Reflection – Distance Learning Course

creative-thinking“Rapid advances in information technology are reshaping [our] learning styles” (Dede, 2005, p. 7), and simply the way we think. In his article “Is Google making us stupid,” Carr (2008) is discussing the shift in our thinking process with the new technological tools we are now using. Our minds are not working the same way as our grandparents’. He explained that our brain is bombarded by information when surfing on Internet, and got used to skim out the information provided. He even provided various examples of bloggers, or experts, that actually stop reading books, as they cannot concentrate enough now to go through the end, and this was proven by researches.

I am not sure what to think about this to be honest. Of course, our learning styles did evolve. Our ability to multitask is a confirmed fact (Dede, 2005), and it created new needs that we did not have before. This is one of the reasons why distance learning became an appropriate response to the needs of those new generation learners. However, it is still currently growing, adapting to those needs and to the evolution of technology. A lot of people are still having a negative image of distance learning (D’Agustino, 2012). Our society is still traditional in a lot of ways, and distance learning is a new world for a lot of people. This that never actually tried it will tend to believe that the quality of distance education is lower than traditional education. However, those learners that did try this method tend to have a very positive feedback (Godwin, & Mabilon, personal communication, February 25, 2014).

The Indian author Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote: “one is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.” Distance learning is an unknown environment still for a lot of people. They are familiar with the traditional education system, and do not know what to expect from distance education. In the past few years, we saw a growing acceptance for this field, as new tools are available, and more and more people select this option. The easy access to knowledge and the flexibility provided by distance degree are making it more and more attractive for our busy schedule. “Non-traditional students become an increasingly large segment of the student body” (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008, p. 66). So as the number of only students grows, the reputation of distance learning grows as well, spreading the word and breaking the barriers of the unknown. I believe this is what will continue to happen in the few years coming. With the advance of newer technology, like the Web 3.0 for example, distance learning will become more and more popular, as it will be more and more adapted to the learners’ needs. I still believe that a face-to-face portion of certain educational program is necessary, I foresee a huge increase in demand for online and hybrid education. In 10 or 20 years, I believe it will be a standard for a lot of fields of study.

As an instructional design, we have the responsibility to design the instruction to match our learners’ needs (Morrison, Ross, Kalman, & Kemp, 2011). So we play an important role in the reputation of distance education. By designing effective instruction (either hybrid or online), we will be able to spread the word that distance education is as effective as traditional education, and has a lot of additional advantages to match people’s needs.

If I take my school as an example, the use of technology is not common for a lot of my colleagues. The school is very traditional in a lot of ways, but we are clearly seeing a decrease in students’ satisfaction, as we are not matching their needs anymore!

So little by little, in the past few semesters, we have been a few to start changing the design of our courses. Since I started this online degree, I have been able to put in application of a lot of my new knowledge. I re-designed one of my management course, to change it to a web-based approach. I am still making changes to it, especially during this Distance Learning course, to make it as effective as possible. The students’ feedback in the past 2 semesters has been incredibly good. The students love it, as it is giving them more freedom with their own work, integrating a lot of new technology and tools that they really enjoy, and allowing teachers to use the contact time for activities that are much more engaging for them. The new design is matching their neomillennial learning style (Dede, 2005) and is increasing their engagement and satisfaction (Rovai , Ponton, Wighting, & Baker, 2007).

The first course we followed in this degree was about change management. We are facing the kind of change we studied. People perceptions of distance education are changing, but change takes a lot of time and effort. Changes will happen through three different steps: “awakening, mobilizing, and reinforcing” (Hitt, Miller, & Colella, 2009). I believe we are currently in the mobilizing stage, and if we want this to happen, we (IDs) need to play our role in the process!

Many a little makes a mickle…

References

Carr, N. (2008, July 1). Is Google Making Us Stupid? – Nicholas Carr – The Atlantic. Retrieved March 1, 2014, from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

D’Agustino, S. (2012). Toward a course conversion model for distance learning: a review of best practices. Journal of international education in business, 5(2), 145–162. doi:10.1108/18363261211281753

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(1), 7–12.

Hitt, M. A., Miller, C. C., & Colella, A. (2009). Organizational Behavior: A Strategic Approach (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., Kalman, H. K., & Kemp, J. E. (2011). Designing effective instruction (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Rovai, A. P., Ponton, M. K., Wighting, M. J., & Baker, J. D. (2007). A Comparative Analysis of Student Motivation in Traditional Classroom and E-Learning Courses. International Journal On E-Learning, 6(3), 413-432

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