This will answer the following three questions: what do I think the perception of distance learning will be in the future, how will I be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning, and how will I be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance learning. Love it or hate it, distance learning is here to stay. Out of necessity, organizations and educational institutions have had to improve their virtual learning and work environments since 2020 in response to the social distancing practices that suddenly pushed learning to online environments. I don’t feel that I need to be a proponent of proving the worth of distance learning. The worth of distance learning has proven itself to be worth the bottom line of companies and educational institutions. In order to be a positive force in the improvement of distance learning, I will follow research-based best practices for creating design moving forward.
The perceptions of distance learning in the future
Love it or hate it, distance learning is a permanent fixture in learning environments at work and in educational institutions. Because of the COVID 19 Pandemic beginning in 2020, society was hastily immersed into a virtual work and learning world. Elementary, middle school, and junior high, universities, and work settings had to quickly adapt to using video conferencing and learning software. Many teachers and learning professionals were not adequately trained to provide online instruction using these tools. Also, many learning professionals, students, and employees had a difficult time with the sudden shift to a virtual environment. Motivation, focus, accountability, and peer-to-peer connection were initially lacking in many of the learning environments at the start of the pandemic.
Over the last two years, learning professionals and educational institutions have evolved with the need for online instruction. Now, at the time of this article, universities and work learning environments have adapted more hybrid or blended learning approaches. Teachers and trainers have had to become more comfortable and proficient at engaging learners online. This means that they have had to become more tech-savvy and creative with software and authoring tools. The proliferation of information and communications technology requires a variety of additional teaching skills and competencies that have to be developed by learning professionals over and above subject matter knowledge, in order to be effective and efficient (Naidu, 2014). The traditional routine of instruction consisting of lecture, papers, tests, and quizzes are not sufficient for engagement in a virtual environment. Effective instruction requires instructors to not be just subject matter experts but also facilitators and mentors (Walden). Instructors need to be skilled at facilitating achromous discussion. This involves posting engaging questions relevant to the content, while also monitoring and responding to posts made by students. As a mentor, instructors need to vigilant foster an online community by assigning group work and encouraging communication among students (Walden).
Distance learning has and will continue to be tolerated by some and more accepted by others. Newer generations feel more at home in virtual work and learning environments. This new generation of learners will not see the distinction between brick-and-mortar and online/distance learning the way older generations see it. Work environments typically have a curriculum that is hybrid in nature, offering both online and in-person, synchronous, and asynchronous instruction. As time lapses from when virtual learning and telework environments did not exist, newer generations of students and employees will see distance virtual learning/work environments as normal. Online learning will continue to become more normal over time. Some will prefer face-to-face instruction, and some will prefer online instruction.
I don’t feel that I need to be a proponent of distance learning to prove its worth. Even before the pandemic, companies have been recognizing the benefits of virtual training and education over the last two years. Online learning can be cheaper, more adaptable, more flexible, and can reach a wider audience (Morrison et al., 2019). More and more companies are now using learning management systems and are hiring instructional designers. There is a wide market for people who are trying to juggle family and work responsibilities and need online education options. Although I don’t intend to necessarily work as an instructional designer full-time any time soon, I will make sure to highlight my master of instructional design and use the theory and experience therein to improve instruction in my current work with the Veterans Administration. I will utilize information from the works of Piskurich (2015), Mayer (2022), Simonson (2019), and others from the field of instructional design.
Mayer, R. E., & Fiorella, L. (2022). The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning. Cambridge University Press.
Naidu, S. (2014). Looking back, looking forward: the invention and reinvention of distance education. Distance Education, 35(3), 263-270.
Morrison, G. R., Ross, S., Morrison, J. R., & Kalman, H. K. (2019). Designing effective instruction. Wiley.
Piskurich, G. M. (2015). Rapid instructional design: Learning Id fast and right, 3rd edition. John Wiley & Sons.
Simonson, M., Zvacek, S., & Smaldino, S. (2019). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (7th ed.) Information Age Publishing.
Walden University, LLC. (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu