High school and college courses are traditionally taught within classrooms or lecture halls. However, in recent years more and more students have opted to pursue education outside the classroom via distance-learning programs, or programs in which the instructor and student are in different locations. While such programs have been evolving for more than a century, advancements in the Internet and other technologies have recently led to a vast expansion in distance-learning programs in the U.S. and abroad.
The burgeoning distance-learning movement reflects an important shift in educational focus. Because there is no face-to-face interaction with the teacher, on-line learning gives more control to the learner and less to the educator. There is a great deal of debate about whether the growth of distance education, and specifically on-line education, is a positive or negative educational trend. When distance education first began more than a century ago, educators and students communicated by mail.
However, with the emergence of technologies such as video and the Internet, methods of delivering distance education have changed dramatically. Most experts agree that the Internet has revolutionized the way that distance learning is delivered by providing teachers and learners in widely scattered locations with an incredibly efficient method of communication.
Changing Scenario and Evolution of Distance Education
In the early 1960s the Carnegie Corp., a grant-making foundation concerned with promoting knowledge and education, developed the Articulated Instructional Media (AIM) Project, which marked a critical development in distance-learning methodology. The program used correspondence, study guides, radio and television broadcasts, audiotapes and telephone conferencing to provide instruction for off-campus students. AIM was unique in that it sought to integrate different communication mediums in order to facilitate distance learning.
Although correspondence, audio, video and television courses still exist today; those technologies have been dwarfed by the Internet, which has ushered in radical changes in distance education techniques. With the invention of the Internet in the 1960s and the subsequent development of interactive and 3-D technologies (technologies that make a flat screen appear three dimensional, or more like the real world), distance-education courses have undergone dramatic growth.
While distance-education courses have existed on the Internet since the early 1980s, virtual universities and high schools have only recently entered the academic mainstream. In 1999 Jones International University became the first accredited, fully on-line university. The decision to grant accreditation, or quality assurance, to a university that exists entirely on-line was met by sharp criticism from many educators and academic organizations.
Today, most distance education is conducted over the Internet (on-line). A student can log on to his or her computer and complete class assignments posted on special Web sites, access virtual research material, contribute to classroom discussions via electronic mail (email) or in chat-rooms, and use special software to take tests. Some on-line courses are asynchronous, meaning that the student and instructor communicate through the Internet, but not simultaneously. Electronic mail and most other uses of the World Wide Web are examples of asynchronous Internet use. Other distance-learning courses are taught synchronously over the Internet, meaning that the teacher and student use real time or simultaneous technologies, such as interactive computer conferencing, to communicate.
On-line courses are available at all educational levels, from kindergarten classes to graduate and postgraduate school. While a significant number of real-world high schools and colleges offer some type of on-line education, there are also accredited institutions that exist exclusively on-line.
Today, a student can earn a high school, undergraduate or graduate degree without ever setting foot in a classroom. Internet courses are most common at the college and professional level of instruction, and are becoming an increasingly standard feature of postsecondary (post-high school) education in the U.S. According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about one-third of the nation’s two-year and four-year postsecondary education institutions offered some distance-education courses during the 1997-98 academic year. That number has risen dramatically in recent years. Although estimates vary, some analysts say that as many as three-quarters of all U.S. postsecondary institutions currently offer on-line study.
On-line courses are less common at the high school level, although their numbers are increasing. At least four states–Florida, Kentucky, Illinois and Utah–have started virtual high school programs, and other states are developing such programs. Many experts predict that the number of virtual high schools in the U.S. will increase dramatically in coming years, and most experts agree that the number of institutions offering on-line courses will continue to grow. As more institutions begin to offer on-line courses, analysts predict that more and more students will enroll in them. In fact, according to International Data Corporation, a market research firm, the number of students enrolled in distance-learning courses will increase to an estimated 2.23 million in 2002, from 710,000 in 1998.
Distance Education: Pros and Cons
Some educators laud the growth of on-line courses. Proponents of such courses say that the Internet provides an affordable and practical method of providing students with instruction. Students do not need to leave their homes in order to attend class, and many students who have job or family commitments that would make it impossible to attend real-world classes are able to receive a quality education over the Internet.
Supporters say that not only are Internet courses affordable and convenient, they are also very effective. On-line courses force students to be self-disciplined and self-motivated, they say, and demand that the student take an active role in learning. Proponents also say that for some students, the anonymity of the Internet is a huge benefit. For a shy student who might otherwise sit passively in a lecture hall or classroom, for example, the Internet often facilitates participation and self-expression, they say.
Yet critics contend that on-line institutions provide a second-rate education, and cannot compare to traditional classroom experiences. Face-to-face interaction, they say, is an essential aspect of any educational experience, and the Internet lacks that aspect. The Internet is not an adequate medium for judging how much a student comprehends, or how much a student has progressed, critics say. As a result, students may be provided with knowledge and facts via on-line courses, but they fail to really learn.
