Sunday, March 1, 2015

Distance Education Reflection

As I reflect upon the Walden University course, Foundations of Distance Learning, I think of the many skills I have gained for a future as an instructional designer.  The most important piece of information I have learned from this particular course was my interest in the field of instructional design.  Although I knew perusing a future in instructional design was something I was looking forward to prior to enrolling in the program with Walden University, I did not feel nearly as enthusiastic about the opportunity to do so until now.  Getting the opportunity to build a course management system (CMS), of course, just a start, but exactly what I needed to see in order to know the exact path I wanted to take as an instructional designer.  Now I know I would like to design courses for a college, like a friend of mine is currently doing with her Walden degree.

Looking back on the past eight weeks I recall discussing with my peers and instructor the major changes taken place with distance education over the years.  Many of the past perceptions regarding online education have changed and it has now gained acceptance for the most part.  Dr. Siemens stated, “Many of the people who traditionally might have found face-to-face was primary are now starting to realize that they are able to have meaningful relationships through online medium” (Laureate Education, n.d.), when discussing how people communicate in general.   This general comfort level has helped society prepare for the use of technology as a classroom tool and as a tool used for distance learning.  Give it twenty years and online learning will be a large part of the secondary classroom environment, and an even larger part of the college environment than it already is today.  With the continuous gains in the area of technology, there are limitless opportunities for online education.  Dr. Siemens predicts in the future learners will eventually “bridge the gap of comfort because, that’s the challenge, so that they can take to it (learning online) and that experience with it will drive it as learners get comfortable” (Laureate Education, n. d.).  If learners do, in fact become comfortable with learning online, then the sky in the limit in distance education.

We have a responsibility as instructional designers to spread a positive message and design courses (or training programs) to assure positive experiences for the learners.  As a future instructional designer, spreading the word about distance education will be a major part of my job.  I hope to help improve society’s negative perception about distance education by spreading a positive word about it.  Not only spreading the word verbally with those I meet, but also, by designing courses that cater to the needs of individual learners as an instructional designer.  I believe the main reason some people have a negative perception of distance education is they just do not know a great deal about it.  Helping to educate others can go a long way.  Teaching others that collaboration does in fact take place in the online environment is key.  This will hopefully leave those learners with a positive feeling toward distance education.  I think those who have one good course are likely to take future courses with the same college or design company. 

Looking forward to my future with great anticipation is something I do often at this point in my life and I really did not do this as often in the previous course even.  I see a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.  There is a lot more learning ahead of me I have no doubt about that, and I have a lot more I want to learn (as a lifelong learner).  There are meaningful connections that take place through distance learning and this course is one in particular that has shown me that.  It has been a personal struggle for me to get through this course, to make a long story short, and a classmate of mine was kind enough to email asking if I was ok.  This shows the personal connections that are made through online courses.  I will never forget that and I will share it.


Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Evaluation of Open Yale Course

