance learning will improve (Siemens, n.d). However, as professionals we have an obligation as well.

As instructional designers, we are uniquely positioned to influence societal perceptions of distance learning and the continuous improvement in the field of distance education by consistently and faithfully employing strategies rooted in best practices, contemporary research in learning theory and utilizing bleeding edge technologies in the design of learning solutions. (Loebel, 2011)

It is through our actions that we can work to increase the value and positive perceptions of distance learning. We can speak to our positive experiences and (most importantly) go out and do good work. Demonstrate that our training has been just as good as that completed face-to-face. Through these actions, both the enrollment and positive impressions will continue to grow over the next 5-10 years.

About Sloan-C (n.d). Retrieved from

Allen, I. & Seaman, J. Going the distance: Online education in the United States, 2011. (2011). Retrieved from
“Distance learning impressions.” [Survey] Results retreived from
Loebel, D. (2011, August 21). The future of distance learning-Reflection [Blog message]. Retrieved from:
Siemens, G. (n.d) “The future of distance learning” Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved April 17, 2012, from

Sunday, April 15, 2012

converting a face-to-face course to a blended learning course - how to ...

As more and more traditional classroom based programs, or face-to-face learning programs, make the transition to blended learning environments (those employing both face-to-face and online learning methods), it is important keep in mind that, while exciting, this process is not simple and should not be taken lightly or done quickly. To that end, I have created a simple guide of areas to consider while going through this process. Exploring the Theory of Equivalency, learner analysis, determining essential content, selecting activities, incorporating technologies, and understanding how the role of the instructor changes, this guide is not exhaustive, but meant to serve as a starting point.

You can view the guide here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

open courseware ...

Okay, you’ve heard about these free course that MIT™ and Yale™ are offering … and something about free math stuff with Khan Academy™ …
but what exactly is this whole open courseware thing?!?
Open Courseware (OCW) is a concept of “publication on the Web of course materials developed by higher education institutions and shared with others” (Simonson, et al, 2012, p. 141).These materials are organized (often including course planning materials and evaluation tools) and are free and available to anyone, anytime via the Internet (Open Courseware Consortium [OCC], n.d).
let’s look at what you get …
Here you can find the MIT™ OCW course on Shakespeare (2004). Going to the homepage we see a syllabus, calendar, readings, assignments, exams, and related resources. All clearly laid out and easy to navigate. We can see which plays are to be read, which film adaptations to view, the details of the three essays we would write, and the final exam.
is this distance learning?
Graham, Cagiltay, Lim, Craner, and Duffy (2001) have seven guidelines for online instruction (as presented by Simonson, et al, 2012):
  1. Provide clear guidelines.
  2. Discussion assignments foster student cooperation.
  3. Students present course projects.
  4. Instructors provide information and acknowledgement feedback.
  5. Deadlines are provided.
  6. Challenging activities communicate high expectations.
  7. Allowing student choice in project topics.
This particular course does meet some of these requirements. There are very clear guidelines and deadlines. The activities are challenging and demonstrate high expectations, and there is a large deal of student choice. However, many are absent. As this learning is done independently, there are no discussion assignments, no opportunity for student presented course projects, or instructor feedback of any kind. And this is by design. MIT™ spells it out this way:
  • “OCW is not an MIT education.
  • OCW does not grant degrees or certificates.
  • OCW does not provide access to MIT faculty.
  • Materials may not reflect entire content of the course” (Unlocking knowledge, n.d).
so, what is it then?
Lerman & Miyagawa (2002) recommend thinking of OCW as a new publishing initiative akin to textbook publications of the past. While available to students with the time and adequate self-motivation, part of the future of OCW is likely to be in the use of the materials by instructors teaching online (Simonson, et al, 2012). "MIT OpenCourseWare offers students access to a rich set of open educational resources (OER) that can be combined and customized for a more effective educational experience” (MIT OpenCourseWare, 2012). Whether utilized by very motivated independent learners or by online educators in the OER movement, OCW is an exciting world to watch!

Henderson, D., Donaldson, P., & Raman, S. (2004). Shakespeare. MIT OpenCourseWare™. Retrieved April 1, 2012 from
Lerman, S. R., & Miyagawa, S. (2002). Open CourseWare: A case study in institutional decision making. Academe, 88(5), 23-27.
MIT OpenCourseWare Teams Up with Flat World Knowledge to Combine Free Texts and Free Course Materials. (2012). Retrieved April 1, 2012 from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
Unlocking knowledge, empowering minds (n.d). MIT OpenCourseWare. Retrieved April 1, 2012 from
What is courseware? Open Courseware Consortium. Retrieved April 1, 2012 from