Lifelong learning is nothing new, however, opportunities for the masses have grown exponentially in our global society. This technological transformation began long ago with pencil, paper and mail couriers. To date, distance learning has morphed into words, sounds and images racing through wires and air at record speed. 

The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is pleased to share this report with lifelong learners. The USDLA makes a difference in the landscape of effective teaching and learning by bringing professionals together from higher education, K12 education, the corporate training sector, government, military and telehealth. 

"All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.” —George Whitman

Today there is probably a distance learning resource available to fulfill one’s desire to learn. Distance learning can be immediate or at one’s own pace. It may be a live, streaming class with back and forth communication between students and instructors, a self-paced lesson taken as slowly or quickly as one’s schedule permits, or an organized, deadline-driven class with online communication through social media. 

Changing tides 

The classroom itself is changing through distance learning. Many teachers’ roles are becoming more facilitator-centric, as opposed to knowledge transmitters in the traditional classroom setting. The corporate sector has a constant stream of turnkey training solutions so its employees can maintain a level, competitive playing field without the time and expense of travel. 

Higher education is working hard to produce a qualified workforce with options to continuously improve one’s chances for advancement through post-graduate studies. Telehealth is exploding with its offerings to educate and train professionals on the latest breakthroughs in healthcare. The military has a long history of training from a distance, and now service members are pursuing degrees while deployed. 

These studies reveal some impressive trends: 

  • According to the national center for education, 2.6 million higher education students enrolled in 100 percent online degree programs; 5.5 million took at least one online course. 

  • According to the Learning House and Aslanian Market Research, 90 percent of recent, current and prospective undergraduate and graduate students are/were pursuing degrees online to assist with job placement. 

It is all about the latest gadget or app, not to mention, the power of learning software and transparency of its delivery. Do I install a special app to get to class, or will it come from the cloud as a service? Technology presents some challenges, but it is definitely here to stay as we move forward with the wave and improve our lives through learning.