Reflection: Perceptions on Distance Learning
“The traditional delivery system for higher education has been a classroom setting with a professor giving a lecture and students listening and writing notes. Interaction between the professor and student has been viewed as an essential learning element within this arrangement. However, innovations in educational delivery mechanisms have challenged this paradigm.” (O’Malley, 1999) Before I truly understood the challenges, complexities and benefits distance education can offer. My only understanding was that distance education was a form in which to complete my studies away from the classroom providing me flexibility to balance life activities such as family, work, and other social responsibilities. However, I had no real insights as to when or why online programs were developed. Or how the advances of technology have altered and improved the way in which learning systems are delivered. Or most recently how others valued and perceived online learning. It is only through research, application, and practice that my perception and value towards distance education has changed. If only through practice and research is how my opinion changed then how would instructors and students feel about online learning who have not undergone such practices.
In an article by Hannay and Newvine (2006) they shared the mixed perceptions found in both instructors and students in regard to online learning:
- “When comparing attitudes of instructors and students it was found that instructors had conflicting attitudes about distance education. While there were willing to teach a distance learning class, they rated the courses as equal or lower in quality than traditional courses taught on campus.”
- “Students on the other hand were highly satisfied with these instructors and distance courses taught.”
Further exploration discovered that student satisfaction can be influenced by positive perceptions toward technology and autonomous learning modes. Skill level and motivation also play a role in how students or instructors may react to online learning environments. (Hannay, 2006)
As a future instructional designer, creating positive experiences for learners is essential while meeting the parameters of the development process. Factors such as “flexibility, cost-effectiveness, electronic research availability, ease of connection, and a well-designed interface” are all proponents from a design aspect that can influence perceptions of online education. (Yang, 2004) Instructors who utilize such platforms can also play a vital role in creating positive experiences for learners. Proper feedback, support, self-regulation/self-motivation, communication, and collaborative/differentiated instructional methods can alter and improve online instructional practices. (Yang 2004)
“Developing and designing effective learning environments is an activity that involves solving complex problems and applying multiple constraints to produce an optimized solution for a specific situation.” (Mayer, 2014) It is through these interactions and innovations that educational mechanisms have challenged and transformed what is possible in a classroom.
Understanding the various complexities, challenges, and benefits of distance education is essential to the future of online learning. As instructional designers being mindful of such complexities is essential, so the core of essential material is salient to the learner. (Mayer, 2014) Evaluating strengths and weaknesses as well as benefits/drawbacks of teaching and online learning are necessary components to improve and shape distance education. And If we continue down this path I do believe that there is a brighter future ahead for distance learning that will no longer be questioned or challenged for its quality, rigor, or value.
Hannay, M., Newvine, T. (2006) Perceptions of Distance Learning: A Comparison of Online and Traditional Learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 2 (1). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/documents/MS05011.pdf
Mayer, R., E. (2014) The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning. [MBS Direct] Retrieved from https://mbsdirect.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781139985543/
O’Malley, J., McCraw, H. (1999). Students Perceptions of Distance Learning, Online Learning and the Traditional Classroom. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. 2(4). Retrieved from https://www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/U_WGA_US/J990000M.pdf
Yang, Y. Cornelius, L. (2004). Students’ Perceptions towards the Quality of Online Education: A Qualitative Approach. Annual Proceedings. 1, 861-877. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED485012.pdf