Infographic: Online Education in the USA Report 2011

Report can be found at:

Going the Distance: Online Education in the US, 2011

Thanks to David Wicks for originally sharing.

Role of the Teacher in Online Education

Stephen Downes, respected thought-leader in online education, recently gave a talk titled, We don’t need no educator: The role of the teacher in today’s online education at the Norwegian Association for Distance Education (NADE) in which he discussed the rapidly changing role of the educator in online learning and made the case for why instead of the traditional “expert” role, online educators serve in a host of roles, including:

…as Learner

  • Collector
  • Connector
  • Curator
  • Artist
  • Sharer
  • Scientist

…as Designer

  • Programmer
  • Alchemist
  • Convener

…as Coach

  • Salesperson
  • Agitator
  • Mentor
  • Coordinator
  • Facilitator
  • Conversationalist
  • Tech Support

…as Expert

  • Lecturer
  • Moderator
  • Demonstrator
  • Broadcaster
  • Theorizer
  • Evaluator
  • Bureaucrat

Stephen makes some enlightening points in his talk and I recommend it for anyone interested in the potential for online learning and in particular, the dynamics of learning in a massive open online course. If you find online learning interesting, you’ll enjoy Stephen’s talk. NADE has kindly recorded the talk and made available both part 1 and part 2 and I’m also embedding them below.

Do you agree with the points Stephen has made? What roles did he exclude that you’d suggest be added? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Growth of Online Learning in Higher Ed

As Allen and Seamen (2008) note, online education has continued to experience steady and sustained growth and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. I’ve personally found through my own experience that in these particularly challenging times for higher education, institutions are increasingly looking to online education as one way to not increase revenue but also expand course offerings. Allen and Seamen’s findings support the common approach among higher education institutions today to strategically implement online learning in overall programmatic development efforts.

Not only are institutions embracing online education today, but students are also flocking to online modes of learning in record numbers. As noted, over one-fifth of all higher education students are now taking at least one online course (Allen & Seamen, 2008). A primary reason why online education may be so popular especially among adult, non-traditional learners is the flexibility that it affords. The learner can continue his or her education while still continuing a career and maintaining other personal commitments.

What other factors do you suspect may be contributing to the steady growth of online education in higher education? Post a comment with your thoughts!


Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2008). Staying the course: Online education in the United States, 2008. Needham, MA: Sloan-C. Retrieved June 17, 2009, from

Online instructional design “toolbox”

My “toolbox” of important concepts, processes, and tools for the design of instruction within a distance education program is by no means complete nor is it neatly organized. As my practical understanding of online instruction continues to grow with my theoretical basis of knowledge, I become evermore cognizant of the complexities of the design process. While this list of important considerations is by no means complete, it serves as a preliminary basis for further research and discussion.

**Online training must be convenient, compatible, and revisable (Welsh & Anderson, 2001). This includes a variety of important technical elements that must be considered by designers. “Chunking” of training content into small manageable chunks for delivery is an important means to this end.

**Articulation of online pedagogy for the given online learning system is critical. In fact, the unique attributes of the online pedagogy need to be capitalized upon during development (Dabbagh, Bannan-Ritland, & Flannery Silc, 2001). Dabbagh et al. note, “In order for WBI to be effective, it must be pedagogically driven, dynamically designed, interaction oriented, and content specific. Focus should be placed on designing a pedagogical approach appropriate for the content, inclusion of organization and interaction strategies that enhance the student’s processing of the information, and integration of the medium’s attributes to support the designated goals and objectives of the course” (p. 352-353).

**All members of the learning community need to have equal access to the necessary technology (Hedberg, Brown, Larkin, & Agostinho, 2001). This goes beyond simply making sure people have Internet access, but to ensure that they have the necessary software and computing skills to successfully navigate the online learning environment. The idea of accessibility for all is an increasingly important consideration for both web designers and online instructional designers alike (Nielsen, 2000). Online content should be designed for the “lowest common user” – in which I am referring to those users with the least level of accessibility or computing skill.

**The open, flexible, and distributed learning environment of the Web should be maximized in the development of training that is accessible for all. The elements of Khan’s Web-Based Learning Framework (Khan, 2001) should be addressed in the development process, which includes the following dimensions: pedagogical, technological, interface design, evaluation, management, resource support, ethical, and institutional.

**Bandwidth is also an important limiting factor to consider, which refers to the volume measure of information flow (Moore & Lockee, 2001). Bandwidth places formidable limits upon what can occur at any given time during the instructional event. Moore & Locke (2001) state, “In web-training environments, the delivery network infrastructure must be considered so that training developers can avoid creating instruction that diverts a learner’s attention due to unnecessary delays” (p. 274). This coincides with the concept of keeping training accessible and for all learners.

**An element of self-assessment should be included in the design (Hedberg et al., 2001). Learners should be encourage to reflect upon their learning experience and share those reflections with others in the learning experience.

**A sense of community among learners should be developed (Palloff & Pratt, 1999). Online learning provides the opportunity for engaging collaborative learning experiences based on a constructivist approach to education. The development of community is among one of the key processes in the development of a collaborative learning environment. As learners feel connected with the instructor and fellow students, they will not only feel much more engaged but they will be more apt to contribute to the discussion that takes place.

I could continue to list important attributes to the design of an online learning program, but I am quickly realizing that this assignment could turn into a term paper or a thesis if I’m not careful! I will stop typing for now, and I look forward to adding additional “tools” to my “toolbox”.

– Jason


Dabbagh, N. H., Bannan-Ritland, B., & Flannery Silc, K. (2001). Pedagogy and web-based course authoring tools: Issues and implications. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Hedberg, J. G., Brown, C., Larkin, J. L., & Agostinho, S. (2001). Designing practical websites for interactive training. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Khan, B. H. (2001). A framework for web-based training. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Moore, D. R., & Lockee, B. B. (2001). Design strategies for web-based training: Using bandwidth effectively. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Training Publications.

Nielsen, J. (2000). Designing web usability. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Welsh, T. M., & Anderson, B. L. (2001). Managing the development and evolution of web-based training: A service bureau concept. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

How interactive are your distance courses?

Here’s a link to a paper that addresses assessing interaction in distance learning.