Distance education, virtual schools, and e-learning are all names given to describe a learning experience in which the teacher and student may be in different locations and/or time zones, and all instructional activity conducted between the two is done so via the Internet. As the way students are learning is constantly evolving, so must the methods and designs of instruction.
As a fast growing alternative to traditional classes, many teachers are being required to design online courses without being given proper training in methodologies best suited to do so. Huett, Moller, Foshay, and Coleman (2008) suggest that distance education programs hire individuals to fulfill a very specific role, the instructional designer, to design how information is delivered so that teachers can focus on the content of the course, and more importantly, on the students. They also state that when teachers are left to their own devices to design an online course, they are rarely give the adequate time to learn the delivery platform or create learning activities that can be individualized for each student, and end up creating a copy of their traditional classroom in the online environment. Huett et al. write that this type of online course has potential to fail because (a) “there is little evidence that traditional classroom models are that effective to begin with” (July/August 2008, p. 67), and (b) teachers may be unaware of the possible technologies available to use in their classrooms. These authors claim that in order for distance education to evolve, the quality of instruction must be more closely attended to.
Simonson (2008) also states that there is a need for distance education to evolve. The focus of this argument however is more focused on how distance education began and its diffusion process. According to Simonson (2008), distance education has already hit critical mass, and as such is the diffusion phase of needing to be maintained and evolved rather than redesigned.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008, May/June). 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. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008, July/August). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 2: Higher Education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66–70. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
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. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
Laureate Education, Inc. (2008). Principles of distance education: Distance education: The next generation. Baltimore, MD: Author.