Instructional Design in Distance
Education: An Overview
The Pennsylvania State University
When one thinks about how to discuss instructional design in distance education several alternatives can come to mind. One could discuss the subject in terms of the traditional ISD (Instructional Systems Design) systems approach or ADDIE model, or it could be discussed in terms of technologies, in terms of types of interactions, in terms of learner autonomy and learner control, or in a multitude of other ways including an emphasis on costs. In truth all of these elements are part of the formula that defines the design and development of a course to be offered at a distance. However, in all these approaches there is an underlying acknowledgment or understanding that a particular technology is being utilized to bridge the distance between the student, the instructor, and the learning organization. Key to anyone of the technologies chosen is how it allows or does not allow the other elements of the course to behave in a systems environment where all the elements or variables interact.
In distance education we have, in many ways, several critical factors that need to be reviewed prior to even considering how the course will be presented and function. These include the audience characteristics, geographic dispersion of the audience, the technologies available to the audience, the goals of the learners, the goals and missions of the learning organization, the costs that must be recovered, the costs of delivery, the political environment at the time for the learning organization, the faculty compensation, and the market competition. All of these factors come into play in designing a course at a distance before we even look at the learning goals and objectives of the actual course. In many instances these factors will often dictate the technologies we use to deliver a course at a distance even before one conducts content analysis or instructional analysis. While discussing technology at the beginning of the design process can appear backward to classic instructional design it tends to surface early in discussions in distance education.
Single-mode and dual-mode institutions of distance education have striven for years to integrate the latest technologies into their courses in an effort to provide the student at a distance a richer learning experience and a feeling of connectedness to the education enterprise