Coda: Future Perceptions of Distance Education

Reflection

How will we perceive distance education in the near term 5-10 years and out later on the horizon? Since distance education is growing at an increasing rate, it is to be expected that the public’s perception of distance education will also trend upwards. George Siemens spoke of the growing acceptance of distance education noting many collaborating factors such as a growing comfort level with the technology and the convenience and cost benefits afforded to busy adults. (Laureate producer, n.d.).The NMC Horizon Report: 2014 did, I thought, an excellent job in summarizing this recent acceptance trend:

Over the past several years, there has been a shift in the perception of online learning to the point where it is seen as a viable alternative to some forms of face-to-face learning. The value that online learning offers is now well understood, with flexibility, ease of access, and the integration of sophisticated multimedia and technologies chief among the list of appeals. (2014).

Later, perhaps as soon as 10-years distance education will no longer be the new model for education and instead be fully accepted and integrated into the educational mainstream. At some point, the distance education naysayers will be a small minority who will be by in large disregarded by academia as Luddites who live in the past deluded by wrong-minded attitudes that face-to-face learning is the only “true” pedagogical mode.

Within 20 year’s time, distance education it may in fact be the dominant educational mode as technological innovations such as wearable technology and learner analytics described in the The Horizon Report move from cutting edge to mainstream (2014).

In general, I feel people are fairly savvy especially when emotional based bias are kept in check. They are not going to accept, at least for the long term, a trend such as distance education emerging from the cycle of “next new thing” status to the natural tendency of skepticism, to where it is now becoming a mainstay of our society. Thus as IDs there is not a need to a distance leader cheerleader. Instead, a better approach to sway societal perceptions is to simply nod to that legal term ipsa res locquitor, which translates to “the thing speaks for itself” in Latin.  Thus, the best way to advocate for distance education is by simply identifying and pointing out successful outcomes in the work place, academia, and other domains.

We are familiar with the benefits of distance learning in terms of convenience; however, one aspect that I feel has been underplayed in the journals and articles is the democratization aspect of distance learning. Through the Internet, a high quality education is available that is not impeded by geography, time, and social status. What matters is the individual merit of the learner and not that their parents were in the top tier of the socio-economic class. There are programs, of course, providing opportunities for the “less fortunate” to top institutions as a form of charity or noblisse oblige, but with online education, the opportunities are far greater for those on the bottom to climb higher on the ladder based on their merits. Our political leaders I believe have failed to grasp this concept, though I do recall Al Gore speaking of how access to educational content would be a boon to society around the same time when he was mocked in the infotainment media for “inventing the Internet”.  

Gore  had as part of his 2000 Presidential Platform a concept of providing access via the then emerging online telecommunications infrastructure to all citizens through a partnership with industry and government. A big selling feature of this initiative was the promise of affordable higher education for the masses and noted in the Internet Hall of Fame biography on Al Gore. (n.d). At what point will access to Gore’s vision of the “Information Superhighway” have the same necessity as other public commodities such as clean water and electricity. (n.d.)

References:

Internet Hall of Fame Global Connector, Al Gore Induction  (n.d.). Retrieved from http://internethalloffame.org/inductees/al-gore

Online Article: NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/publications/2014-horizon-report-higher-ed

Video Program: Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu