Reflecting on Distance Learning

As shown by attendance numbers and degree offerings, online learning is growing in popularity. The Sloan Consortium reports a rising trend in schools with traditional courses are offering online courses as well. There is also a rising trend in enrollment and in the percentage of people who believe online courses offer a superior learning experience (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009). Despite these encouraging trends, there are still skeptics of online learning.

The skeptics believe that the lack of face-to-face or group interaction hinders the social aspect of learning. Some believe that the online, for-profit schools may deliver inferior instruction or have reduced admission standards. Others note the ease in which someone might be able to cheat or misrepresent their work in an online setting. How can the academic community address the concerns of the skeptics to promote wider acceptance of online learning?

To promote high educational standards, institutions must apply the same admission standards for online colleges as for traditional colleges. Institutions should also market the academic fidelity of their online programs in addition to the “convenience and flexibility” attributes of such a program (Gambescia & Paolucci, 2009). Instructors should consider the use of a plagiarism prevention tool such as Turnitin. The scoring rubrics of classes should demand properly cited work to proper credit is given to the sources a student used to research their work.

Instructional designers and course creators should apply the same effort to create a high quality online course as they would a traditional course. A traditional course that is repurposed for online use without consideration for online access, interaction, and feedback will result in poor quality. Instructional designers should consider the use of ADDIE or another instructional design process to understand the needs of the learners and to design a course that meets those needs (Piskurich & Chauser, 2010). Formative evaluations of the course should occur in the form of Alpha and Beta testing before a course goes live (Laureate Education, 2010). Summative evaluations of the course should occur after every term or session to ensure that the learners’ needs are being met.

Both institutions and course designers have to do their part to promote the positive aspects and high quality of online learning. Care must be taken to provide a learning experience that equals or exceeds the experience from a traditional setting. The objections of skeptics of online learning will diminish as more learners, instructors, and friends and colleagues of those groups experience the positive nature of online learning.


Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from

Laureate Education (2010), Video Podcast: Developing online courses. Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from

Piskurich, G., & Chauser, J. (2010), Video Podcast: Planning and designing online courses. Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from

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


3 Responses to “Reflecting on Distance Learning”

  1. R. Phillips Says:


    I’m going to be following your blog through as we go though our Project Management in Education and Training course.

    R. Phillips

  2. Bessie Says:

    Hi Joseph,

    I will be following your blog through-out this course. I am looking forward to sharing and learning with you.


  3. wmorrisblog Says:

    Hello Joseph,
    I really enjoyed your reflection on the future of distance learning. I will continue following your posts throughout our ID courses.

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