1st Apr, 2009 | Source : USDLA
The following are some of the factual elements that describe the rapid growth of distance learning and its applications.
USDLA defines distance learning as the acquisition of knowledge and skills through mediated information and instruction. Distance learning encompasses all technologies and supports the pursuit of life long learning for all. Distance learning is used in all areas of education including Pre-K through grade 12, higher education, home school education, continuing education, corporate training, military and government training, and telemedicine. Research studies have been quite consistent in finding that distance learning classrooms report similar effectiveness results as reported under traditional instruction methods. In addition, research studies often point out that student attitudes about distance learning are generally positive. Providing courses and electronic field trips are among the principal applications for distance learning in Pre-K through grade 12 education. Distance learning is also used to support rural and inner city classes with student enrichment, student courses, staff development and in-service training for teachers and administrators.
In higher education, distance learning is providing undergraduate and advanced degrees to students in offices, at community colleges and at various receive sites. Students for whom convenience may be a crucial factor in receiving college credit are earning degrees by satellite, audio, and over the Internet. Faced with retraining 50 million American workers, corporate America is using distance learning, both internally and externally, for all aspects of training. Many major corporations save millions of dollars each year using distance learning to train employees more effectively and more efficiently than with conventional methods.
Programming for distance learning provides the receiver many options both in technical configurations and content design. Educational materials are delivered primarily through live and interactive classes. The intent of these programs is not necessarily to replicate face-to-face instruction. Interactivity is accomplished via telephone (one-way video and two-way audio), two-way video or graphics interactivity, two-way computer hookups, or response terminals. Technology offers many options for delivering and receiving education over a distance. The ability of the teacher and students to see each other may not be a necessary condition for effective distance learning, but audio can be a critical component for interactivity. Teaching strategies based on computer applications are emerging that are also effective. Research on distance learning applications for Pre-K through grade 12, as well as in adult learning and training settings, strongly suggests that distance education is an effective means for delivering instruction. Funding for both satellite and web-based distance education systems can be accomplished through various means:
- Issuing bonds to cover construction costs
- Legislation to install satellite dishes and other technology packages at schools and community buildings
- State, national and Federal grant programs
- Various other options including taxes and levies Distance learning provides equity of access to information and opportunities and can dramatically decrease the costs and inconveniences associated with maintaining a well-trained work force.
Telecommunications systems that serve education can also benefit the community at large. In rural areas, especially, telecommunications systems and services are tied increasingly to economic development and community survival. New uses for distance learning include the application of information and educational resources for Pre-K through grade 12 students, adults, senior citizens, local governments, organizations and businesses.