Future of Distance Education?

“Distance delivery is and will continue to have an impact on education in the years to come” (Schmidt & Gallegos, 2001, p. 2).

In thinking and researching about future perceptions of distance learning, the two challenges that came up over and over again had to do with being “unsatisfied when they are unfamiliar with the technology used in the course” (UDI Online Project, 2010, p. 2) and isolation. While many people are online (using social media, emailing, etc.), there are many who do not know how to use specific technology tools. I know from my experience as a teacher that just the “simple act” of attaching a file to an email is unknown to many. If we are to begin to change anyone’s perception of online/distance learning, we need to acknowledge that, for some students, the process must begin with an orientation to the different tools being used within a hybrid/online course.

The other side of the story is the benefits that can be gained from taking courses online, such as:

  • “the variety and quality of learning materials available” (UDI Online Project, 2010, p. 1)Quote2 for Blog
  • the “wealth of resources available to help students develop critical thinking skills” (UDI Online Project, 2010, p. 1)
  • the “design of the course, comfort with online technologies, and time management” (Song, Singleton, Hill, & Koh, 2004, p. 65)
  • being “helpful not to have to travel to the campus” (Song, Singleton, Hill, & Koh, 2004, p. 65)
  • the “ability to complete assignments and tasks at any time” (Song, Singleton, Hill, & Koh, 2004, p. 65).

As instructional designers, we must look at the benefits, look at our course materials, work with the subject matter expert, and create a learning environment that enables our students to be successful. “Successful conversion of course delivery method is not always guaranteed” (Schmidt & Gallegos, 2001, p. 1). We cannot simply take an existing face-to-face course, move it to an online format, and assume it will work. As the industry grows, if we create online learning opportunities for students to be successful, this type of learning will become even more mainstream.

The other major challenge had to do with students feeling isolated when taking a course. “When developing a distance delivery course, course designers must provide a way for students and instructor to interact” (Schmidt & Gallegos, 2001, p. 5). It begins with a teacher/professor making the student feel welcomed into the online environment. Instructional designers need to create tasks (discussion boards, group projects, etc.) that encourage communication among students. Once these are created, the teacher/professor needs to respond in a timely manner to the different assignments, emails, journal entries, and discussion posts. If these are all monitored and responded to, students will feel as if there is a community of learners being built, and the isolation will not be felt as deeply by the students.

Quote for Blog“The constant growth of the Web influences and changes how online courses are designed and implemented” (Song, Singleton, Hill, & Koh, 2004, p. 60). As instructional designers, we must strive to keep up with these changes and to constantly look forward to see what the “next best thing” might be. Research is constantly being completed as to the impact of online, hybrid, and face-to-face education. We must keep up with this research as best we can so we can implement effective processes within our courses.




Armstrong, D. A. (2011). Students’ perceptions of online learning and instructional tools: A qualitative study of undergraduate students use of online tools. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10(3), 222-226.

Durrington, V. A., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006, March 18). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from RedOrbit: Your Universe Online website: http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/433631/strategies_for_enhancing_student_interactivity_in_an_online_environment/ Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, XII(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html

Schmidt, E. K., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3), 1-5.

Song, L., Singleton, E. S., Hill, J. R., & Koh, M. H. (2004). Improving online learning: Student perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics [PDF]. The Internet and Higher Education, 7(1), 59-70. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2003.11.003

UDI Online Project. (2010). Student perceptions of online learning (Issue Brief No. Technical Brief #3). Retrieved from Storrs: University of Connecticut, Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability website: http://www.udi.uconn.edu/index.php?q=content/technical-brief-student-perceptions-online-learning

Ward, M. E., Peters, G., & Shelley, K. (2010). Student and faculty perceptions of the quality of online learning experiences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(3), 1-11.

From Face-to-Face to Hybrid Course

“Scenario: A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.”

According to the Central Ohio Technical College, hybrid (blended) course “instruction is required in both face-to-face (F2F) and in an online environment. There must be required F2F class meetings. Instructor may provide course materials for both F2F and online” (Central Ohio Technical College, 2010, p. 10). One of the first aspects of the course to look at is which parts of the course are better in each format, online and face-to-face. There are some activities, like discussions, that might play out better than in the classroom, especially since the training manager is unhappy with the “quality of communication among trainees.” Sometimes students feel it is easier to add to an online discussion rather than talk in class. Another activity that could take place outside of the face-to-face classroom would be any quizzes and/or examinations. If they are created properly using real-world scenarios and work-related processes, these activities would assess student knowledge and on-the job thinking skills.

