Defining Distance Learning

The world of distance education is forever changing. Just this evening I was having a conversation with friends about online universities and seems that the room was split. Some friends stated that they couldn’t stand the thought of trying to obtain a master’s online and the others said they wouldn’t be able to obtain a master’s any other way.

In 2005, I decided to go back to school. I was a young mother and a traveling training specialist. My life needed flexibility and the online university was a great solution. The platform of the class made it difficult to learn new content. The class size was big, and I felt that my voice or questions could not be heard. It was a frustrating experience studying online so I withdrew from the school and swore off all online learning.

So now, I am currently enrolled in another online learning University and my experience is completely different. So you are probably wondering what’s the difference? I like to think its technology and instructional design. The platform used at the university where I currently attend school is a platform that allows group discussion, and frequent feedback from the professor.

Distance education must be interactive and relevant to the student. Without the connection the student will feel lost and will not receive the benefits that distance education has to offer.

As distance education evolves my thoughts on the topic have as well. The needs of students will change and technology will as well. But as we travel this journey as instructional designers we need to remember that distance education does not only come in the form of online learning but as the history of distance education has shown us, it comes in multiple mediums but it is up to instructional designers to find the best platform to encourage and motivate learners.

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