The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is hosting their annual conference this week in St. Louis, Missouri. USDLA, the first non-profit distance learning association in the United States founded in 1987, seeks to bring together distance learning professionals from all verticals in education, training and communications.
While at the conference attendees and participants can expect to hear about the latest in distance learning teaching strategies in addition to the newest and greatest in terms of distance learning platforms, software, and video conferencing equipment. The conference promises to be action-packed with traditional sessions as well as interactive, collaborative sessions.
In anticipation of the upcoming conference, the Public Sector View editorial staff sat down for a moment with Dr. John G. Flores, USDLA’s Executive Director and Professor at Nova Southeastern University to discuss current trends in distance learning as well as what current topics we should expect to hear about at the conference.
Here’s what Dr. Flores had to say:
Public Sector View (PSV): You’ve been the Executive Director of USDLA since 1999, giving you an important vantage point through a time of great growth in technology including the internet boom of the early 2000s. Thinking back, what are some of the most pivotal changes in technology and educational culture that have led to the exponential growth of distance learning since?
John Flores (JF): Since the end of the 20th century, the overall burst in online opportunities really has been the result of newer and easier technologies as well as more broadband availability. With the explosion of internet capabilities and with people utilizing more email, texts and tweets as well as other types of simple technologies, colleges and universities began saying- “Look there’s no reason that we cannot offer courses , classes and complete degree programs via distance learning.”
With a combination of ubiquitous broadband for the most part and net neutrality, distance learning is just continues to grow. Technology is constantly evolving and changing, and the swift pace really puts demands on us as an association- and in the greater sense- on us as a society.
Students- children- parents- everybody’s accustomed to using technology. Since the late 80s and 90s, we’ve created a cultural shift and so looking at distance learning as an add-on or a maybe is no longer the predominant mind-set. Distance learning is part of the mainstream for all of the constituents that USDLA represents, which include K12, higher education, corporate, government, military, telehealth and home schooling.
Probably since the invention of the printing press, there hasn’t been anything in comparison to the creation of the internet and World Wide Web that has so dramatically changed the way we think and approach everyday life. It’s amazing where we are and where we’ve gone in the last 15 to 20 years. Who knows where we will be in one, five or ten years.
National Distance Learning Week is scheduled for the fall each year. From the most recent Distance Learning Week in November 2014, was there an emerging trend and/or challenge for participants?
The upcoming USDLA 2015 Conference’s theme is “Distance Learning: Ignite, Innovate, Inspire.” How critical do you see each of those terms- ignite, innovate and inspire- to current trends in distance learning?
As a long-time supporter of distance learning, what current trends in DL do you think are here to stay and what are the benefits to learners as a result of these trends?
Interested in learning more about how technology and video conferencing is revolutionizing how we teach and learn? Click here.