Distance Learning Reflection

As I reflect back on this distance learning course and on all that I have learned over these past eight weeks, I realized that distance education is going to continue to grow and will be in higher demand as the technologies evolve. Simonson defines online learning institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, Zvacek, 2012). Almost every student now will have access to at least one online distance learning class during their school years. Businesses will also widely accept distance learning courses because it will save them money and resources and also allow them to interact with their different offices from anywhere in the world.

In the next 5-10 years, I believe that more and more learners will turn to distance learning instead of the traditional classroom setting. With the easy access of distance learning, especially to adults with families and jobs, working adults will take online classes to make themselves more desirable for career changes or job promotions. As the country faces many economic problems like reductions in the amount of money provided to K-12 education and outsourced jobs – distance learning provides some sort of relief to those problems. Traditional higher institutions are more expensive that online distance education. One important thing that I learned was that there are some free Open Source Courses available online in a variety of topics and subjects.

Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012) contend distance learning will not replace face-to-face educational settings. I do have to agree with that statement, because there are some learners that need that face-to-face interaction in order to learn. In the coming years, I see distance learning being accepted in all facets of learning, from K-12 to higher education. Even today, for students in my school system that are not adapting and excelling in the traditional classroom setting, distance learning classes are an option for them to receive their high school diploma. I see distance learning also becoming more and more favorable to learners that live in countries outside of the US like Asia and Africa.

As an instructional designer, I will do my best to promote society’s perception of distance learning by advocating its benefits and also contributing to the field. By being involved in distance education classes, I have learned to analyze the learner’s unique needs before moving any traditional learning course into an online learning setting. My role as instructional designer would also involve creating effective ways to use the communication tools that are available to ensure that the learners maintain a high level of motivation and that student participation is ongoing. The designer will need to assure the high level of student involvement required for success (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, Zvacek, 2012).

I will strive to be a positive force for the continuous improvement in the field of distance education by staying abreast of all the new advances in the technology and instructional field. I will make it a point to read professional magazines and articles that relate to the field and also keep in touch with other instructional designers that may be able to share their experiences and insight into the business. I already have some long term goals in mind to help train some of my co-workers in professional development classes.

References

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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The Impact of Open Source

In any distance learning education course, the planning process is crucial and requires a great deal of time and effort. Learners must be provided with the proper learning resources for the course as well as activities that create interaction among the students and challenge them. Because of the technological advances over the past several years, distance learning formats are now accessible online. Open Courseware is a term that consists of all supporting digital material for academic courses such as; syllabi, lecture notes, reading lists, presentation slides, case studies and software that is available for educational use and is shared via the internet at no cost (Baldi, Heier, Stanzick, 2002). These courses provide learners the opportunity to learn from college level classes but cannot be taken for college credit. These classes are most beneficial to students that want to see what a particular class is about before actually signing up or for those that just want to gain the additional knowledge.

The course I previewed was Abstract Algebra. URL http://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative/abstract-algebra

Instructor: Benedict Gross, PHD – Harvard Extension School

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I chose this particular course because I am terrible at Math. I was hoping this would help to enlighten me on some of the concepts of Algebra that I have had trouble with for many years. No such luck. When entering this course, I found a course syllabus, and some notes for each section – many were hand written though. Each course had recorded lectures that were available for download in Quicktime or MP3 formats or you could play the Flash version directly. Each week consisted of three lectures which were 50 minutes each.

I was really disappointed in the overall structure of this course. The videos were informative, however a lot the notes that were provided by the instructor were just hand written and scanned and the assignments were also hand written. I didn’t find any place to review the assignments or compare answers to see if the questions were being answered correctly. According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek (2012) some factors that are important in a course such as this are: student-instructor interaction and student-student interaction. An example of this would be a discussion group, wiki or blog where students could go and collaborate with each other and the instructor when needed. The material was presented in several different formats such as audio video and the hand written notes, however more resource links could have been posted as additional learning tools.

I found that the majority of this course was basically just a dumping ground for the information. Not many active learning strategies were implemented within this course.

References

Baldi, S., Heier, H., & Stanzick, F. (2002). Open courseware vs. open source software- A critical comparison.  Retrieved from http://csrc.lse.ac.uk/asp/aspecis/20020137.pdf

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvack, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Yale University (2008). History 116: The American revolution. Retrieved from Yale Open courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-116

Harvard Extension School (2014) Abstract Algebra. Retrieved from Harvard Extension School website: http://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative/abstract-algebra