The instructional designer for EDUC 6135 posed some far-reaching questions for our final reflection.  The queries invited me to predict the character of our society’s perceptions of distance learning in the near future (say, in 5 to 10 years) and later (say, in 10 to 20 years).  They also challenged me to consider how, as an instructional designer, I might increase societal approval of distance learning. Finally, they required me to specify ways in which I might not only improve the public’s view of distance education, but continuously advance its substantive quality as well.  Yet, however far-ranging the questions, they all derive from the basic assumption that the popular impression of distance learning demands amelioration.  This presumption may be in the process of becoming outdated as students learn to accept and manage, even willy-nilly, its technological tasks.  The bad news is that, even so, some participants’ dislike of distance learning has not disappeared thereby, but has instead become focused on their real, rather than merely perceived or hopeless Luddite, distress with its disadvantages as a learning modality.  The good news is that, as their resistance is revealed to come from online education’s bona fide limitations rather than stubborn bias, it can be addressed with actual solutions; doing so will automatically hoist acceptance of distance learning, and I as an instructional designer can aid that effort.

For example, it is a fact and not just an opinion that Walden’s highly interactive asynchronous teaching environment (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p. 10) delays by hours or even days (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, pp. 107-108) the instructor or colleague feedback that would be instantaneous in an in-person setting.   Interviewee responses to the Week 7 discussion assignment on perceptions of online distance degrees showed that, while respondents held the quality of the degrees as equal to those from a traditional institution, many assessed the method of instruction as inferior because it lacks face-to-face interaction.  Indeed, in one study, researchers at Rutgers University found that “feedback from course participants revealed one of the motivations to participate in a brick and mortar classroom was the intrinsic urge to become part of a community” (Boling, Hough, Krinsky, Saleem, & Stevens, 2012, p. 124).  So concerns about online courses’ less-immediate interaction reflect not just a general prejudice, but a specific learning preference, that discourages certain students from choosing distance learning programs.

I believe that advancing technology can overcome this genuine issue.  Virtual Reality in education appears to be more effective in game form than in the virtual worlds form—that is, asynchronous communication–generally characterizing discussion forums (Merchant, Goetz, Cifuentes, Keeney-Kennicutt, & Davis, 2014, p. 37) and making them seem stilted and, well, distancing.  As Virtual Reality becomes more realistic and as question-and-answer communications technology becomes more widespread and accessible, I think that virtual worlds will attain as much teaching power as gaming has today, and its online interactivity will become  a more personal experience, even if asynchronous.

As a case in point, the University of Southern California, where I work, exemplifies this effort by having invested millions of dollars into researching the educational utility of the virtual worlds format in its New Dimensions in Testimony program (  The program applies technology already used by Hollywood and by the Institute for Creative Technology ( in the Department of Defense’s PTSD studies to conduct question-and-answer interviews for the USC Shoah Foundation (  Genocide survivors are interviewed in order to produce learning materials helping scholars, educators, communities and organizations teach tolerance and combat ideologies of hatred.  Holograms preprogrammed to ask and to answer thousands of questions can act in a real world or virtual world format.

Hologram Online Interview Technology


(, 2014)

This technology appears to produce through virtual means the biological effects of a face-to-face, real-time conversation between an interviewee and students.  Current research at the USC Shoah Foundation is investigating whether the ability to look at an interlocutor in three dimensions—right in the (virtual) eye—triggers biological engagement just as in-the-flesh interaction does.  If researchers can prove that learners are more comfortable communicating with 3D, realistic people—be they live or automated–the understandable discomfort some students feel with interactions at a distance instead of in a classroom may be mitigated by employing this virtual world techniques in online discussions.  Advancing such knowledge and applying these and other technologies are concrete ways in which I, as an instructional designer, can improve not just the perception, but the true efficacy, of distance education.


Boling, E. C., Hough, M., Krinsky, H., Saleem, H., & Stevens, M. (March 1, 2012). Cutting the distance in distance education: Perspectives on what promotes positive, online learning experiences. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(2), 118-126.

Coldewey, D, (2015), Holograms add new dimension to Holocaust survivor’s story. Retrieved from

Institute for Creative Technology. (2016). Retrieved from (

Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (January 1, 2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 70(2), 29-40.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education, Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age.




Task Analysis and Instructional Objectives Matrix

The Task Analysis and Instructional Objectives Matrix will outline the goals and objectives for each task in a certification orientation course.  The strategies for implementing those tasks in CourseSites by Blackboard will be included as well.  This course provides orientation for a series of courses on technical proficiency, such as CISCO network certification.  After this course a student will know how to use all tools and functionality required to take the technical certification courses.  The student will also know what rewarded behaviors are in certification courses.


Task Analysis and Instructional Objectives Matrix

Although none of the scenarios provides exact information to complete each cell of this matrix, you can find enough information to make reasonable, educationally-sound assumptions which you should be able to explain.

Scenario description: This course provides orientation on the technical tools and functionality required to take technical certification courses created under Scenario 3B of the EDUC 6135 course.  After this orientation course you will know how to use all tools and functionality required to take the technical certification courses.


