The world is constantly changing. The status quo is constantly disrupted by the adoption of new processes, technologies, or products that constantly propel our species forward. This exact phenomenon is the subject of this post today; I want to talk about change, with a focus on distance learning and technology.
Before we get started there are a couple definitions I want to clarify.
- Technology adoption: This definition can get a bit complicated because adoption is a process. Davis (1989) pioneered the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) in which focuses on two whether the technology will be easy to use and whether it is actually useful. Davis (1989) provides a good start, however, Bridges to Technology goes into a little more detail which I think will be helpful.
Here is an excerpt from their website:
We look at technology adoption as a 5 step process:
Awareness – potential users learn enough about the technology and its benefits to decide whether they want to investigate further
Assessment – potential users evaluate the usefulness and usability of the technology, and the ease or difficulty of adopting
Acceptance – potential users decide to acquire and use the technology, or decide not to adopt
Learning – users develop the skills and knowledge required to use the technology effectively
Usage – users demonstrate appropriate and effective use of the technology ( What is Technology Adoption?, 2005, n.p.)
Read more about Technology adoption here
- Disruptive innovation: I cannot explain it better than this video:
- Distance Learning: Distance learning is learning from a distance obviously! Typically learning in this format will not occur in a classroom setting and can be done via many different methods such as correspondence, television, radio, or most recently online.
The Good Stuff
Now that the definitions are defined I can move on to something more in depth. Distance education has undergone many changes throughout the years, but one of its earliest iterations was correspondence education. In Boston, Caleb Phillipes offered shorthand lessons in the Boston Gazette (Pappas, 2013). As new technology was adopted throughout the years, distance learning adjusted with. Each technological innovation that came about resulted in a new iteration of distance learning from telephones to television. If you want to view a timeline of distance education you should check out my Prezi History of Distance Learning from a Distance.
Despite distance education being in its late 200’s it is still causing a ruckus. Once could say it is being disruptive… In fact, I do not believe that it is controversial to say that online education, distance education’s latest iteration, is a form of disruptive education.
In 2010, over 6.1 million students had taken an online course and it is painstakingly obvious that the number has increase drastically (Infographic, 2014). I have personally taken two online courses and know many other students who have taken at least one. It’s becoming rare to not have taken an online course. 98% of colleges and universities have online programs as of 2014 (Dumbauld, 2014). Every institution is doing it now and many of these institutions are playing catch up because they never fully adopted this technology and more and more students are wanting it and using it as an important criterion in their college search.
A professor of mine said that online education is a rebellion against the establishment of higher education. I agree completely. Horowitz (1987) describes the “Rebels” of the 1960s where students regularly began to challenge and make demands of administrations in schools across the country. Although this rebellion is slightly more passive aggressive (instead of demonstrations we see mass declines in admissions of traditional students and increases in online student admissions, etc…) these students have adopted the technology at astonishing rates which amplifies the disruption that higher education is seeing when it comes to online education.
Online education is the most effective iteration of distance learning to date, in my opinion. I also think that it is here to stay and develop further. Technology adoption is occurring at a pace previouslyunseen. New websites or apps catch like wildfire (YikYak anyone?) especially with the new generations of incoming students.
Jeffrey Selingo (2013) describes these students in an excerpt from his book College (Un)bound:
These students of the future are in elementary and middle school today. Born around the turn of the century, they have always known a world with the Internet, smartphones, and wireless connections. They are often referred to as digital natives. They pick up electronic devices and know intuitively to swipe instead of type on a keyboard. They feel comfortable in a social world that lives online. They text friends who are sitting only a few feet away.
In school, they remain largely uninterested in learning through traditional teaching methods. Two out of three high-school students say they are bored in class every day, according to a report by Indiana University. Then they go home and fire up Khan Academy to view online lessons from Salman to better understand concepts they didn’t get in school.
I hope this post has given you something to think about. There is more to come in the near future!
Davis F. D. Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quart. (1989) 13:319–339
Dumbauld, B. (2014, July 11). A Brief History of Online Learning [Infographic]. Retrieved June 18, 2015, from
Horowitz, H. (1987). Campus life: Undergraduate cultures from the end of the eighteenth century to the present. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Pappas, C. (2013, February 5). The History of Distance Learning – Infographic. Retrieved June 18, 2015, from
Selingo, J. (2013, November 5). College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students. Retrieved June 21, 2015, from http://www.knewton.com/blog/ed-tech/college-unbound/
The evolution of distance learning infographic (2014). Retrieved from: http://elearninginfographics.com/the-evolution-of-distance-learning-in-higher-education-infographic/.
What is Technology Adoption? (2005). Retrieved June 21, 2015, from http://www.bridges-to-technology.com/page21.html