Is the growth of distance learning in general and on-line education in particular, a positive trend in this country’s education system? Are on-line educational facilities accessible, flexible and effective venues for learning and teaching? Or do on-line high schools and colleges provide students with second-rate and inadequate educational experiences? Yet as more efficient communication mediums–such as radio, television and video–emerged in the 20th century, they began to replace print-based methods of correspondence education. In the 1920s, distance education classes in the form of live radio broadcasts were developed. In the 1950s, distance education classes became televised, and eventually, as video was developed and refined in the 1950s and 1960s, distance learning was adapted to that medium.
Many people are concerned about what standards are being used to assure the quality of on-line education. They question whether the standards for accrediting Jones University and other on-line universities should differ from those used to evaluate brick-and-mortar universities (the phrase used to describe real-world schools). Most people agree that there is not yet a clear standard for accrediting on-line learning institutions. The concerns surrounding the quality of on-line education and the means of measuring such quality will most likely continue to be debated in coming years, experts say.
As distance learning has grown over the last century, the U.S. government has sought to crack down on fraudulent distance-learning programs. In the 1980s and 1990s, the government became concerned about an increase in so-called diploma mills, which reportedly granted diplomas indiscriminately. In 1992, Congress altered the Higher Education Act of 1965 to limit the amount of education a school can offer at a distance while still participating in the federal student aid program. The changes that Congress implemented in 1992 were meant to crack down on fraudulent correspondence schools, and are known informally as the “50% rule” and the “12-hour rule.” The “50% rule” prevents colleges that teach more than half their courses via distance education from participating in federal financial-aid programs. The “12-hour rule” requires students receiving federal financial aid to spend a minimum of 12 hours a week in supervised study and instruction.
The 1992 changes to the Higher Education Act were made while on-line distance learning was still in its relative infancy. Although the laws were not targeted at on-line distance-learning programs, they do have a significant effect on such programs. In effect, the rules restrict institutions that might otherwise expand their on-line education programs. The Distance Education Demonstration Program is not a grant program, but aims to explore new ways to deliver financial aid to students.
The regulations that govern federal student financial aid programs were based on traditional models of postsecondary education, and as a result, most on-line students do not have access to federal financial aid. The Distance Education Demonstration Program aims to address this lack of access by developing new standards for granting aid that could apply to distance-education students.
On-line courses are often less expensive than traditional courses, supporters point out, and provide access to individuals who might otherwise not be able to afford a degree. Students at virtual universities pay for their education, and not for the extraneous expenses needed to maintain a real-world university. In addition, many people assert that on-line courses force students to actively participate in the learning process and are often, in fact, more interactive than real-world classes. Furthermore, because responses to discussion questions are written rather than spoken, many professors say on-line students are more likely to think before posting a reply.
As a result, on-line discussions give rise to a high quality of debate, they say. The written format of on-line courses also benefits shy students who like to think before replying, or feel intimidated by speaking up in a classroom. The anonymity associated with the Internet, supporters say, provides a forum in which such students can participate and express themselves.
Another benefit of on-line courses, proponents say, is that they often give rise to very diverse virtual classrooms. The Internet can bring together individuals from all over the world and from all walks of life, supporters say. As a result, they say, on-line students are able to interact and share ideas with a variety of individuals and are exposed to a wide range of experiences and perspectives. The diversity that is fostered in on-line classrooms, supporters say, provides a unique, positive and powerful learning environment for students and teachers alike.
Supporters acknowledge that on-line learning isn’t for everyone, and caution that students need to be mindful of their own needs and learning styles when deciding whether or not to pursue their education on-line. However, on-line courses provide an ideal learning environment for some students, proponents say. Regardless of its failings, supporters say, on-line education is much better than no education. Many on-line students would go uneducated if they did not have access to Internet courses, they contend. Proponents of on-line education are optimistic about the future of on-line learning. The Internet, they say, provides a medium by which quality education can be disseminated to formerly uneducated segments of the population. As a result, they say, on-line learning is expected to improve the quality and quantity of education provided to people in the U.S. and abroad.
Yet critics of on-line education say that face-to-face interaction is an essential aspect of any learning process, and that on-line courses deny students important learning opportunities. Peer and student-teacher interaction are essential for a well-rounded education, critics say. Facial expressions, body language and tone of voice are all important parts of classroom communication, some experts say, and on-line courses do not provide an adequate medium for gauging learning or progress.
On-line high schools are particularly controversial because many people consider classroom interaction an essential aspect of high school education. In addition, some critics point to high drop-out rates reported by on-line learning institutions as further evidence of the inadequacy of distance education. The high drop-out rates reflect a fundamental problem with teaching and learning over the Internet, they contend. Opponents claim that many students, especially young students, don’t have the self-discipline or necessary skills to succeed in on-line educational environments. In general, they say, the classroom provides an environment where students can be monitored, motivated and guided by peers and instructors. Virtual classrooms, on the other hand, isolate students and lead to diminished chances of progress and success, critics argue.
