Facts and options that concern distance learning

Distance learning - a method of gaining professional and academic qualifications without having to attend a college or university on a full time basis. We are bombarded constantly with messages heralding the technological revolution that is occurring on campuses across the globe. Advances in telecommunications technology has opened up the possibility of personal and group interaction in distance education.

Technology has changed the face of education. While distance learning has been in existence for at least 100 years, the medium has changed from pencil and paper correspondence courses to real-time Internet courses. Changes in technology have accelerated the growth of distance learning. The improved access and availability of electronic technology has enabled more adult students to participate in the learning process. There are many factors mandating the delivery of distance learning: school restructuring, the connection of every classroom to the Internet, and the creation of virtual universities by governments.

Students who enroll in courses that concern distance learning do so for convenience. They are either time-bound due to work or travel schedules or location-bound due to geographic or family responsibilities. The plans to offer distance learning courses are increasing dramatically.

Distance learning is an excellent method of reaching the adult learner. Because of the competing priorities of work, home, and school, adult learners desire a high degree of flexibility. The structure of distance learning gives adults the greatest possible control over the time, place and pace of education There are many educational delivery formats that concern distance learning. Flexible learning options is one if them.  Programs and courses that offer flexible ways to learn help overcome the barriers of inconvenient schedules, job commitments, family responsibilities, and location.

However there are a number of issues that concern distance learning with all its formats. Not only it requires a significant level of self-motivation and discipline, due to the lack of face-to-face contact, there's also a potential loss of student motivation with teachers and peers, prohibitive startup costs, and lack of faculty support; alienation and isolation, lack of experience, and training. As for the faculty teaching by distance learning, the lack of direct interpersonal contact with students is a real issue. In a distance learning setting, instructors may have little or no knowledge of or contact with the audience as they prepare and deliver instructional lessons. The online instructors experience limited interaction with students whether the class is taught synchronously or asynchronously.

Distance learning has a great potential that can not be realized without institutions developing the infrastructure to provide: technical training, technical support, administrative support, time for faculty to develop and teach the courses, a revised faculty reward system, and reliable computer hardware. The experience of a distance learning student should be as rich, both intellectually and affectively, as the experience of a student in a traditional classroom.

Despite all the issues that concern distance learning, the dramatic growth of the adult learner population is making distance learning an increasingly popular choice of learning techniques.

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