Educators frequently refer to distance education as a disruptive technology (Simonson et al, 2012). Web-enhanced and blended learning seem to have already gained universal acceptance, with online education quickly following suit, and the trend is hardly surprising considering the fact that DE is based on technology utilized to foster learning. The proliferation of technology “has precipitated far-reaching changes in society”, transforming the way people communicate, interact, and access information (Garrison & Anderson, 2001, p.51), which, in its turn, has changed people’s educational preferences.
However, different countries show different patterns of DE acceptance and adoption (Osborne, January 9, 2013). Most of the EDUC-6135-1 resources on the perceptions of distance learning as demonstrated by different segments of society are confined to the US educational environment. At present, the situation in the Russia Federation is different. “Educational experts say Russia may be lagging five-to-seven years behind the rest of the world”, with the e-learning market still in its embryonic stage (Koshkin, June 16, 2014, para 4). The figures that surveys of US faculty (see, for example, Lederman & Jaschik August 27, 2013; Straumsheim, October 29, 2014), students, and employers (see, for example, Grassgreen, February 26, 2014) show are, perhaps, the figures that Russia will hopefully show in five-to-seven years’ time. I do not think, things will change sooner, for, as I repeatedly said in my discussion postings, human attitudes and values take time to change. The new learner-centered educational paradigm, the very concept of a new learning ecology (Siemens, 2003) is too much of a cultural and conceptual shift for many to genuinely embrace it overnight. Educational rhetoric is not the same as genuine appreciation, nor does it promote appreciation or understanding among those immediately involved in education or those indirectly concerned (the general stakeholders). More often than not this kind of rhetoric is counterproductive; people have seen too much MBBS (management by best seller) to be willing to embrace innovation (McAllaster, 2004), especially in a field so encumbered with “tradition” as education.
Moreover, there are organizational and operational issues to be addressed. For example, Dmitry Repin, director of the Moscow-based Digital October technology center which seeks to foster MOOCs in Russia, points out such problems as “the need to localize content by translating it from English” and “a difficult adjustment of online courses to Russian universities’ curricula” (Koshkin, June 16, 2014, para 9). The latter problem can only be solved on a government level with industry and societal needs in mind. It is the synergy of three forces – the university, the state, and the business – that should reshape education. Broadly speaking, these are the three forces that provide answers to the What-to-teach, Why-to-teach, and How-to-teach questions; and these are the forces that constitute the Triple Helix model of education (Laureate Education, n.d.; LeuphanaIPM, July 1, 2014) provides a structure which demonstrates the synergy of the forces to be involved in an educational transformation.
Learners in Russia seem to be less biased and prejudiced against distance learning than the providers of educational services. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (as cited by Koshkin, June 16, 2014), “Russians spent about $10 billion annually to enroll in on-line courses in foreign universities” (para 7). It proves that distance education is increasingly seen by Russian learners as valid; the major task now it to make the ultimate decision-makers see the validity of DE and urge HE institutions to create and promote online programs that demonstrate such features as academic integrity and academic fidelity (Gambescia & Paolucci, 2009).
However, as Osborne (January 9, 2013) puts it, “bureaucracy is likely to get in the way” (para 9). Vlasov (September 3, 2013), for example, claims that schools and universities still follow their outdated curricula because “many programs are already obsolete by the time the Ministry of Education gets round to approving them”, which “is partly down to the poor quality of the programs themselves, and partly down to the bureaucratic barriers that stand in the way of the introduction of the most advanced education technologies” (para 3).
My first ID contribution will be to create quality online PD courses for the faculty and K-12 teachers, courses intended and specifically designed to serve as a thorough distance learning orientation that is immediately as contextually relevant for the participants (Cooper & Cowie, 2010; Moller et al, 2008). Smith (2011) expresses the idea very succinctly and clearly:
“Professional development does not easily occur because of external regulations, it depends more on the extent to which the individual teacher experiences a need for change….Professional development is … an internal process the teacher goes through, it is related to examination of current practice, learning, understanding, change in attitudes, all of which lead to changed practice” (p.56).
According to Dr. David L. Elliott (Sull, July 4, 2008), “the key to quality education, online or classroom, is the interaction between faculty and students”, and “having qualified educators with a commitment to their students and the subject, regardless of the modality of instruction, remains the single most important factor in quality education” (para.9). It is hands-on personal experience that may help teachers to develop an appreciation of online learning and see its potential. The teachers must experience a learner-centered approach as learners to become discontent with and to reconsider their own teacher-centered practices that are no longer (that is, if they ever were) acceptable either in F2F or in distance education as unable to construct an educational environment in which “students would not only learn, but where they would learn to learn”, that is develop “critical thinking and self-directed learning abilities that can serve the individual over a lifetime”, which is an imperative in a knowledge economy (Garrison & Anderson, 2001, p.61). With teachers’ buying in, a true educational reform becomes a reality.
I am certain, I will often refer to my own first-hand experiences as a distance learner when talking to prospective clients and/or create learning objects. I think, I will be involved in facilitating PD programs on distance learning and do my best to practice what I preach. However, if I am to do that, I must keep current with both DE and ID developments, which, for lack of other viable options, I will do by following professional blogs, websites, and academic publications.
Cooper, B. & Cowie, B. (2010). Collaborative research for assessment for learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26 (2010), 979-986. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2009.10.040
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 http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html
Grasgreen, A. (February 26, 2014). Ready or not. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/26/provosts-business-leaders-disagree-graduates-career-readiness#sthash.iN5jaD97.dpbs.
Koshkin, P. (June 16, 2014). E-learning in Russia: Proceed with caution. Retrieved from http://www.russia-direct.org/analysis/e-learning-russia-proceed-caution
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Lederman, D., & Jaschik, S. (August 27, 2013). Survey of faculty attitudes on technology. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/survey-faculty-attitudes-technology.
LeuphanaIPM (Producer). (July 1, 2014). Insights into the Triple Helix Model [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pn2sjPxhBQ
McAllaster, C. M. (2004). The 5 P’s of change: Leading change by effectively utilizing leverage points within an organization. Organizational Dynamics. 33(3), 318-328.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.
Osborne, C. (January 9, 2013). Top ten predictions for online learning in 2013.Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/article/top-ten-predictions-for-online-learning-in-2013/?tag=content%3Bsiu-container#.UUCUKgTXh5o.
Siemens, G. (2003). Learning ecology, communities, and networks: Extending the classroom. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/learning_communities.htm.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
Smith, K. (2011). Professional development of teachers – A prerequisite for AfL to be successfully implemented in the classroom. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 37 (2011), 55-61. doi:10.1016/j.stueduc.2011.03.005.
Straumsheim, C. (October 29, 2014). Online ed skepticism and self-sufficiency: Survey of faculty views on technology. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/online-ed-skepticism-and-self-sufficiency-survey-faculty-views-technology.
Sull, E.C. (July 4, 2008). What’s the future of online education? Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/asynchronous-learning-and-trends/asynchronous-learning-trends-what%E2%80%99s-the-future-of-online-education/.
Vlasov, A. (September 3, 2012). What is wrong with higher education in Russia? Retrieved from http://valdaiclub.com/culture/48440.html.
Image is retrieved from LeuphanaIPM, July 1, 2014: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pn2sjPxhBQ
Click on the link for a pdf. version of the Reflection