“The value that online education offers to students is undergoing a perception change.” So says Jesse Langley in a 2011 commentary on his Edudemic blog. This week, as part of a class assignment, I interviewed five people regarding their views on online education and why it could be an option. All five cited convenience as a driving factor, but only two of the five spoke about quality and reputation as a primary consideration in their choice of an institution from which they would consider obtaining a degree. The general public seems to agree with my small sample size: in a 2011 Pew study quoted by Melissa Venable for www.onlinecollege.org, it was found that only 29% of adults viewed an online degree as of equal value to one earned at a brick-and-mortar institution. That said, both the academic community and the business community are leading the perception change. In the same study Venable quotes, 51% of college presidents (from both online and traditional schools) believed the degrees to be equivalent. A year earlier, Rachel Zupek reported for CNN that 83% of executives viewed the degrees as equivalent.
Now, just a month ago, David Leebron, president of Rice University, stated that most students entering college should be prepared for a blended learning experience, utilizing face to face and virtual methodologies (Sataline, 2013). Langley (2011) adds that the change in public perception is “changing inexorably.” I believe that as online education becomes more ubiquitous and as the quality of online education continues to improve, public perception will catch up to that of academics and business executives.
The best thing, in my opinion, that I as an Instructional designer could possibly do to improve societal perception is found in Dr. Ron Paige’s discussion post from this past week (Paige, 2013): “Competency-based assessment is going to grown bigger by the year! This is why I continually “hound” students to be able to apply what you know and be able to explain what you apply.” I have seen this principle in action through the course of this term as I have worked to create my first CMS-based course. At the beginning of the term I, at the halfway point of my degree program, had not – and in my opinion could not – put together one of the courses I had been studying for the past year and a half. Yet, as I began to “apply what I knew,” I found myself slowly but surely crafting a course of reasonable quality. By term’s end, I have created a product I can be proud of, particularly for a first effort. This to me is the essence of changed public perception: when one schooled online can produce at a level equivalent to one schooled traditionally, people will see not only the person but also the institution which trained the person in a more positive light.
Many factors contributed to my own growth throughout the term: engaging in rich discussion about online learning in our discussion posts, creating the Learning Model Matrix early in the course, and understanding the different learning theories all come to mind. However, two important takeaways will have what I believe to be the greatest influence on my success as an instructional designer: first, the need to identify a particular learning theory and allow it to guide the creative process. In my case, I worked with Keegan’s equivalency theory (Simonson et al, 2012, p.52), and as I crafted each part of my course project, I asked myself whether the element I was creating would give my learners the same quality of learning outcome they would have received if sitting in a classroom with a teacher. The result was a more directed, far more cohesive orientation course than I could have created otherwise.
I am more a proponent of distance education now than when I first made the choice to attend college this way because I have experienced firsthand the quality of Walden University’s MSIDT distance program. Advocating for ever-evolving, ever-improving online programs will help ensure that those who follow will continue to have the positive experience I have had. I am not yet ready to step in and take that job as an ID – there remains work to be done both in my understanding of and application of the principles of instructional design – I am confident that EDUC 6135 will be a number I long remember as pushing me much closer to the mark.
Langley, J. (2011, November 10). The Changing Perception of Online Education – Edudemic – Edudemic. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/online-ed-perception/
Paige, R. (2013, October 26). Discussion Post. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3467554_1%26url%3D
Sataline, S. (2013, September 18). 3 Ways Colleges Are Adapting to Online Learning – US News and World Report. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2013/09/18/3-ways-colleges-are-adapting-to-online-learning?int=e795a8
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Venable, M. (2011, September 7). Review: The Digital Revolution and Higher Education – Online College.org. Retrieved from http://www.onlinecollege.org/2011/09/07/review-the-digital-revolution-and-higher-education/
Zupek, R. (2010). Employers on online education – CNN.com. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/worklife/03/29/cb.employers.online.education/