There are a variety of ways to facilitate online discussions: ask experts, debates, polling, role play, small groups, peer review, and/or content area (TeacherStream, LLC, 2010). There are also many benefits:

  • “Builds class community by promoting discussion on course topics
  • “Allows time for in-depth reflection- students have more time to reflect, research [and] compose their thoughts before participating in the discussion
  • “Facilitates learning by allowing students to view [and] to respond to the work of others
  • “Develops thinking [and] writing skills
  • “Allows guest experts to participate in the course by posting information [and] responding to questions” (TeacherStream, LLC, 2010, p. 2).

The training manager needs to look at the different topics and determine what would be the best discussion questions and/or scenarios to post to generate student responses. Students should be required to post their response early in the week so as to facilitate a complete discussion. In some cases, facilitators also require a set number of responses to peer posts as well. In this way, the conversation will be continued during the week. When necessary, the training manager should step in, ask a question, add resources, and/or give more information to direct the conversation.

There are many steps to ensure the online portion of a hybrid course is created properly. With checklists and forms, an instructional designer can ensure that each aspect of the course is completed properly. Attached are a variety of resources and a zipped file of checklists (ID Checklist Kit) to assist in creating an in-depth, accurate, and robust course that engages learners.

Links to Information


Anitha@Work. (2010, March 20). Instructional design (id) review checklist [Blog post]. Retrieved from Schema Performs website: http://schemaperforms.blogspot.gr/2010/03/instructional-designid-review-checklist.html

Central Ohio Technical College. (2010, Autumn). COTC distance education guidelines [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.cotc.edu/faculty-and-staff/faculty-resources-page/Documents/DistanceEducationGuidelines.pdf

Fors, PhD, M. (n.d.). Instructional design criteria checklist [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.unitar.org/hiroshima/sites/unitar.org.hiroshima/files/17_AF07WSII_Instructional_Design_Criteria_Checklist.pdf

Gutierrez, K. (2012, November 15). The ultimate 10-point checklist for remarkable eLearning courses [Blog post]. Retrieved from Shift – Disruptive eLearning website: http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/243867/The-Ultimate-10-Point-Checklist-for-Remarkable-eLearning-Courses

OutStart, Inc. (2006, October 30). Best practices for creating e-learning [PDF].

Pappas, C. (2013, April 16). A compact instructional design review checklist. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from eLearning Industry website: http://elearningindustry.com/a-compact-instructional-design-review-checklist

Rajagopalan, R. (2010, July 22). Instructional design review checklists – key to quality e-learning. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from The Writer’s Gateway website: http://blog.thewritersgateway.com/2010/07/22/instructional-design-review-checklists-key-to-quality-e-learning/

TeacherStream, LLC. (2010, June 29). Mastering online discussion board facilitation: Resource guide [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/stw/edutopia-onlinelearning-mastering-online-discussion-board-facilitation.pdf

What is instructional design? (2012, August 4). Retrieved August 18, 2014, from Instructional Design Using the ADDIE Model website: http://raleighway.com/addie/

iTunes U – Distance Learning at its Best?

Stanford  - Entrepreneurship

This shows the iTunes entry for the course with description, course outline and list of videos.

In looking at Open Course materials, I chose to look at iTunes U since I had not used it before. I went to Standford University and chose a business class since I am a Business Education teacher. The course I chose is Entrepreneurship through the Lens of Venture Capital (see picture for more detailed information).

At first, I downloaded the course on my laptop and discovered that only the lectures and one PDF were available to me. There was a note that there would be some extra materials if you downloaded the app on your iPhone or iPad. So my first question was, “What if the person did not have an iPhone or iPad?” Luckily, I have an iPad and was able to download from there.




In terms of order and topic, there does seem to be a logical progression to the courses. So, let’s look at this based on the ADDIE model of design (“ADDIE Model,” 2014):


We have to make an assumption, since it is a university course, Stanford professors looked at their audience, objectives, delivery options, pedagogical issues, and theories to be utilized. There is an assumption by the professors that all students will learn sufficiently through video and readings. There was not really any interactive part where students could ask questions and get answers other than one discussion post assignment. There did not seem to be any “values and services offered to students through their exposure to others” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 155).

