Distance Learning has become a “must” for educational institutions and corporations. 2013 statistics, compiled by certifyme.net, reveal that Distance Learning is now estimated to be a $56.2 billion dollar industry that is expected to double in size over the next few years. Presently, 4.6 million college students are taking at least one course online and it is predicted that by 2019, half of all college courses will be taught online. Corporations have also been quick to embrace this phenomenon, with a reported 77% implementation of online training resulting in an estimated 50-70% cost saving versus the traditional classroom. Additionally, with the demand from a younger workforce attuned to the online educational technology they experienced growing up, corporations need to provide online education to retain these new workers and give them the knowledge tools to advance their careers. More than just a passing fad, online education has been proven to increase knowledge retention by 25-60% while reducing delivery time by 25-60%.
Distance Learning is not new. Beginning with its roots in the 18th and later in 19th century, the first “correspondence courses” were implemented by Sir Isaac Pitman using post office “snail mail” to teach shorthand and provide feedback via return mail. As media delivery technologies expanded, the use of training/educational films and television burst upon the educational/training scene. Today, with the advent of internet web-based delivery technology, Distance Learning has integrated itself into the very fabric of learning, from corporate training, to fully accredited online higher education degrees, to K-12 cyber-schools, and more.
Today we can loosely define Distance Learning as education or training in which learners take courses by accessing information and communicating with an instructor and other students over a computer network. Generally, Distance Learning can be delivered in 3 ways:
Before embarking on a Distance Learning strategy for your organization, a business case needs to be created to obtain the necessary financial and adoption support to reach success. This usually starts with convincing executive level management that there will be a positive return on investment with the implementation of Distance Learning. Business case points can include:
Today there are a plethora of delivery systems that can be employed to implement synchronous distance learning, from the nearly free use of Skype, to the moderate cost of Citrix GoToMeeting and WebEx, to the comprehensive systems video conferencing, streaming and recording systems offered by Vidyo, Polycom, and Cisco. Each system has their own level of quality, feature sets, and financial investment. Here are just a few important considerations to keep in mind when selecting a Distance Learning Video Conferencing System:
Regardless of the technology you use, it should be remembered that the key to making the right technological decisions rests in fully understanding your organization’s learning goals and objectives, your current learning technology base, and your organization’s learning culture. The key to the success of any distance learning initiative goes well beyond technology implementation but remains the creation effective and engaging learning using proven instructional design methodologies and assessment strategies. Navigating the complexities of distance learning can be a daunting task. IMS Technology Services is an experienced technology and training firm that can make that task manageable and set your distance learning mission up for success.
Article submitted by Louis Stricoff, M. Ed & CTS