In my Distance Education class, we were given the task to interview 3 individuals to obtain their perception on distance education. I had the opportunity to interview three women and learn from my classmates how our interviewees held similar opinions on distance education. The Interviews: The first interviewee is a Business Analyst for one of the top health insurance companies in the state of New Jersey. She currently holds her undergraduate degree in business administration from William Patterson University and is attending Villanova University to obtain her MBA. The second interviewee is a Human Resources Manager for a Global organization that specializes in janitorial and food services to hospitals, stadiums, and schools ranging from k-12 as well as colleges and universities. She currently holds an undergraduate degree in Urban Development from Rutgers University, has a PHR certificate, and is looking for schools to attend for her Masters. The third interviewee is a stay at home mom who has her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from Old Dominion University. She is currently looking to return to the workforce and sees a need to continue her education. She is interested in attending a school with a flexible schedule being that she is a mother of three. For question #1, all three interviewees stated that an education from a traditional institution is more valuable than an online education. It was interesting to get their feedback because all interviewees raised great points, revealed a certain level of lack of knowledge around what is involved in distance education, and yet seems to represent what many people think as well. I picked this particular group of women due to the diversity in careers, and their desire to further their education. When asked why they believe that a traditional classroom setting is more valuable than an online education, the HR manager raised the following points: • Relaxed selection process for students entering the online school • Private online institutions that often charge twice that of traditional schools and only want money. • Lack of collaborative education through self study online • Not highly respected when viewed on resumes • Most online universities do not have accreditation like the traditional schools • Waste of money and time for students serious about their careers. This was hard to hear due to this individual being considered one of my best friends. So I began to think, does she think this about me? If my resume crossed her desk and she didn’t know who I was would she toss it in the trash because my school was online? I wanted to gain further understanding regarding her strong discontent for online education. I asked her if she has ever taken a course online and of course the answer was NO. What she did state is that the only schools that deliver content online that are capable of delivering valuable education are brick and mortar schools that offer online classes. Interviewees 2 and 3 answered similarly to Interviewee 1 regarding their feelings toward online learning but yet neither one of them have taken a class online. It seems that their only experience is that of a traditional classroom and the thought of an online education is still taboo. Even though the number of students utilizing this program is increasing per year, it is still being compared to traditional education. There were two points that came up in the interview that were very interesting in researching the perspectives of online education. Summary: Currently, perceptions of online education seem to be singing the same tune. It seems that most people believe that online corporate training programs or even blended learning in k-12 education is fine and can add value to the traditional classroom but yet when we shift the focus to collegiate studies the perception changes. Where Do We Go From Here? In a video program George Siemens talks about the future of online learning and states that as experts in technology create more multi-media and communication tools the more we will be able to see how effective online learning is continuing to be. Tools such as WebEx, Skype and Blackboard, are all great tools to use for online learning but we are just beginning to use these tools to its fullest capabilities and in some instances just using these tools at a bare minimum. Once these tools become more widely used among all generations, we may then begin to see a turn in the perception of online learning in the area of college studies. Validation and Respect for Online Education As instructional designers, it is importation to first learn which technologies are available to enhance the online learning experience, use models that support learning in an online format , and continue to learn of new advancements in the field. This may also mean thinking out of the box for instance, instructional designers found using tools such as Second Life as a great learning tool but yet that was not the reason why Second Life was created. Staying connected to technological advances and thinking of how the tools can contribute to an online community will help the field of instructional design continue to progress and advance in distance education.


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