Defining Distance Learning

Distance Learning Mind Map

Distance learning is currently defined as “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009).”  According to the “Distance Learning Timeline Continuum,” distance learning is continuingly evolving due to technological advances in our society (Distance Learning Timeline, Laureate, 2010). This timeline documents the changes in distance learning over the years from 1833- Present.  What began once as a European mail correspondence class has developed into Web 2.0 technologies.

There are many factors that drive the definition of distance learning to change. While in the past, distance learning may have been looked upon as a casual alternative to traditional schooling, I believe in today’s economical society, it is transforming into a mandatory need that many adults have when trying to retain or find work.  The bottom line is in today’s economical situation, people are looking to conserve money. E-learning is the most cost-effective solution.   It helps reduce the costs of gas, babysitting, health-related and corporation related expenses.  “Over the past twenty years, businesses of all kinds have greatly increased their productivity by reengineering their business processes to exploit information and communications technology (Moller, Foshay &Huett, 2008, p. 70).”

While distance education began its focus on full-time employed adult workers, it is currently being changing to those who are out of work looking to get ahead when the job world rebounds (Simonson, 2009). I do believe that these changes are based upon the professional changes in our society.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that 61.5% of allUS jobs were white collar (managerial, professional, technical, sales and office) (2009). Most of the professions today use technology to help them in their job field. Technology advances to better fit the needs of these workers.

Before I began this course, my definition of distance learning was relatively simple:  learning from a distance.  The student enrolls in a course away from school grounds and completed on their own time.  In 1996, I took a “distance learning” college class, which consisted of a text book and questions, which were all self-paced. Upon completion of reading the text, I was to arrange for one of my superiors at work to administer a test and send it to the university.  Time has definitely changed the face of distance learning.  I do appreciate the current definition of distance learning and agree with all aspects of it, including being separated by time.

Technology is speeding up at an unbelievable pace.  For example, the iPod, which was so ground breaking just a couple of years ago is almost obsolete with the revolution of the iphone which can include the iPod, internet access and phone usage.  Distance learning will continue to evolve with the rest of the world.  I envision a time when people will no longer know how to write (cursive or printing) because of computers.  It is possible that a computer program may even write papers and complete the project for the student, as long as the student provides guidelines and boundaries detailing the expectations.  It is also possible that instead of using heart rate monitors and other phone apps, people will have computer chips implanted in them in order to provide the most accurate information.  They will then be able to hook themselves up to a computer and learn about what is going on in their body from a variety of medical resources.  I am not sure about my predictions, but I am sure that the state of learning as we currently know it will continue to change.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston,MA: Pearson.

WaldenUniversity. (n.d.).  Distance Learning Timeline Continuum [Multimedia Program]. Retrieved September 10, 2011 from

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2009). Databases, tables and calculators by subject. Retrieved September 10, 2011 from


EDUC-6135-1 Distance Learning

This blog is designed to provide readers my thoughts about learning, educational technology and instructional design.