———— Course setup and Training: Technology Tools Overview ————
Task Analysis:


Goals & Objectives:


Applied Strategy:



Purpose: Introduction to the course


Location: First menu item


Content organization: Text blob


Content outline: A simple welcome text introducing the course



“Aim” or major goal for the Orientation Course: To train the user in the tools that will be used in future technical certification courses


Major Instructional Objectives or Learning Outcomes for the Orientation Course: competency with technical tools used for certification courses



Design considerations: This is simply a text introduction




Purpose: A detailed introduction to the course


Location: Second item under introduction menu item


Content organization: Text blob and youtube video


Content outline: A simple text explanation of course and what the student can expect to learn as well as a youtube video showing what the tools look like.



Learning Goal associated with Orientation as a whole: To train the user in the tools that will be used in future technical certification courses


Specific Learning Outcomes for the Orientation as a whole: competency with each technical tool used for certification courses and comfort with interactive discussions



Design considerations:

This is simply a text overview to be read on the course plus a youtube video



Purpose: Understanding of the certification process


Content organization: Text Blob, Youtube video, Voicethread and discussion board


Content outline: Each tool used in the certification process will be explained.  An introduction to what the certification process is like and how to use the different tools will be offered.  The goal is to understand what a certification course is and what will be expected of the student as they take a course.



Learning Goal associated with Training: Understand each of the following tools as content creation and consumption tools.


Specific Instructional Objectives for Training:


Youtube: Learn about creating and accessing Youtube channels.  Learn about uploading new content.  Learn about commenting on Youtube.


Voicethread: Learn about creating and accessing voicethreads.  Learn about commenting on a voicethread.


Discussion Board: Learn about discussion boards, how to participate, and what the expected rubric is for discussion participation.


Both Behavioral and Constructivist techniques will be used to train students on the certification tools.


For discussions especially, interaction and participation is highly desired.  The rewards for participation and the penalty for a lack of participation must be highlighted.


For learning tools directly, more constructivist activities will be employed to help the student understand how to leverage those tools to create thoughtful content when responding to certification activities.



Type of invitation: Email


Steps you follow to create learner access include: Using the blackboard invitation system (choose manual) to invite students.  Students can also request the course.


Steps your students have to follow to gain access: Sign up with CourseSites and accepts the invitation to the course.


Rationale for invitation type: Students will actively be invited to the orientation as a part of their first certification course.  Students have to be invited to get into the class.  Potential students can request an invitation, but it is up to the course owner to invite them.


The implementation of the above Matrix will be in CourseSites by Blackboard.  There will be three modules; 1) Information, 2) Tutorials and 3) Discussion.  There will be a welcome and overview in the information module.  All of the training will occur in the Tutorials and Discussion sections.  The tutorials will have activities around learning the technical tools and the discussion will have presentations and conversation around the use of those tools.


Ormrod, J.E., Schunk, D.H., & Gredler, M., (2009). Learning Theories and Instruction, Custom

Edition, Laureate Education, Inc.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance:

Foundations of distance education, Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Week 1:Defining Distance Learning

Defining Distance Learning

As the Chief Technology Officer for the USC Shoah Foundation ( and USC libraries (, I have spent most of my career building online search engines for accessing content.  Over time, the resources to which I have supplied access increasingly have curriculum or learning packaged with them.  Thus my work found me questioning exactly when a learning resource is, in fact, merely a learning resource and when it constitutes distance learning.  So cleaning up the muddied definition of distance learning has become crucial.

Not surprisingly, as this week’s Learning Resources demonstrated, the definitions for e-Learning, online learning and distance learning have changed, continue to change, and are used differently in research literature (Moore, Dickson-Deane, & Galyen, 2011, pp. 129-131).  Novel terms such as “virtual education” and “virtual schooling” aptly illustrate how contemporary literature struggles to describe new concepts that make the field ever more complex (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p. 33).

The recent application of the notion of Fordism—industrialization or mass production—to distance learning (Simonson et al., 2015, p. 53) hints at one of the main drivers of fluctuation in the definitions.  Distance education eternally reinvents itself due to new technologies which learners and teachers in any discipline and almost regardless of their technical savvy can access.  With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010, near-universal adoption of smart devices has increased the power of home computing to the point where it manages distributed learning with constantly changing functions.  By tying resources, curricula, teachers, and their students together ever more easily, this technological intensification allows resources previously seen as part of the super-set of distance learning called distributed learning (Simonson et al., 2015, p. 106) to flow into the sub-category of distance learning.

Walden exemplifies the application of a Fordist strategy to distance learning.  A central faculty creates and teaches the curriculum to students all over the world.  Neo and post-Fordist strategies allow for increasing decentralization in the mass production of teaching and learning.  The university’s neo-Fordist model allows teachers to use curriculum distributed to them online locally.  Teachers’ and students’ burgeoning technological functionality allows post-Fordist strategies which adjust activities directly to the concerns of the class.

The paradigm of Fordism has expanded and clarified my earlier understanding of distance learning and of its future.  An individual teacher’s ability to tune applications on smart devices, tablets, laptops and desktop computers to particular, desired class outcomes will continue to maximize the localization, specification, and innovation of curricula from online resources.  This capacity has enabled, and will enable, more distance and distributed learning which nonetheless is increasingly relevant to the on-the-ground learning community receiving it.

Mindmap of definition and vision for distance learning

Distributed Learning


Brachman, S., (November 25, 2014), iPod, iPhone and iPad – A Brief History of Apple iProducts, Retrieved from

Moore, J. L., Dickson-Deane, C., & Galyen, K. (March 1, 2011). e-Learning, online learning, and distance learning environments: Are they the same? The Internet and Higher Education, 14(2), 129-135.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education, Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing.