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

1 comment: