Distance Learning: Quality Education for All
Distance learning makes quality education possible, even when instructor and student are in different locations, and have different schedules. This is not a new idea. The first mail-based correspondence courses were offered more than a century ago. Modern technology has made distance education faster, easier, and of higher quality. Many larger colleges and universities offer some on line courses, and millions of students around the world have used the Internet, and other modern online teaching technologies, to further their education.
Distance Learning Technology
There are 2 general types of online education technologies. Some allow students to work entirely on their own schedule. Lecture notes and other course materials can be made available on line, in written form or as streaming audio. Communication between teacher and student, and between students, is done via presentation tools, e‑mail, on line message boards, remote access software, or even voice conferencing. This is known as asynchronous communication.
In some cases, it may be necessary for all members of a class to participate in an event simultaneously, even though separated by great distance. These interactive exchanges are made possible with synchronous technology, such as instant messaging, online presentation software, desktop sharing, chat rooms, and web conferencing software, which may include audio. Teachers can present the class material on their own computer screen, and the student can view the teacher’s remote desktop live over the Web by participating in a distance learning class.
The technology needed to participate in distance learning is not expensive, making high-quality education more widely available than ever before.
Quality of Distance Learning
In the past, “mail-order degrees” and similar certifications have been looked upon with suspicion, and sometimes rightly so. Using today’s technology, however, the quality of distance education and online training can be equal to that delivered in the traditional classroom. Prestigious, mainstream universities are even offering undergraduate and advanced degrees through e‑learning software. Issues of integrity, or concern about distance learning students cheating on tests, have been minimized. College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests are often used in online learning classes, as are the DANTES Standardized Subject Tests. These are standardized, proctored tests which can be accepted for college credit. In addition, tests and quizzes may be replaced with larger research projects, which force the student to make an in-depth examination of the subject.
For those unable to be present in a classroom, due to time constraints, location, or even disability, distance learning is an opportunity to acquire an education that would otherwise have been impossible.