Module 1 Post: The Next Generation of Distance Education
Symbolically speaking, there is a giant balloon filled with distance learning opportunities on the verge of exploding, changing traditional ways of thinking and making way to the next generation of learning. I stand by this notion, but must clarify that the old pedagogical principles still apply. Yes, there is a need for distance learning to evolve to the next generation, a level at which Semantic Web 2.0 is fully supported with its self-directed/community-based learning attributes. Moller, Foshay and Huett (2008) suggested that schools may exist in a vacuum, floating around in time, while the rest of the world advance and adapt to technological changes (p. v). These authors further asserted that on a systemic level, effort is minimal to access and participate in new and exclusive learning opportunities that technology brings to students (pp. v-vi). Like Anderson (2008), I believed that online learning will become increasingly diverse in response to learning cultures, styles, and motivations (p.39). In essence, though at a slow rate, the education system will evolve to a higher level than the current state in which we are hardly scratching the surface of learning opportunities that new technologies bring.
Regarding the rate of adoption for distance learning, Rogers (2003) theorized that all innovations that were diffused successfully followed an “S” shaped curve whereby little promotional effort would be required after a critical mass of adopters is reached (Rogers, 2003, Chapter 6, Section 2, para. 2). Anderson (2008) believed that critical mass has not yet been achieved in design or practice, to demonstrate the value of online learning (pp.250-251). Contrary to this belief, Dr. Michael Simonson in his video postulated that we are at the point of critical mass regarding online learning, whereby the innovation no longer requires promotion, it simply needs to be instilled into our pedagogical activities (Laureate Education, 2008). I agree with this concept, but to a certain extent in that there are still many areas in online learning that require attention, for example, the issue of not attending to a diverse body of learners. Another weakness, of which Anderson (2008) pointed out, was poor educational application in web-based instruction. Anderson (2008) believed that this problem might be linked to reality that critical mass has not been achieved. Whether or not online learning is at a point of critical mass, it would not hurt if educators launch programs that demonstrate the usefulness of this alternate learning mode. Although distance learning obviously has countless benefits, the rate of acceptance is sluggish which seems to be related to vested interests at the systems level in education.
Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The theory and practice of online learning (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.
Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445–459.
Laureate Education, Inc. (2008). Distance Education: The Next Generation [Video]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press. [Kindle touch version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.
Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W. & Coleman, C. (2008, September/October). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.