According to eLearning Industry, elearning is a $56.2 billion business that is likely to double in size before 2015. They also stated that by 2019 half of all college courses will be taught online and that right now more than 4.6 million college students are taking at least one course online (Pappas, 2013). These stats show a bright future for e-learning since it is getting accepted by more people. Two of the biggest factors in my opinion that’s going to contribute to an expansion in distance learning are today’s generation and the expanding Web 2.0 technology. Millennials are thought to be addicted to social networking services, they post to their friends, they tweet to their twibes and they pretend in their profiles (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012). Our current generation is growing up communicating using Facebook, YouTube, Wikis, Blogs, and using smart phones for all kinds of functions. They are using these tools to form social communities to stay in touch with friends and family. These same tools are used in distance learning which means that the current generation will be comfortable taking online courses since they have grown up using the tools required to communicate and form learning communities within distance learning courses. One other factor that will lead to wider expansion of distance learning in the future is the economy. Tough economic times have forced many corporations to find ways of saving money and one way is by using distance learning to train their employees. Distance learning is used by 77% of the corporations in our country and they have saved 50-70% by replacing instructor based training with distance learning (Pappas, 2013).
The way to be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning is by being an advocate and letting people who are interested know on the advantages of distance learning as well as the disadvantages. I would also tell them of the characteristics (self starter, self discipline, motivated) and qualities needed to succeed in an online course. I would demystify the perception that distance learning is easy and let them know that it distance learning packs a lot of things to do usually in a short period and that you must make the time to get it done or it will accumulate and drown you if you fall behind. I would let them know that the quality of training is equivalent to that of classroom training except that instead of an instructor in the front lecturing, you will have different types of technology such as videos providing the lecture. Hopefully by educating people on what distance learning is and what you need to do to succeed, more people will be curious and try a course.
The way I will be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance learning will be to develop and put out the best possible e-learning course that meets the objectives using the proper amount of technology. In order to get support for distance learning we must create courses that will have a positive impact on the learner. The Theory of Reasoned Action model suggests that a learner’s reaction and attitude will influence behavior (Long, Dubois, & Faley, 2006). In other words if learner has a negative learning experience in an e-learning course then likely they will not be satisfied with the training provided by e-learning and will have a negative attitude toward e-learning. Back in the early days of e-learning we were basically producing what seemed to be page turner PowerPoint type of e-learning that bored the learner and gave them a bad feeling of distance learning. We then started adding multimedia and different types of technology to e-learning and made it more engaging and got positive results from the learner changing their attitudes toward e-learning. This is how I will strive to improve the field, by ensuring that learner have a good learning experience by creating quality e-learning courses and going back and revamping older courses based on feedback from formative and summative evaluations.
Long, L., Dubois, C., & Faley, R. (2006). The Usefulness of Trainee Reactions in Online Training. International Journal of Learning, 13(1), 1-11. Retrieved from Education Research Complete Database
Pappas, C. (2013), Important Statistics about the eLearning Market for 2013 – Infographic. Retrieved from http://elearningindustry.com/important-statistics-about-the-elearning-market-for-2013-infographic#
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance – Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.