This week I visited the open course site offered by Yale at  In opening line, the course website states, “Open Yale Courses provide free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University” (  This advertisement certainly catches the eye of many adult learners seeking further education, and at no cost!  The site also states that there is no registration required to take the course and there is no credit, degree, or certificate is available through the course website.
There are several courses offered through Open Yale Courses.  I chose to click on an English course entitled ENGL 300: Introduction to the Theory of Literature.  The course URL is as follows:  All course material are downloadable on the course page and the lectures, previously recorded, are available for listening.  The course offers twenty-six lectures on the topic of twentieth-century literary theory.   A book is available for purchase online, otherwise the only content for reading in the downloadable text.  “The ideal online course should not have the primary learning resource online” (CarrChellman & Duchastel, 2000, p. 233).  According to this statement, the course is not applying best practices for a normal online course.  The course description is as follows:
“This is a survey of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. Lectures will provide background for the readings and explicate them where appropriate, while attempting to develop a coherent overall context that incorporates philosophical and social perspectives on the recurrent questions: what is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?” (
This objective leaves room for changes to be made based on learner needs, if changes needed to be made to the course in the future.  “Broadly stated goals are a helpful starting place for the instructor” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 158).  The designers of the Yale open course seemed to have this in mind when creating the course.  There is room for producing coursework around the topic in many different ways. 
The objective has stayed the same for this online course as it was for the face-to-face course.  As stated in Simonson et al. (2012), “The objective of a lesson may not necessarily change simply because and instructor teaches at a distance” (p. 158).  The open course is compiled of classroom lectures which were recorded by video.  The videos are available for the learner to watch.  Learners have the option of simply listening to the recording, watching the video of the lecture, or reading the lecture in print.  This caters to the different ways students learn, although it is the same information provided in different ways.    
As many of these open courses become available online through universities, there are networks of learners coming together to discuss their learning.  MOOC, or massive open online course, provides tools for “lifelong learners can use various tools to build and manage their own learning communities” (Fini, 2009, p. 5).  This means if learners want to use “blogs, social networking, wikis, messaging systems, etc.,” as mentioned in Fini (2009), they could create their own learning community with others.
My main concern with the open course Yale is providing is that it is strictly lectures.  For some learners, this is not a way of retaining information.  I understand the courses are free, so I guess one cannot ask for discussions among peers.  In my personal opinion, I would rather pay for a course designed to cater to the needs of me as a learner, and actually retain the information.  Simonson et al. (2012) describes twelve “golden rules” proposed by Bates for distance education (p. 175).  One of those rules is “interaction is essential” among the student and teacher (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 176).  This rule is said to be “well accepted by those in distance education” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 176).  If this is the case, and we are strictly looking at this course through the eyes of what good instruction is, then I do not feel this course is one that can offer much to me as a learner.  There will be no interaction with other students or with the instructor.  Learners can see other students in the class during the recording interacting with the instructor, but that is all.
The difficulty I find with comparing this course to other distance education courses I am familiar with is that it is free.  I think the idea of getting online and watching a lecture is certainly not for everyone.  On the other hand, the idea of having access to the information from a well-educated professor is quite appealing.  The design of the course I have reviewed begins with introductory information, leads into more in-depth lectures, and is complete after a reflection.  The overall design of the class is well thought out from an instructional design perspective.  The course is lacking a very important aspect for many learners, which is interactivity. 
CarrChellman, A., & Duchastel, P. (2000). The ideal online course. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31(3), 229-241.
Fini, A. (2009). The technological dimension of a massive open online course: The case of the CCK08 course tools. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(5).
Open Yale Course.  Retrieved from
Simonson, M., Smaldion, S., Albright, M. & Zvacek, S. (2012).  Teaching and learning at a distance:  Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Interactive Tours for High School Students

As an instructional designer, I would jump at the chance to tackle a project like the one below scenario:

Example 2: Interactive Tours

A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a "tour" of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

To begin, this scenario appealed to me as an educator and a current students working on my master’s in instructional design.  This scenario calls for the instructional designer to retrieve a website for distributed learning, as mentioned by Simonson et al., (2012).  “Distributed learning is a broader term that can be, and in fact most often is, associated with face-to-face instruction that incorporates some form of technology-based learning experience, either inside or outside the classroom” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 124).  I enjoy the challenge of looking for new, exciting ways to present materials to my own elementary students and feel this scenario presents just that…a challenge.  The main challenge with this scenario is finding an interactive tour for the students to view the New York City museums.  The below website through Museum Hack offers tours for students to discuss the tour while they are online touring the museum.  The teacher would need to purchase tickets, just like a travelling field trip, at a cost of $59.00-$79.00, depending on the museum the teacher chooses.  First, the students could view the following website, depending on the specific, museum as a whole class, using a computer and projector.

Along with the above website, there are also several websites that are geared toward specific museums.  As the instructional designer for the teacher, I would be sure to get a list of the specific museums from the teacher which he/she wants to tour online and locate websites that had virtual tours for the class to view.  The virtual touring technology piece gives a teacher on the opposite coast of the museums the ability to share visuals in a way as close to real life as possible.  The interactive piece allows students to ask questions while touring.

From there, students could be assigned two pieces of artwork to use in a collaborate discussion using Blackboard CourseSites.  There are many reasons I feel this piece of technology is perfect for this scenario.  First of all, CourseSites is free for the teacher, up to five courses at a time.  It is also very user friendly, in my opinion.  For high school age students, the website will be easy to navigate with facilitation from the teacher.  The incorporation of online discussion hits on many areas of standards for student learning.  Students are putting their typing and communication skills to work, along with the debating and comparison piece.  Another great feature of CourseSites for young students is that parents must agree to their students using the online resource.  One the online classroom is set up the teacher can monitor the students in a computer lab or allow them to work from home with parent supervision, depending on the assignment the teacher chooses.  The teacher can break the classroom into groups, or allow the students to choose their own group based on which pieces of artwork they wish to critique.

The class is now designed for the high school teacher to view interactive tours of museums in New York City, then set up an online discussion for the students to communicate about the two pieces of artwork.  With some facilitation from the teacher, the students will be able to learn from one another and collaborate with the use of a computer.  Collaborating online can help students to “overcome issues associated with face-to-face interactions” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 138).



CourseSites by Blackboard.  2013.  CourseSites Terms of Use. Retrieved from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012).  Teaching and learning at a distance:  Foundations of distance education (5th ed.)  Boston, MA:  Pearson.
Zerve, Inc.  2015.  Museum Hack.  Retrieved from 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Defining Distance Learning

My own definition of distance learning is as follows:  A learning community that takes place, with some distance between the learners, through technological tools and facilitated by an instructor from an institution.  See the mind map below, to serve as a visual for my definition of distance learning.
For example, Walden University is considered distance learning because online courses are offered through the university (institution) and the learners use computers (technology) to complete the course.  Learners who are researching topics for their own personal knowledge growth are not considered to be distance learners.  The institution is lacking in this particular scenario.  I feel confident in the definition provided by Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek.  “Distance education is defined as institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 22).  
The definition of distance learning often changes.  The definition evolves with the times.  I feel the reason for these changes in the definition is the change in technology and evolution of new technology as well as continued learning of the education process.  During my undergraduate coursework ten years ago I took a distance learning course that was very different from today’s distance learning courses.  At the time the course was considered distance learning, although it included sitting in a facility with a professional watching all the testing and quizzes.  The instructors were, however, not present throughout the course.  A librarian, teacher of any age level, etc. had to sign a release form stating they watched me take tests and quizzes.  The resource material for the course was all in the textbook, although the syllabus, tests, and quizzes were online.  Anyone taking the course was able to work at his or her own pace, but the final exam, which had to be taken at the college, was scheduled for a specific date ahead of time. 

The development of new technology has made it easier for professors to test students from a distance.  Moreover, education and what we know about how people learn has changed over the years.  For example, asking critical thinking questions and asking students to elaborate on materials they have learning has been argued as a better method of checking for understanding, rather than the traditional testing and final exam methods of the past.  Again, like the course I mentioned previously from my undergraduate college, testing was a priority for the course.  The Walden courses I take have not had any formal testing or final exams.  The courses are based on collaboration, papers to elaborate on topics, and projects to apply what was learned.

Changes in the way we live have also been a factor that has helped aid in the evolution of distance learning.  According to “Distance Learning Timeline Continuum,” distance learning originated in the United States in 1873, as an optional to traditional classrooms studies, through the postal service.  Had the definition of distance learning stayed the same as it was back then, the definition would not be accurate with today’s society and online learning communities.
Before referencing several materials this week, I felt the definition for distance learning was simple.  I thought it simply meant learning online.  I was not considering the word “distance” for what it actually means.  It was another name for online learning as I saw it.  This means that prior to this week I did not think distance learning meant there was an institution involved in the learning process, so learning online for personal gain would have fallen into the category of distance learning for me.  I had not thought before this week of the many changes that distance learning has gone through either.  Before reading “Distance Learning Timeline Continuum” I did not know learning took place through the postal service, as it did in the past.

The future of distance learning is open to many advances, in my opinion.  As technology is a major factor in the advancement of distance learning thus far, I feel technological advancements will be the underlying factor that continues to improve distance learning.  I look forward to a future where the blackboard community is even more advanced, with upgrades to the way people communicate.  I can see a discuss board where people record their thoughts through video technology and drop that presentational discussion into the blackboard.  There will be advances to technology that haven’t been created at this time, I believe.  The future holds a lot for technology in general, I am certain it holds the same for distance learning.


“Distance Learning Timeline Continuum”.  This multimedia, interactive timeline chronicles the evolution of distance learning from 1833–2009.

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), 63–6 7.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation [Video file]. Retrieved from

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

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

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