Design and Development

While what is shown is a good beginning, there are some missing pieces in this phase. The user interface is different from computer to app. The version downloaded to my computer simply had the lecture videos and one PDF file. While the app has more information, attachments (discussion board link, readings and videos), and functions, it still does not have all the different aspects to create a full course for students.

Piazza Statistics

This shows the statistics from Piazza for the course.

As to the discussion board, there was a comment for students who were at Stanford paying for courses that their board was accessed differently. In logging in and viewing the discussion board for the Open Course, which was on Piazza, it did not seem as if it was moderated well. People were going into any week and posting their introductions. Some students were confused about the discussion board, but I did not see any comments from teachers to point them in the right direction. There were a lot of “unresolved follow ups” for the postings. Out of hundreds of posts, I found about five that were related to the lectures. If a student posted a question about the lecture, it was answered by another student (if it was answered at all). As you can see from the image, zero percent of the questions were answered by instructors.


“It is important to remember that no matter which technological formats are used in distance education, the trend is to reduce the ‘amount’ of information delivered and to increase the ‘interactive value’ of the learning experience” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 157). The implementation of this course does not seem conducive to true learning of the material. If a student does not do well with videos and reading on their own, there did not seem to truly be a way for them to reach out to the instructors for clarification or more in-depth information. There was also a difference in how it was implemented across platforms, computer iTunes access versus iTunes app for iPhone and iPad.

In the app, there were links to a discussion board, readings, and extra videos to watch that were relevant to each lecture. The app even has two places to look for information – “Posts” and “Assignments.” The other bit of information I found lacking on my laptop was the video descriptions. When I looked in the app, there was a description and brief biographies on the lecturers.

When looking at the description in the iTunes store, there is a course outline (I-V) and the videos are numbered (1-7 with some duplicates). You are not sure which videos go with the different topics on the course outline. When looking in the app, the information is separated by the weeks the course originally ran, but again, there is no reference to the different parts of the course outline. The videos were created in a face-to-face classroom, and they have a slight echo to the sound at times.


There was no way for students to be evaluated or for them to leave relevant evaluation information and give feedback. In iTunes, you could rate the individual videos or the course with one to five stars or write a review for the course. There was no way to know if anyone had looked at the ratings, and the one review just said “Good.”


Dr. Michael Simonson stated, “Distance education is not identical to face-to-face education, but it is equivalent” (Laureate Education, n.d.). In viewing the videos, there was more interaction available in the face-to-face classroom than online. Since paying students had a different discussion board, there was no way to tell if there was more interaction with the professors and students. This does not seem to be equal education. While the materials are available 24 hours a day and students can work through the information at their own pace at this point, the students do not have access to the professors or experts as the face-to-face students did. They do not enjoy the give-and-take of discussions, not even online.

Simonson, et al, state that distance learning faculty should:

  • Retool traditional courses for online learning,
  • Illustrate key ideas, concepts, and topics,
  • Create activities for interactivity,
  • Allow for student group work, and
  • Be prepared for technical difficulties (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 153).

This particular course feels more like they simply put the information online and expected potential students to know what to do. There is a lot of reading, but no clear way to know what the instructors expected the student to get out of it. While a discussion board was created, without a moderator, it did not function as well as it could have. There were no interactive quizzes where students could see if they understood the information. If there were any technical difficulties, it was up to the student to figure out how to fix it.

In this open course evaluation, there is still a lot of work to be done to make this more interactive and less of putting the face-to-face classroom lectures out on iTunes. The readings do add to the lectures to a certain extent, but there is no way to understand how the information fits together and gain a deeper understanding of the content. The biggest problem lies in the discussion board that was set up on Piazza. There is no moderator, students are left to their own devices, and there is a lot of confusion about how it works.

As a business education teacher, I can see the value in this information, but for it to truly be a model online course, there is much work still to be done.


ADDIE model. (2014, July 24). Retrieved August 1, 2014, from Wikipedia website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADDIE_Model

Laureate Education. (n.d.). Theory and distance learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (Fifth ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.