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Evolving Distance Education to the Next Generation

December 17, 2009

Simonson indicated that the key to success in a distance-learning classroom is not “which technologies are used but how they are used and what information is communicated using the technologies (2000, p. 29). Simonson thus surmised that the methodology of technology use predicated the choice of technology. Moller, Foshay, and Huett identified five areas that technology affects training and development in the administration of distance education: quality, needs assessment, return of investment and measurement of outcomes, the influence and fusion of training, performance, support, and knowledge management; improvement on instructional systems design, and the revision of learning models (2008, p. 71). While Simonson addressed a foundational area, Moller, Foshay, and Huett identified a specific area of application viz., instructional design. Furthermore, since this application of technology will affect students in the future, preparing its use for training, teaching, and learning in the current clime will afford opportunities for tomorrow’s instructional designers as well.

Besides the introduction of new technologies, tomorrow’s students and instructors will use continue to use technologies that have matured in use, value, effectiveness, and versatility. The nature of students’ level of understanding and facility of technology use would have grown when compared to the present. Consequently, advancing distance education to the next generation is as essential as it is a natural expectation. Moller, Foshay, and Huett indicated that the need exists for designing and developing web-based instruction that incorporates superior instructional models that learners intentionally choose to use (2008, May/June). Furthermore, if one were to align technology with its current definition, advancing to the next level of distance education needs to include “the disciplined application of scientific principles and theoretical knowledge to support and enhance human learning and performance” (Spector, 2008, p. 21). Thus, within the parameters of the definition of the discipline of educational technology and the need to advance distance education, one must be committed to

a) investigate, evaluate, accumulate, communicate, and perpetuate scientific principles and theoretical knowledge with intellectual, emotional, volitional, and moral clarity
b) strictly controlled application of scientific principles and theoretical knowledge
c) intentional support and enhancement of human learning and performance

Since current distance education modalities are being widely adopted, accepted, and approaching critical mass (Simonson, 2009), it is imperatival that one move in the direction in which educational technology is headed in terms of nature, scope, and value.


Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008, May/June). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instruction design on the potential of the web. Tech Trends, 52(3), 70-75.
Simonson, M. (2000, Winter). Making decisions: The use of electronic technology in online classes. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 84, 29–34.
Simonson, M. (2009). Video cast, EDUC 8842, Winter session course resources.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim Powell permalink
    December 18, 2009 6:26 pm

    Hi David. Some excellent information in your post. Online learning already relies extensively on technology. Do you see traditional classrooms going out of style?


    • edutechtalks permalink*
      December 19, 2009 5:14 am

      Dr. Powell,
      I am not sure I understand what you mean by “style.” If it refers to the education model with which we are all familiar, then I will say, no. However, I think the traditonal model will increasingly incorporate more online components into the delivery system. These could include: online digital repositories of documents for student’s access, discussion groups, online gradebook, virtual office hours, synchronous sessions, online collaboration, etc.

      Just thinking!


  2. Thomas Eric Harris permalink
    December 19, 2009 12:29 am

    First of all I realize I’m not in this group but I’m responding because my group members haven’t posted their blogs and I need to get my responses don before I go out of town tomorrow.

    Anyways, I like how you started out your blog with Simonson’s quote that indicates that the key to success in a distance-learning classroom is not “which technologies are used but how they are used and what information is communicated using the technologies (2000, p. 29). My local high schools have implemented a distance education credit recovery program. So far the program is not going very good because the student’s have learned to manipulate the program by simply learning that if they don’t pass the class the first time that they can consistently redo the questions over and over again until they do pass. This is also an issue because the teacher who oversees the program has not been adaquately trained in distance education therefore not making the program very successful. Hopefully in the future the teacher will recieve the needed training therefore making the program a success.

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