Distance Learning




What is distance learning and how has it evolved?

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-10-47-08-amI think that the definition of distance learning is constantly changing for a three reasons. First, education psychology and sociology are still very new to studying the effects of technology on cognitive development in part because technology is developing faster than the effects can be measured. Secondly, there is an overlap of generational perspective as what technology is and how it is used to enhance or diminish learning. Finally, there are different phases of separation that exist between the learner and the instructor. Separation is not exclusive to “time and geography” as Dr. Simonson suggests. I think that there is much more that causes this gap, actually, in my opinion, it exists even without the use of technology. This gap widens as a result of  what Boling et. al. quoted as a “systematic lack of awareness” in appropriate uses of technology in the field of education. This lack of awareness could be from lack of exposure to technology. However, technology is simply defined by Merriam Webster defines as the application of knowledge.

Malcolm X once said that, ‘You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where you don’t go.” The way knowledge is applied by the instructor determines whether or not learning occurs and if, in fact, behavior changes for the learner. Technology is only as good as the designers ability to use it to ensure that enhanced learning is occurring. This systematic lack of awareness comes from the tools being available without training or practice. Thus, it is up to the individual practitioner to gain the relevant experience in using a tool effectively for their learning group and learners are responsible for learning how to use technology to enhance their workflow and it is the

I envision the space that exist between learner and instructor in a face to face setting having a certain distance that needs to be bridged so that efficient instruction and learning can take place. Distance exists culturally as language and communication have a high value during the educational process. Simonson et. al. (2015) posits, “…connections of learners, teachers, and instructional resources became less dependent on physical proximity as communications systems became more sophisticated and widely available…” (p.32). It may seem awkward for a teacher to use multiple tools to teach the same thing she has been teaching for twenty years. However, check her student’s performance data, if she is not consistently showing growth, learning how to implement different technology will certainly raise her potential to get her lessons across effectively and efficiently. Moreover, this is part of the evolution of instructional design that takes a certain je ne sais quoi moving into the future. The designer that can use the right tools for the right learning groups in the least amount of time is going to invite a lot of success his way. (Hint to self…)   

My vision of distance learning as it continues to evolve resonates with the points made by Huett et. al (2008) wherein it is implied that teacher turnover and lower population totals of students in traditional learning settings. Additionally, K-12 environments will remain cynical about the full value of instructional design skills for educators until they completely relinquish the ‘magic elixir’ approach to the learning environment.  Finally, there will remain a market for training professionals to find out how to select technology for their appropriate learning groups and how to masterfully utilize those tools because “…it will require a restructuring of (how they do) business, necessitating the hiring of distance education instructional designers to work with teachers and the local district (p.65-66).


Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.