Information Technology and Distance Learning
Distance education, or distance learning, is a field of education that depends on the Information technology, and instructional systems that plan to provide learning to students who are physically not present in a class room setting. In stead of attending courses personally, teachers and students communicate at times of their convenience and choosing and exchange printed or electronic material through any suitable technology.
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Online education can be as recognized as a tangible and interactive learning experience through which students can earn even a doctoral degree. Virtual classrooms use the internet to have a mutual multimedia experience where one can have video conferences, video lessons and other stimulating learning prospects. Concept f distant learning is not new as it was University of London that first offered distance learning degrees, establishing its External Program in 1858[ Key Facts].
Distance learning is the delivery of instruction and the fulfillment of course work from remote locations; allowing instructors and students to interact without being in the same place. New technologies have made distance learning an increasingly popular option for institutions and students alike.
The Internet, e-mail, video conferencing, and other interactive systems allow schools to experiment with unique modes of teaching and learning, use resources that do not reside on their own campuses, and attract faculty and students who are far from campus or cannot travel to campus very often. The first Open University is United Kingdom Open University (UKOU) that was established in the late 1960s and initially utilized television and radio as its main methodologies. Now a days almost all open universities use distance education technologies as basic teaching approach [Moore, Michael G (33-36)].
Advantages of Distance learning
Although there is no substitute for regular education system but distance learning is contributing considerably in the field of education. A distance learning program has a number of advantages. It provides opportunity to the learners to have little interference in the professional life. It is an excellent alternative for those who look for improving their careers or who require some special form of training.
Online distance education is rapidly increasing among mainstream universities in the United States, where online doctoral programs have even developed at prestigious research institutions [Hebert, D. G.2007]. Some people who work cannot afford to spare time for regular classes and at the same time need to enhance their skills for further development in career. Some people who want to study in prestigious institutions and do not get opportunity to physically join such institute for want of finances or inter government permissions also make us e of this system to obtain the required education.
Distance learning can offer them experience to learn through new technologies, methods and approaches and gain knowledge and practical experience. Distance learning programs are easier to be planned as it needs a smaller amount of time and commitment. Distance learning programs present more geographic flexibility.
They also offer introduce the learners to students of various origins and afford them an opportunity to have interaction. Distance learning programs offer access to faculty in many different locations where as class work can be scheduled according to personal and professional availability. Distance learning does not involve travel and saves time that otherwise was to be spent on going and driving back.
A learner can complete a large amount of the classes at convenience. Most of the classes under distance learning programs don’t require even to attend a session at a particular time and place. A learner can do and review the assignments and can do homework at its convenience. Distance learning programs make it extremely comfortable for ladies in particular and parents in general that have kids. This allows such parents not to look for care arrangements because they can take of both kids and classes from home at the same time.
Information technology made the whole affairs very easy as online classes solved all possible convenience concerns. It is extremely useful for disabled persons and senior citizens who feel it hard to attend customary regular classes. They now are not much worried and concerned about having access to a classroom. Instead they can use comfortable settings in their home making the learning environments more convenient. As a result people with restricted mobility also have a chance to develop their education and shills.
Virtual education is now an integral element of the planning by most institutions and training organizations. The worth of distance learning has greatly improved over a period of time in last many years, because both students and educators feel more relaxed with the technology. While quality of distance learning has improved at the same time distance learning programs also significantly increased.
It is heartening to find out that distance learning organizations are now being fully recognized by the proper government agencies. The objective of official approval is to make sure that education provided by such virtual institutions meets satisfactory standard of excellence.
Distance learning offers a number of advantages and opportunities for non resident students from other countries seeking an accredited degree of some high standard institutes. Possibly the most pertinent advantage involves easy approach of learning as a result keep away from the hassle of applying for a student visa to study in a specific country . Distance learning provides geographic flexibility to study in any convenient location with an internet connection and involves setting self tempo for learning [Distance Learning MBA].
Through use of technology it becomes easier to quickly look through study materials and can be well mastered. Distance learning is so designed that it allows a learner focus more strongly on curriculum, time and effort in fields that contain new information and proficiency. Distance learning also allows a learner to obtain study materials at convenience and amount at a faster speed against that of slow pace of the normal classroom settings. The learners join conversations in the communiqué board discussion areas with flexibility and get instant feed back in form of reviews from online classmates’ comments.
Distance learning is just in time learning method that offers prospect to study the up to date study material available.
The most significant feature of distance learning is helping students to do well in Web base classes by creating ability to administer and manage time. A normal student can easily spend 2 to 3 hours each week for every one hour of credit for a class.
Disadvantages of Distance Learning
Where Distance learning has a large number of advantages it posses some inherent weaknesses as well. Basic aspect being that it is not for everyone, since it presents inadequate or rather no physical contact with associate classmates and staff. It also does not offer any social interaction and its all formal [Randall S. Hansen, Ph. D]. Distance learning at the same time does not offer the networking chance making distance learning a less vital option for career development.
