Sunday, September 22, 2013

Distance Learning Technologies

            This week we explored the use of technology in distance education. In our learning resources Simonson, et al. (2012) pointed out that “the key to success in an online classroom is not which technologies are used, but how they are used and what information is communicated using the technologies” (p.115). There are advantages and limitations of different technologies that can be used when developing an online course. As an instructional designer it is important to be aware of these when selecting the most appropriate technologies that can effectively serve the purpose of meeting the course outcomes and meeting the needs of the learners.
            In being presented with a scenario of creating an asynchronous training for a biodiesel manufacturing plant I approached selecting appropriate technologies by first examining what the purpose of the training was. I then considered the unique needs of the learners and the context in which the training would take place. The course outcomes of this asynchronous training would require that the learners gain the knowledge and skills needed to safely operate heave machinery within the plant in order to improve the organization’s safety record. These course outcomes would need to be supported by activities that would enable the employees to successfully achieve them (Simonson, et al., 2012).  Because there are different shifts of employees needing to complete the training it would need to be facilitated as an asynchronous learning opportunity where the employees could complete the course modules at different times.
            Approaching this scenario as an instructional designer I would select the use of a learning content management system (LCMS) which Simonson, et al (2012) identifies as being the corporate equivalent to a course management system (CMS) for delivery of corporate training. The use of the LCMS would accommodate the asynchronous needs of the learners within this context so that the course modules could be completed at different times during the shift so as to not impact productivity on the plant floor. Many of the examples in our learning resources this week were CMS options that were geared toward K-12 education. In reviewing the options and reflecting on my experiences in a corporate environment there were some options that would also be appropriate for use in a business or corporate setting such the biodiesel scenario. A few examples of these are Canvas, EDU 2.0, and CourseSites (Capozzoli, n.d.). These examples would provide an opportunity to fully customize and deliver course content and activities to meet the course outcomes of an asynchronous safety training at the biodiesel manufacturing plant. The option I would use in this scenario if the organization was not already utilizing a LMS would be EDU 2.0 as it functions as a LMS that would be useful for tracking the learning needs and outcomes of employees as well as having the capability of delivering content for the training course with fully integrated features that would help the employees successfully achieve learning outcomes (EDU 2.0., n.d.). Another benefit of delivering the course content through a CMS would be the opportunity to create different learning modules. The training course could be set up to use hypercontent-designed instruction where the employees would determine the order in which they completed the topics (Simonson, et al., 2012). This would be useful for this scenario as the employees could start first with completing the modules that addressed the machinery that they most frequently use in their immediate roles on the job.
            Some of the technology features integrated through a tool such as EDU 2.0 is the ability to deliver multimedia presentations and create assessments. In selecting media for the training course it would be important to consider the context, the content, the outcomes, and the learners (Simonson, et al., 2012). It is also important to ensure that the quality of the media selected is engaging and technically sound (Simonson, et al., 2012). For this particular safety training scenario I would use step-by-step instructional videos. This could be achieved through the use of video editing software to show employees how to safely use the machinery as well as potentially provide an animated demonstration on the potential dangers that can occur when the machinery is not used effectively. There are many software options available for producing and editing high quality instructional videos such Windows Movie Maker or iMoviee (Widder, 2013). These software programs allow the user to easily edit videos and save them in a format needed for exporting either to DVD, saving to the user’s desktop, or uploading to sites such as YouTube or Vimeo (Widder, 2013). One particular example that I have personally used is the tutorials created by (n.d.). Videos that are available on this website are excellent examples of how step-by-step instructional videos can support an individual’s learning.
            Another media option for enhancing learning through technology would be through the use of a simulation through a virtual world. Virtual worlds are useful for allowing the learner to experience real-life practical application of course content that may not be otherwise easily accessible by the learner (Simson, et al., 2012). Virtual reality simulations have been proven to be successful in other contexts such as the medical field where nurses or doctors can experience a model of a scenario that might be challenging or too risky to recreate in real life. For example Farra, Miller, Timm, and Schafer (2012) completed a study on implementing virtual reality disaster training for nurses that proved to be successful in improving the nurse’s learning of the disaster training course content. In the scenario I am examining of training the biodiesel plant employees, a virtual reality simulation could be used to assess the employees by placing them in a real-life scenario virtually. They could exhibit the use of the machinery without the risks associated with having employees demonstrate their knowledge on the actual machinery where if mistakes were made there could be risk of injury or damage to products. Virtual worlds are of course a challenging and costly technology to develop (Simonson, et al., 2012). If I were implementing a virtual world in a training course such as this scenario I would need to consider if the costs, time, and resources would be a worth the return on investment.
            The technologies that I explored have the potential for effectively supporting the learning for a safety training course at a biodiesel plant. Whether choosing to use these technologies or any others I would need to ensure that they were developed and implemented in a way that maximized their potential for positively impacting the learners.

