Distance education and online learning continues to evolve quickly within higher education. As a future Instructional Designer, it makes my career an interesting one knowing that there will be opportunity for growth and much to keep up with this ever-changing field. Distance education is now seen as a predominantly online initiative, at least in the United States, and other delivery channels have taken a back seat (Shearer, 2015).
So given these dramatic shifts in the past 10 years, what should we expect over the next 5 to 10 years in the field of distance education?
With the growth of distance education, enrollments in these programs are likely to increase. As a larger percentage of financial aid is directed to this education modality, and with the increase in fraud and identity theft, we will continue to see discussions and possible legislation around identify verification (beyond online proctored exams), and a greater focus on outcomes for students. We will also continue to see the evolution of the state authorization system and new accreditation standards emerge (Shearer, 2015).
- Learning Systems
Many companies are that were known for their Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are transitioning into education companies where the LMS is one of many of the services provided. The overall education service ecosystem is far greater than the LMS and it is quite possible that the LMS will fade as we rethink the education experience in the classroom and online. LMSs have been great at replicating the classroom experience of old, and have managed the student, but not really the learning. Thus, as we look forward, it is very likely that how we view learning system environments will be very different (Shearer, 2015).
Technology will afford many changes and challenges to explore new approaches to pedagogical practices. Real-life experiences will drive how we view online course designs moving away from the traditional replication of F2F experience.
- Access and Costs
There is no doubt that both access and the cost of higher education have become front-and-center in the discussions of the value of a degree. Institutions will continue to have to find ways to cut or at least maintain current cost structures while continuing to provide a quality learning experience, and support faculty and research. Whether we will see analytics provide efficiencies is yet to be seen, and whether distance education and online can truly reduce costs is still open for debate. This will depend greatly on how institutions shift from face-to-face to online and what it means for the current physical infrastructure. Further, can we truly find a way to develop courses at scale that also provide a quality experience in terms of a social-constructive pedagogical approach, or will the ideas of connectivism as envisioned by Stephen Downs and George Siemens take root for our upper division courses (Shearer, 2015)?
According to Dr. George Siemens, distance education will be impacted by new communication technologies, the contribution by experts around the world, and the increase use of multimedia, games and simulations.
Whether any of the above occurs or not, distance learning is definitely not a contemporary trend that is going to fade away. Many career paths, especially the Instructional Designer, will require the attainment and practice of new knowledge, skills, and competencies. Lifelong learning will be something any individual must do to remain competitive.
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Shearer, R. (2015, June 26). Four Evolving Trends that May Shape the Future of Distance Education. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from https://evolllution.com/opinions/evolving-trends-shape-future-distance-education/