An Instructional Media Selection Guide for Distance Learning- Implications for Blended Learning Featuring an Introduction to Virtual Words

This report provides an overview that adult educators can use to select the most appropriate media for a variety of distance learning contexts. 

Jolly T. Holden, Ed.D.
Philip J.-L. Westfall, Ph.D.
Keysha I. Gamor, Ph.D.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
United States Distance Learning Association
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

Increasingly, educators and trainers are challenged within their respective organizations to provide for the efficient distribution of instructional content using instructional media. The appropriate selection of instructional media to support distance learning is not intuitive and does not occur as a matter of personal preference. On the contrary, instructional media selection is a systematic sequence of qualitative processes based on sound instructional design principles. Although media selection is often mentioned when studying the discipline of instructional technology or Instructional Systems Design (ISD), it is sometimes overlooked when applying the selection process in a distance learning environment. It is our intent, therefore, for this guide to highlight the essentials of good media selection. The report presents an instructionally sound and systematic approach to selecting the most appropriate media for the delivery of content at a distance.

Media selection is an integral part of the Instructional Systems Design process. In that role, media selection ensures that a specific instructional medium can support the attainment of a given learning objective. To that end, this guide is comprised of several major sections that will assist you in the media selection process to ensure the most appropriate media are selected based on the learning environment:

  • an introduction to and definition of distance learning; 
  • a table of instructional strategies that can be used in synchronous or asynchronous learning environments; 
  • an introduction to instructional media options for distance learning; 
  • a comprehensive description of the instructional media including the strengths and weaknesses of specific media and the applicable instructional strategies; 
  • discusses blended learning from several different perspectives, introduces the concept of synchronicity and elasticity, and proposes a tri-dimensional blended learning model; and
  • introduces the emerging virtual world application with a comprehensive discussion on the attributes and strengths of the virtual learning environment. 
What the experts say

This is an invaluable resource for program administrators and instructions in the field of adult education. The document is written in clear language, especially when describing technical aspects of recent options for distance learning. The three authors of this report are exceptionally well-qualified in terms of both educational background and practical work experience in distance learning. The tables and figures are extremely helpful in presenting this topic and in offering choices to those making decisions about the use of distance learning in adult education. 

This resource is based on research in a wide variety of areas: the psychology of learning, applied learning, the taxonomy of learning objectives, the effectiveness of technology in learning--all of which directly relates to adult education. The resource is a good reference for individuals who want to round out their understanding of the often confusing terminology associated with distance learning.

Perhaps its greatest use for program administrators would be as the resource for a professional development study circle for instructors, and this should be a year-long initiative. Much of the information is also useful for those program administrators making budgetary decisions for their programs. That is, the resource gives high-cost and low-cost descriptions of the variety of media, including the effectiveness of each of the twelve Instructional Delivery Media types. For instructors themselves, limited in time and in training, the figures and tables are invaluable. Use this resource!

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