Trends: What is Distance Education?

 

DISTANCE EDUCATION AND CHANGES IN THE WORLD

The ‘tools’ available for educators to communicate with distance education students in the past were very limited. In the middle of the 20th century, most distance educators communicated with students through the postal system alone. Some also used radio transmissions (for example School of the Air in Australia conducted classes for school children on isolated properties using short wave radio).

 

The situation today is very different in several ways:

 

1. More Tools for Distance Education

Many new tools have become available for Distance Educators to use (eg. Internet, Fax, email, telephone, more extensive courier services, better air services, etc)

 

2. Classroom Education more Costly

The cost of classroom education, particularly in developed countries, has become increasingly prohibitive, often resulting in a depreciation of standards and services.

 

3. Greater Social Acceptance of new Technologies

New technological tools have become increasingly widely available around the world.

 

4. Globalisation Opened up Markets

Courses can be offered to a wider demographic of people living in many different countries.

 

5. Busier Lifestyles

There is an ever increasing need for greater flexibility in education –which did not exist in the past. People’s lives and their life choices are constantly changing and this is being reflected in the variety and scope of educational courses being offered.

 

6. Self Directed Education is more effective

Research is actually showing that student centred education and self directed education is more effective and graduates have better career prospects.

 

Growth of Distance Education

Distance Education is one of the strongest growth areas in vocational and tertiary education, both in Australia and internationally. There are perhaps two main reasons for this:

1. People are busier than ever before, moving location, working odd hours etc, so there is a greater need than ever for people to be able to study where and when they are able to find the time.

2. Technology has enabled distance education to be delivered more effectively than ever before.

 

Disadvantages of distance education are obvious:

  • The teacher/trainer cannot see the students face to face continually throughout every part of the course
  • The students cannot see and hear the teacher/trainer continually throughout all parts of the course.
  • Students need to maintain motivation without peer encouragement or teacher input
  • Students need to be more self disciplined in their approach to their studies

 

Advantages of Distance Education are both obvious and not so obvious. Obvious advantages include:

  • The student has greater flexibility in terms of when and where and how often they study
  • The tutor has more flexibility regarding when and where to assess or to respond to students.

Not so obvious advantages are:

  • The student does not get bored with the teacher.
  • The student cannot lose attention in the midst of study through others in the class
  • The teacher cannot be so easily upset, disturbed or stressed by particular students
  • There is a reduced likelihood of teachers/trainers becoming overly stressed and letting that stress impact on the quality of training.
  • The student is more likely to have the undivided attention of their tutor whenever they interact (eg. Through written communications, phone calls, or meetings).
  • There may be greater equity. The course may be better documented than a lecture; hence, if developed properly, there is less chance of a lesson not succeeding. For example, in a classroom, everything depends on the lecturer. If they have a bad day, are sick or over stressed, this can reflect in the way they deliver the lesson. However once written, a distance education lesson will be delivered with the same consistency to all students who attempt it.
  • The students can feel that they have a closer relationship with their tutor/teacher as there is no classroom competition for attention.
     
     
     SUPPLEMENTARY READING
    Our principal and staff have written dozens of reference books as supplementary texts to complement studies in our school
     
    These books are mostly available as ebook, through our online bookstore. They include the following titles. You can click on any of these titles to go to the bookstore and see more details, on that title (including a free download of some of the pages).