Capozzoli, C. (n.d.). Web 2.0 Resources for 21st century instruction. Retrieved from
EDU 2.0. (n.d.). LMS for business. Retrieved from
Farra, S., Miller, E., Timm, N., & Schafer, J., (2012). Improved training for disasters using 3-d virtual reality simulation. Western Journal of Nursing Research. 35(5) 655-671. (n.d.). Learn software, business, and creative skills. Retrieved from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
Widder, B. (2013, July 7) No Hollywood budget, no problem: 5 best free video editing programs. Retrieved from

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Defining Distance Education

             The concept of distance education is not new. Distance education has had a presence around the world for over a century. It has evolved from correspondence courses to electronic communications to distance courses offered online through the use of the Internet such as the courses I am currently taking to pursue my graduate degree in instructional design and technology (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). The progression of distance education has been impacted by needs or demands from society as well as advances in technology.
            Distance education in the 1800’s began with correspondence studies where students were offered instruction through print-based correspondence (Tracey & Richey, 2005). As correspondence studies grew during the 1800’s instruction became more formalized with the development of correspondence societies and provision of academic degrees offered through correspondence courses at different institutions (Simonson, at al., 2012). Distance education expanded in the 1900’s from correspondence studies to educational opportunities that were provided through advancing electronic communication technologies such as the use of television to deliver educational programming and later in the 1900’s the use of fiber-optic communication systems to create two-way communication opportunities (Simonson, at al., 2012). In the past decade advances in technology including the use the internet has allowed for further enhancements in distance education to provide students with opportunities to complete courses online (Tracey & Richey, 2005). One of the consistent characteristics of distance education throughout its progression and growth is that the instructor and learner have been separated by geographic location and sometime time.
            Prior to enrolling in a distance education program I defined distance education similar to the consistent characteristic of distance education throughout both the 1800’s and 1900’s. I have thought of distance education as a learning experience that takes place without having direct instruction from an instructor where the learner and instructor are separated by distance and learning is supported through course materials, resources, and feedback from the instructor on completed assignments. My definition of distance learning was impacted by an experience I had in my undergraduate coursework where I was unable to take a macroeconomics course required by my program due to schedule constraints. Instead I was offered the opportunity to take the course through watching lectures via VHS and completing coursework that I mailed to the professor. I did not have any direct contact from the professor other than the feedback provided on my assignments which were mailed back to me and one instance of meeting with the professor on campus at the end of the course to discuss my final paper. My definition of distance education has also been influenced by learning provided at the organization I work for. Distance education experiences that I have participated in through my job are often times completed via elearning courses or by participating in training sessions via webinars.
            My previous definition of distance education has been redefined and expanded this week. Similar to my previously held definition of distance education, Dr. Simonson explains distance education as formal education in which the learning group is separated by geography and sometimes time (Leaureate, n.d.). As an adult learner time is a critical issue for me for furthering my education academically as well as through trainings offered through my place of employment. Being able to access courses through asynchronous distance learning is an important factor that is being addressed through technology that enhances an asynchronous learning experience where the learner can access the course when it is convenient for the them (Simonson, at al., 2012).
            While my previous experiences in distance education have all been formal education both in higher education and in a business setting I never included formal education as a defining characteristic of distance education as suggested by Dr. Simonson (Laureate, n.d.). This is an important characteristic to include when defining distance education however. As distance education opportunities continue to increase in popularity it is imperative that it be delivered to the learner with high quality instruction, content, assessment, and resources (Simonson, at al., 2012). This is also of particular importance in higher education as negative perceptions of online degree programs being diploma mills continue to be dispelled which is achieved through accreditation of academic programs that are evaluated by the same accrediting agencies that evaluate traditional brick and mortar schools (Simonson, et al., 2012). Whether in higher education, corporate education, or K-12 education the definition of distance education should include the defining characteristic of being a formal education or institutionally based instruction that is evaluated for quality.
            In addition to being separated by location or time and formally based I have also expanded my definition of distance education to include interactive communication between the instructor, the learner, and the course materials and resources (Simonson, at al., 2012). Interactive communication between the learner and instructor in distance education has been enhanced in the past decade as a result of advancements in communication technology through the use of e-mail, webinars, online chat programs, and much more. With increased access to the internet through mobile devices a distance learner can interact with their instructor, the course content and their fellow classmates online regardless of the location and often regardless of time (Tracey & Richey, 2005). Interactive communication is a necessary defining characteristic to distance education to create a more effective learning experience where the learning community is enhanced by the interactions that take place between the instructor and the learner and the interactions that takes place between learners other learners within the course.
            Simonson, at al. (2012) suggest that evidence supports that distance education is effective at all age levels and the demand for distance education opportunities continues to increase. As a result the definition of distance education will continue to evolve and expand to include additional defining characteristics that are impacted by advances in technology or needs in society. The future of distance education must continue to discover ways to improve and enhance learning through delivering high quality courses that are designed effectively with the learner in mind (Simonson, et al., 2012). My vision for the future of distance education includes continued professional development for instructors that focuses on how to effectively teach distance courses. It also includes continued development opportunities for instructional designers to stay abreast of the most effective methods of delivering education at a distance. I also envision investment in highly skilled instructional designers by organizations, K-12 education, and higher education to ensure that when distance education opportunities are being developed they are high quality and will benefit the learner and the organization implementing the distance education. As the demand for distance education increases and the effectiveness of distance education in comparison to traditional education becomes increasingly accepted as being equal I envision further growth of distance education that will allow individuals around the world to expand their knowledge and skills through accessing interactive, formal educational opportunities regardless of location and time.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer) (n.d.) Distance education: The next generation. [Interactive       
     media] [with Dr. Michael Simonson] Retrieved from     
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a              
     distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
Tracey, M., & Richey, R. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6),     

Thursday, September 5, 2013

EDUC 6135

Greetings classmates from EDUC 6135. Welcome to my blog. I am looking forward to learning with and from all of you during the next several weeks of this course. I also look forward to viewing all of your blogs. Have a wonderful first week of class everyone!