What is Distance Learning?

About Distance Education

If you've ever wondered what is distance learning, it is defined as the process of transferring knowledge to learners (students) who are separated from the instructor (teacher) by time and/or physical distance and are making use of technology components, such as the Internet, video, discussion forums, CD's, tapes and other forms of technology to accomplish learning.

Distance learning is what should occur if special consideration has been taken regarding the course design, instructional techniques, communication mediums, and organization and administrative issues associated with the distance education program. Knowledge transfer should transpire despite the fact that the instructor and learner are geographically separated by time or distance.

"Distance learning", "distance education" and e-Learning are terms used synonymously in education and learning technologies. It is deemed that distance learning has been a method of teaching and learning for many individuals for at least one hundred years (Moore & Kearsley, 1996) starting with print technology and the postal service (correspondence education) all the way up to the electronic communication that is used today.

Why use Distant Learning?

The biggest motivation behind distance learning has been social changes. Over the years, individuals, institutions, businesses and the military have continuously sought for alternative means of access to higher education as they strive to cope with the lifestyles and the changing demands of the economies and societies in which they live.

Today, higher education is a necessity for those who wish to work and prosper in an economy that is becoming dependant not on sheer muscle power, but on brain power. Today, the workforce is rewarded for how well and how fast problems are detected and solved.(Saba, Ph.d, 2001)

Since the Internet has become ubiquitous, we have seen an emergence of online distance learning colleges as well as traditional brick and mortar colleges who are now offering online programs to fill the demand for higher education.

Who uses Distance Learning?

Distance learning is being used by just about everyone involved in the educational process. From high school students, to those involved in higher education, the military, and the government, to those pursuing continuing education, corporate training, and lifelong learning, distance learning is being used for multiple ongoing purposes:

  • To reach underserved and advanced students
  • To reach learners in different geographic locations - rural areas, as well as cities across the United States, Canada, and the world
  • Course enrichment and staff development
  • Institutions and organizations are also using distance learning to save on the cost of training and to offer just-in-time training to individuals and employees in remote locations

Distant learning requires more of the learner. As a learner, you are responsible for ensuring that you schedule the necessary time away from other activities in order to complete your coursework and assignments. Whatever schedule you set, you must follow through with it, or else your learning will not be effective. Distance learning has reversed the dynamics of learning; instead of the student going to school, the school now comes to the student.

What Technology is used for Online Distance Learning?

It is hard to keep up with the technology associated with distance learning. Presently distance learning uses emerging technologies to enhance the traditional way of learning. Online distance learning-also referred to as online learning, or e-learning-is increasingly becoming the logical way to learn. This has been made possible by evolving information and communication technologies. Telecommunication networks are providing learning opportunities for non-traditional populations of learners and individuals who would otherwise be isolated by distance or geographical barriers.

Using satellite, computers, telephone, the Internet, interactive video conferencing, and audio, distance learners can participate and share many different types of experiences that would not ordinarily be made available to them. Through online distance learning technologies, students can interact with one another and their instructors, and also easily consult experts from remote locations.

Online distance learning is also very flexible. You may have 30 minutes during lunch or you may choose to participate in your coursework early in the morning or late at night. In most cases, you have the opportunity to log on and participate in classes at times that are most convenient to you.

Online Learning: What is the experience like for Learners?

If you are wondering what participating in online distance learning is like, consider the following glimpses into how students participate in their online coursework:

  • Students participating in online discussions and chat sessions with fellow students and instructors, instead of having to attend courses in traditional lecture halls. You'll also be watching videos streamed over the Internet, taking exams through customized applications, and participating in class discussions via conference calls.
  • Students completing team projects by meeting together in teams, on the same website, at scheduled times to discuss how to accomplish the goals of a certain project or assignment, and to share research findings. You'll also be communicating and collaborating with other students using computer conferencing software, e-mail, chat, and recorded video conferences provided by your instructor.
  • Students complete homework assignments independently at home and submit them electronically to their instructor, via email or an online "drop box", just before the deadline. After the deadline passes, the drop box automatically closes.
  • Students use online research tools, including databases and extensive collections of electronically stored documents, to complete projects-instead of wading through stacks of books in a traditional library. The Internet's search engines, along with the many scholarly databases that online schools make available to their students, replace traditional trips to the campus library.
  • Students ask questions via e-mail, online chat, telephone calls or discussion forums. In addition, many academic instructors use Instant Messaging (IM) to communicate with their students.

Online distance learning has opened the doors for many people who have jobs and families to take care of, or who must presently endure long commutes. If you're looking to advance your education and are considering learning by distance education, you can take the next step by pursuing an online associates, bachelors, MBA, Masters, a PhD or requesting FREE information from one of these top universities with online programs and courses.

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