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Distance Learning Resources
Learn about distance learning including the advantages,
disadvantages and more.
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What is Distance Learning?
Introduction to Distance Learning
Distance learning traditionally has provided access to instructional
programs for students who are separated by time and/or physical
location from an instructor. Distance learning has been thought
of as prepackaged text, audio, and/or video courses taken by an
isolated learner with limited interaction with an instructor or
other students. This perspective is changing however. Today information
technologies can allow a rich interactive distance learning experience
that may surpass the interactivity of a traditional classroom.
Distance Learning Defined
Distance Learning is conventionally defined broadly as, any educational or learning process or system in which the teacher and instructor are separated geographically or in time from his or her students; or in which students are separated from other students or educational resources.
Contemporary distance learning is affected through the implementation of computer and electronics technology to connect teacher and student. Content delivery may be achieved through a variety of technologies, including satellites, computers, cable television, interactive video, electronic transmissions via telephone lines, and others. Distance learning does not preclude traditional learning processes; frequently it is used in conjunction with in-person classroom or professional training. It is also called distributed learning.
Two Types of Distance Learning
There are two distance education delivery system categories - synchronous
and asynchronous. Synchronous instruction requires the simultaneous
participation of all students and instructors. The advantage of
synchronous instruction is that interaction is done in "real
time" and has an immediacy. Examples include interactive TV,
teleconferencing and computer conferencing, and Internet chats.
Asynchronous instruction does not require the simultaneous participation
of all students and instructors. Students do not need to be gathered
together in the same location at the same time. Rather, students
may choose their own instructional time frame and gather learning
materials according to their schedules. Asynchronous instruction
is more flexible than synchronous instruction. The self-paced format
accommodates multiple learning levels and schedules. Examples of
asynchronous delivery include e-mail, listservs, audiocassette courses,
videotaped courses, correspondence courses, and WWW-based courses.
A Distance Learner Profile
Most students who enroll in distance education courses are over
25 years old, employed, and have previous college experience. More
than half are women. As a group, distance learners are highly motivated.
Their course completion rate exceeds that of students enrolled in
traditional, on-campus courses. The successful distance learner
is by definition a committed student. The individual must have the
discipline to establish a regular study schedule each week and adhere
to it without having to be reminded by an instructor or classmates
to meet deadlines.
The number of enrolled distance learning students indicates growing
interest in this educational option. Family PC Magazine estimates
that 1 million students are taking distance learning classes via
the Internet, while the International Data Corporation predicts
that the number of college students enrolled in online courses will
reach 2.2 million by 2002.
Why Distance Learning?
Distance education increases access to learning opportunities.
Well organized distance learning accommodates multiple learning
styles. Distance learning serves learners who are not likely to
attend traditional classroom instruction. In some cases it can serve
as many or more learners per dollar spent. Research continues to
show that it can also attract and serve lower level learners.
Adult life for many is complex and demanding. Many adults are unable
to or unwilling to attend traditional adult education schools and
classrooms for many reasons including:
- Growth of single parent families who work and need child care
- Lack of public transportation systems in certain parts of the
- Public safety issues in many urban and suburban communities
- Fear of classroom environments
People who can't attend traditional classes because of these realities
need alternatives. These adults are prime candidates for distance
learning. They are motivated to continue their education, but limited
by circumstances as to how they participate in adult basic education.
Flexible learning approaches that are not classroom centered appeal
to these potential learners.
A wide range of employers-businesses, hospitals, government offices,
and military installations-which find it difficult to release employees
for on-campus study, are discovering that it is a good investment
to bring the classroom to their worksites. According to a survey
conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans,
employees rank continuing education as more important than child
care, flextime, and family leave.