The Future of Distance Learning

In the future people will obtain degrees wholly online or through hybrid programs (Kennedy, n.d.). The International Organization for Distance Learning contends that lifelong learning will be a necessity for workers, traditional schools will collaborate to increase the diversity of offerings, distance learners will require increased technical skills as technology advances, and business will compete with schools at all levels to offer education. Already, for-profit universities, organizations such as Khan Academy, iTunes U and commercial lecture series providers are challenging traditional institutions due to their abilities to quickly provide online instruction (Anderson, Boyles, & Rainie, 2012). In the Pew Research Center’s survey of 1,021 experts, 39% felt that in 2020 education would be much the same while 60% felt that it would be very different (Anderson, Boyles, & Rainie, 2012). Even though the experts can’t agree on what the future holds, I believe that advancing technology will carry distance learning along with it. The future of distance learning is very bright.

As an instructional designer I want to keep abreast of new technology and new methods of imparting knowledge. Holography and 3-dimensional printing are two technologies that have huge potential for virtual learning. Mirza et al (2013) offer a review of the use of holography in anatomy education which could revolutionize medial instruction. Canessa, Fonda, & Zennaro (2013) suggest that promising uses of 3D printing technology include archaeological artifacts, complex mathematical surfaces, and medical prostheses to name a few. Using instructional design to combine such technologies for a distance environment would be fun and exciting.

I want to make my virtual courses as enticing as video games. I want kids to be excited to learn or perhaps even addicted to learning. It hurts to hear bright kids, such as my niece, say they hate physics or math. I believe technology has the potential to change such attitudes. Well-designed and engaging courses can overcome poor instructors.

My goal is to continue my investigation into learning and the development of virtual courses. I want to pursue a doctorate with the idea in mind to explore the practical applications of virtual learning and employ new technology to increase learning. I am convinced that the combination of virtual worlds, knowledge databases, technology, 3D printing, and holography can be combined to create learning simulations for any topic. Anyone would have the chance to learn anything at any time as long as they had a device with microprocessors to provide access to the virtual environment. The Star Trek Holodeck is absolutely possible.


Anderson, J. Q., Boyles, J. L., & Rainie, L. (2012). The Future Impact of the Internet on Higher Education: Experts Expect More Efficient Collaborative Environments and New Grading Schemes; They Worry about Massive Online Courses, the Shift Away from On-Campus Life. Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Canessa, E., Fonda, C., & Zennaro, M. (2013). Low-‐cost 3D Printing for Science, Education and Sustainable Development. LOW-COST 3D PRINTING, 11.

Kennedy, S. (n.d.). Future of Distance Learning. Retrieved from

Mirza, K., Campos, P., Sugand, K., Lelos, N., Thrumurthy, S., & Bailey, C. (2013). HOLOGRAPHY IN CLINICAL ANATOMY EDUCATION: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. Medical Posters, 1(4).

What is the Future of Distance Learning? (n.d.) Retrieved from