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College Affordability and Preparedness

Demand for Choice and Diversity in Online Learning Creates Innovation

Photo: Courtesy of Valeriy Khan

The United States Distance Learning Association, or USDLA, is honored to participate alongside other people and organizations that represent online learning. The USDLA was formed in 1987 and is celebrating 30 years. Over that time, we’ve been consistently carrying out our mission of supporting the development and application of distance learning. We represent the community across a variety of constituencies that includes pre-K-12, higher education, continuing education, corporate, military and government, home schooling and telehealth both nationally and internationally.

Evolution of online education

Like the USDLA, online education has been in existence for decades. Its earliest form dating all the way back to the 1960’s with linked computer terminals at the University of Illinois. As the digital age progressed from the mid 1980’s through the early 90’s, so did the adoption of online learning. It’s now effectively mainstreamed with more than a quarter of students taking at least one online course. As an increase in online learning continues, the familiarity with it becomes more of a common practice. Online learning is producing some interesting outcomes, particularly when it comes to innovation.

The online generation

A new generation of students, who have grown up in a world that has always included online learning, are challenging the way things have been done and why they continue to operate that way. At the same time, technology continues to provide our lives with flexibility, while keeping us increasingly more connected. This allows us to focus on what’s really important — interaction, relationships and community. We want those same things in our learning environments as well. We want collaborative and engaging environments where we can interact with people and information at any time, in any place, at any pace and with a device of our choosing. The demand for more choice and diversity across the board has understandably arrived.

Ken Conn, 2017 President, United States Distance Learning Association, Director Partnerships & Collaboration, i2i Technologies, [email protected]

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