Sunday, August 21, 2011

The future of Distance Learning

As my course in Distance Learning draws to a close I am asked to reflect on the future of this technology based education option and my role in the improvement of the perception of it and the actual field itself. When I stop and think about the future of distance learning I wonder if I will have children, and their role in the future that I will be helping to create. I see a growing acceptance of the idea of online education. I think in the next 5-10 years education over the internet will finally be a common option that is not even looked at as an alternative to traditional face-to-face studies, but just a general offering that is selected or passed up like you would a professor you do or do not like. Because technology is moving and growing at such a rapid rate, the time it takes for people to become comfortable with a new creating based on these advances is shortened ever so slightly with each new product.

In 10-20 years I cannot even imagine what distance learning will look like. The world is a global playground to any new technology. Students may have a simulation option in the future where their comments are collected and transmitted to one another in a virtual classroom that is tapped into with goggles and headphones. Synchronous chats may then look like actual classroom chats with avatars or holographic images of classmates and teachers. I could let my imagination continue to run rampant, but I am simply saying that the picture of distance learning in the future will be painted with an array of colors we have yet to see or even envision.

As a distance learner all any of us will have to do to generate and maintain a positive perception of online education is to ensure that what we are creating is quality. We have to always remember that the technology is not the reason for the course we create, but merely a conduit for the information to flow through. As the cyber world grows more intricate and the contributions become more and more interesting, we must keep a level head and not let the technology be what drives our courses. People will continue to base their decisions of school selection on things like price, name, accreditation, and so on, but how the school uses technology will soon become a regular on that list. If the online options that we create produce high quality students then the public will see that and our products will be what fuels the positive perception of online learning.

AS an instructional designer I will always want more for and from the students that my course designs will touch. For this to happen I will have to stay aware of the lasts technologies, so that when developing a class I can focus on how to convey the information and not be bogged down with trying to learn a new program while in the development stages. I will also continue to take classes myself to be familiar with the latest findings in learning theories, the new minds of future generations and the advancements of my field. By keeping my knowledge base current as well as my skill set I will be a viable resource in the future of distance education.
Regardless of how individuals feel about online learning, it has thus far withstood the test of time. Even though this window of time has been shortened by the speed of the evolution of technology, it has still withstood all of its tests. So in my eyes distance education is here to stay, now it may look completely different in the next few decades, but what we commonly refer to right now as “distance learning” looks nothing like the correspondences courses of yesteryear. So with that said, I see I bright future for this educational option, which in turn offers a bright future for me as well. 

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