It is also not a good choice for someone who works in better interactive environment. The distance learning does not contain analysis of personality of a student as career placement. Distance learning programs do not offer all study disciplines making choices very limited since the technology and form of learning are comparatively new and does not go with all requirements of curriculums. Distance learning programs do not offer scholarship because learners are expected to work during the program over a long time with no much expense.
Where as the distance learning is costly and involves intricate technology. Regardless of the lot of openings through distance education, there are foreseeable associated costs. Live video communication requires cautious setting up of the equipment and services. For online learning a computer with accessories and link to the internet and camera is essential. Both the instructors and students require much advance planning and while joining distance learning may require adjustments of normal activities.
Distance learning does not offer realistic feedback. In a usual classroom situation, a student's routine can be right away reviewed during questions and informal tests. But With distance learning, a student gets instructor’s feedback till the instructor has evaluated the work and sends a reply to. As distance learning does not always offer all the necessary courses online many students desirous to obtain specific certificate or degree program may not attain the required qualifications. No discipline requiring practical can be offered through online programs as one can study a biology lesson completely online, but cannot perform clinical practical online.
Although the majority of employers do recognize distance learning but certain employers do not. Students who desire to work for an employer after graduation are required to be certain of such employer's viewpoint about online distance education.
Another weakness associated with distance learning is that it does not provide the learners any opportunity to work on spoken communication ability. Although it is some what possible with voice chat or conferencing but is still quite tough to understand in a voice conference settings. More over learners in distance learning courses do not get sufficient practice of verbal interaction with professors and other students though written ability improves.
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Challenges and Future of Distance Learning
Distance learning is becoming increasingly a leading study approach particularly in office and workplace education settings in organization of different fields and dimension. Universities all over the world are improving their techniques of edification and considering enduring education and eventual learning as an essential element in teaching learning environment. Almost all education institutions of that level are using Information and Communication Technology as a means of knowledge delivery. Customary learning is also being restructured in the form of virtual learning or web-based knowledge.
In countries where education is one of the neglected field distances and technology-based education is given least precedence. The large educational institutions and those who are involved in rule making do not think towards this end. Such countries face noteworthy challenges to make a way through new challenges in modern education with their ever growing populace, remoteness and vast scattered areas with non availability of modern information technology resources and limited funding as well.
Despite the difficulties, where nations have a will to progress make their educational institutions expand sufficiently to accommodate the increasing number of on line students who will be looking for admission in such kind of education. Introducing web-based learning being one of the predictable solutions will continue to expand in future as well.
Challenges to distance learning are normal components of any system, method, practice and without challenges there is little or no scope for perfection. Distance learning is widely used in developed countries to support education and eventual learning. This approach will continue and will be adopted by those countries as well which are not yet developed.
Distance learning will remain distinctive in future as well as an innovative approach for electronically delivering, well-designed, learner oriented at anywhere, anytime through use of the internet. Distance learning will remain as part of E learning , web based learning through virtual classrooms and digital teamwork, where contents will continue to be delivered through internet, audio, video tape, and conferencing through video; satellite and etc(Hedge 2004:128-145). T
he rapid and intense use of Information and communication Technology in education will continue to play a role in developed countries facilitating them to establish more and more information and communication technology based universities. Although the arrangement of information and communication technology in the developing or the least developed countries is very weak and thus, concentrated use of e-learning in Distance Education is still a dream for their high education universities (Toor 2005: 67-76).
Although distance education is not a new trend, but has got a huge increase due to developing technology. Distance education delivery will finally emerge as strong education approach with use of phone, desktop and TV at a same time in future. When distance learning commenced using information technology, it was not well accepted and the equipment needed to provide it was expensive.
That has now radically changed. And technology is being well used in video, audio text, graphics, animation, and simulation. Distance education is undergoing huge transformation and has and will never reach to a stage of saturation as much is yet to be explored and presented in this field. New and well established institutions are coming up with latest equipment and large data base to provide distance learning to a growing population that wants higher education out of traditional classroom setting.
Key Facts", University of London External Program Website http://www.londonexternal.ac.uk/about_us/facts.shtml
Moore, Michael G.; Greg Kearsley (2005) Distance Education: A Systems View, Second, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. , (33-36)
Hebert, D. G. (2007). “Five Challenges and Solutions in Online Music Teacher Education,” Research and Issues in Music Education, Vol.5 Web: http://www.stthomas.edu/rimeonline/
Distance Learning MBA http://www.mba.com/mba/FindYourProgram/ChooseAProgramType/DistanceLearning.htm
Randall S. Hansen, Ph. D Distance Learning Pros and Cons http://www.quintcareers.com/distance_learning_pros-cons.html
Hedge, N. and Hayward, L. 2004 “Redefining roles: University e-learning contributing to Life long learning in a networked world.” E-Leaning, 1: (128-145)
Toor S K, 2005 “Hybrid Model for e-Learning at Virtual University of Pakistan” The Electronic Journal of e-Learning Volume 3 Issue 1, (67-76).
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