Aside

As an Instructional Designer in a corporate setting, the question of how to best deliver instruction is one that will always be asked with every project. In an organization where employees are located in different locations stretched across multiple time zones, the answer to this question will most often require the use of distance education technologies. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek tell us that when the correct media is selected it will “maximize efficiency and make available more resources for other learning experiences.” (2012) In the scenario given for consideration this week a new system is being implemented throughout a corporation that has six regional offices. The staff cannot meet at the same time or the same location for the training of the new system. As the instructional designer, it is my job to find the most effective and efficient way to deliver the training.

The use of distance learning technologies is the immediate solution to the scenario produced. In fact, the use of distance learning technologies has become somewhat commonplace in the corporate setting. Moller, Foshay, & Huett tell us that the reason for this is the “reduction in training delivery costs.” (2008) They also attribute this to the fact that e-learning is “instantly available, providing timely and on-demand learning…[and] scalable” (2008) No doubt, for corporations, especially those such as the one described in this scenario, distance learning technologies are the way of the future for corporate training and development.

So, now the question is which distance learning technologies will most maximize efficiency for training the employees in six locations on a new system. Simonson et. al. describes desktop two-way audio/video technologies which could be used in this scenario. There are many different programs available today that could be used to make this possible and most organizations have these in place for not only training purposes but also for meetings and brainstorming among coworkers. For the sake of this scenario, we will assume this organization has Adobe Connect in place for these purposes. This program allows for audio and video connection among participants as well as the sharing of documents and screenshots. A schedule would be generated that would allow for all employees to attend a session that best fits with their schedule. Depending on the number of employees required to attend pre-registration may be necessary. Otherwise, a link to the session could be attached to the announcement of the different sessions. However, for those who are not able to attend any of the scheduled sessions, the ability to record the sessions for later viewing is available through Adobe Connect (Adobe Systems, San Jose, Calif). At the end of the session, for continued sharing and ongoing collaboration a group wiki would be shared for participants to use after the synchronous session has ended.

Adobe Connect (Adobe Systems, San Jose, Calif) has been successfully used by many educators and organizations for the purposes of distance education. It is especially useful because it allows not only for the use of sharing screens and presentations, but also the use of video of the actual instructor for those attending the session. This is so effective, that it can even be used in the medical field as described by Galvin, Frazier, & Franks when teaching about radiology and histology. They refer to the benefits of using a web-conferencing software as having “improved efficiency and enabled collaborative consultation
between individuals at distant institutions.” (2010) Galvin et. al. go on to say that “the sessions have provided an excellent platform for teaching both radiology and pathology residents, who can log on remotely to observe the diagnostic process.” (2010) It is also used in higher education, as in the case of Purdue University North Central (PNC) in its MBA program. Chuang describes the use of the program as being able to “combine existing learning content with real-time interactivity between presenters and students for engaging collaborative teaching and learning experiences.” (2009) In a corporate setting, I have used this tool successfully many times to implement distance learning and have found it allows for the instruction and interactivity that this scenario requires.

References:

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2),139–153.

Chuang, K. (2009). Mobile technologies enhance the e-learning opportunity. American Journal of Business Education. 2(9), 49-54.

Galvin, J. R., Frazier, A. A., & Franks, T. J. (2010) Collaborative radiologic and histopathologic assessment of fibrotic lung disease. Radiology. 255(1), 692-706

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), 0–75.

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

Defining Distance Learning

I currently work for an organization that parents a number of universities that provide degrees through both traditional classroom settings as well as completely online courses. Before attending courses here at Walden I had only ever taken one course online myself and that course as well as my knowledge about this type of course was from my exposure through my current employer. That being said, when I heard the term “distance education” as presented as the title of this course, my mind went directly to online learning. If you had asked me what my definition was I would have said something like, “Distance learning is a student taking courses online instead of in a classroom. They complete their work in their own space and in their own time as long as they meet the requirements of the institution. They communicate with their professors and the other students in their courses through the computer or by telephone.”

However, after only one week of reading and material in this course on distance learning, my understanding and my definition of distance learning has changed. Not only do I see that distance learning can involve other avenues of communication outside of a computer and online, but I also believe the work I do as an instructional designer within a corporate setting can be included in this broad methodology of learning.

Reading about the history of distance education this week was very eye opening. I hadn’t considered that distance learning could have begun at least 160 years ago. Of course, it looked a lot different then. “An advertisement in a Swedish newspaper in 1833 touted the opportunity to study ‘composition through the medium of the post.’” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2008) This mode of distance education is also one I had not thought about. My mind automatically goes to how I see distance learning today. A world where we have high speed internet and cell phones on which we can access virtually any information we may be looking to find; this is the world where my definition of distance learning has been shaped. Still today, distance learning can include methods such as the mail, videos, and the telephone, not only the computer and the internet.

The method for distance learning was not the only change that my definition had to undergo this week. When I considered distance learning before it was almost exclusively used for education in the higher education arena. However, we read three different articles this week that defined how distance education is also being used effectively in the K-12 and training and development areas. This should not have been a new part of my definition. In fact, in training and development, it should have been a major part of my definition as this is what I do in my work on a day to day basis, but it is not something I would have defined as distance learning before this week. I now see this differently. I now define distance education differently.

Based on my experience and my knowledge, including what I have learned in the past week, if you asked me today what my definition of distance education is I would say something like, “Distance education is a person gaining knowledge through a method of learning outside of a classroom using resources provided from an instructor who communicates through a variety of different means.” It is much broader. It is much more encompassing of not only my own experience but the experience of a much larger audience.

As my definition has changed based on what I now know about the history of distance learning, the future of distance learning must also be considered. Where is distance learning going? What does the future of distance learning look like? I am no expert in this field, and I do not own a crystal ball. However, having seen computers go from a flashing green cursor on a black screen only 20 years ago to a tablet that can now access the world wide web by just touching the screen, I would say that the future of distance learning has no limit. We are already able to take our courses from a cell phone, from anywhere at any time. As technology continues to advance so will the possibilities for distance education. The challenge will be in designing the instruction for the learning to meet the needs of all learners in these new formats. This is why being in the field of instructional design in the present is so exciting, because the future looks so bright!

Distance Learning Mind Map