Distance education design refers to the method of creating distance learning courses, and the different ways information can be shared with students while they are taking an online class. The nature of distance learning courses necessitates different types of instructional strategies, since face to face time with students is limited or absent. Distance education design may include the development of different facets of a course, such as written lectures, videos, discussion forums, and assignments that must be completed by the students in order to encourage as much learning as possible as compared to traditional courses.
There are no set standards for distance education design. In general, a college or university offering distance courses will have certain standards that are built into each class, so students taking a number of classes can know what to expect. The format of an online course might include weekly lectures, reading assignments, and discussion posts to engage students in the learning process, for example. Within each course, the instructor may further be able to design it the way he or she wants to; some professors will emphasize lectures more, while others will focus most on discussions. Some instructors make use of multimedia, and will include videos in the classes as well.
As technology improves, distance education design can be more complex. Some instructors are now employing video chat in the classrooms; this allows a level of interaction among students and instructors that was previously not possible in distance learning courses. Some professors will require video chat or live discussions, while others will simply make it an option for students who choose to do so, or who have extra questions. Online discussions through voice-over IP (VoIP) are another option for some classes as well.
The point of distance education design is to make an online course as much like a traditional course as possible. Lectures or other sources of information delivery in the class are designed to be as interesting and as interactive as possible, and to encourage students to learn more. Discussion forums or emails encourage all students to participate in the course, to share their opinions, and to ask questions. Because distance education is still a relatively new field, ongoing improvements and innovations in distance education design are made, often based on feedback from instructors and students over time. Individuals studying education may find themselves in classes on successfully designing distance education courses as well.