Critics also say that on-line education does not increase access to education as much as proponents claim. On-line courses require a student to have regular access to a computer and require a student to know how to use a computer. While on-line education may provide new opportunities for wealthier students with regular access to computers, poor and minority students, who tend to have less exposure to technology, are cut off from educational opportunities. Furthermore, some outspoken critics of on-line learning contend that distance education amounts to the commercialization of education. Often, distance education programs are for-profit and that means that the quality of education is often compromised in order for schools to turn a profit, they allege. (Peters, 2003)
Some faculty members are concerned that as on-line courses become more popular, their jobs will become more difficult as they have to divide their time between on-line and classroom instruction. They worry that their classroom instruction will suffer as a result. The zest for distance learning is tinged with some apprehension for the future. Professors are worried that the preparation takes more time, their workloads will increase, but salaries will remain the same. Teaching on-line courses will likely place an extra burden on educators which will, in turn, detract from the quality of their teaching, critics say.
Despite the hesitations voiced by some educators, proponents of on-line education contend that further advancements in technology–such as 3-D and interactive technologies–promise to improve on-line education in coming years. In fact, as technologies are refined, on-line education will become increasingly similar to the classroom experience. If distance learning is to live up to some supporters’ predictions that it will define the future of education, the technology will have to be improved and refined with respect to quality, accessibility and content, experts say. Although analysts predict that with future advancements in technology the quality of on-line education will improve dramatically, many insist that it will not threaten the quality or importance of classroom learning. Most experts agree that on-line education is most effective in combination with classroom experiences and will continue to be used in conjunction with traditional education techniques for years to come.
Meanwhile, critics of the distance-learning trend remain skeptical of further reliance on technology. They hope that students will continue to elect to pursue their education through traditional classrooms rather than in virtual settings. If the trend towards on-line education continues, they say, the role of both students and teachers may be drastically altered. Although many people disagree about the potential consequences of distance learning, most people agree that it is a growing trend. That trend promises to become an even more prominent aspect of U.S. education in the future.
Virtual High School (VHS) Scenario
As microcomputers began to enter American schools and classrooms in the 1970s, an increased interest in distance learning accompanied them. Until the Internet became so popular in the mid-1990s, distance learning in schools usually took the form of supplementary and enrichment lessons (Roblyer, 2003). Except for the occasional satellite delivery or instructional television initiative for schools (US Congress, 1991; Kirby and Roblyer, 1999), the practice of offering complete courses by distance learning was primarily the province of higher education.
However, as the popularity of the Internet spiraled upward in the 1990s, online course delivery migrated steadily downward from colleges and universities to pre-secondary schools. Currently, there is a thriving ‘virtual high school’ (VHS) movement in which high school credit courses are taught largely or wholly via various resources on the Internet (Berman and Tinker, 1997; Elbaum, 1998; Loupe, 2001).
The virtual high school movement began to appear early in 1996, shortly after the Internet went graphic with browser software. VHSs quickly captured the attention of educators, parents, and students and added fuel to the engines of school reform across the United States (Berman and Tinker, 1997; Roblyer and Elbaum, 2000). The vision that led to the birth of virtual high schools and still drives the movement today is one of increased access to additional education opportunities for more students, especially those who currently lack such opportunities. (Klesius, 1997) Increased access to education has broad, pervasive implications for the economic growth of countries and political involvement by their citizens; thus, many legislators and school policy makers have high hopes for the success of this movement. Virtual high schools offer various approaches to realizing this shared vision. (Fulford, 1993: Wang, 2000)
A keyword search using any Internet search engine reveals hundreds of hits on the phrase ‘virtual high school’. (McLester, 2002) Actual sites offering courses are substantially fewer, and most may be found in the United States; currently 14 states are sponsoring at least one such project, and about two-thirds are involved in one sponsored elsewhere in the United States. However, there are VHS sites originating in other countries, including Israel and Canada, and more planned in still other locations. In the United States, approximately 40-50,000 school students currently are taking credit courses on the Internet, and the number promises to grow exponentially in the next five years (Clark, 2001).
There is some evidence from current studies that VHSs have not yet realized their vision of better access to educational opportunities for students who need them most. Some educators fear this is a symptom of the digital divide syndrome (Roblyer, 2000), which has been found to be based primarily in economic disparities. To take advantage of VHS courses, students usually need a computer at home. However, studies have shown that less affluent students are not as likely to have this resource. As a result, more affluent students are showing up in much greater numbers in VHS enrolments.
Roblyer and Marshall (2002) found that nearly 70 per cent of VHS students in their survey were Caucasian. This may be due to the current high correlation between race and economic level. While some VHS projects make a point of offering courses in schools with lower socioeconomic populations (Osborn, 2001), this may not yet be sufficient to erase the negative effects of the digital divide on VHS participation.
Distance Education through Correspondence
Correspondence school, through mail and telephone, has long been an alternative to the regular school system. It is very popular among professionals and students who wish to receive education while they are working outside of schools. As an alternative, distance education will appeal to particular students but has never been a replacement for in-class schooling because of the some deficiencies. (Traub, 2000) For example, it is hard for students to ask questions on complicated matters and receive lengthy solutions by talking to instructors by telephone or mail. Also, it is impossible for a student to interact with other students in the courses. With the above difficulties, distance education cannot become a main stream way of education, even though it does offer the benefit of having a flexible schedule of studying.
Tools of Distance Education in the Digital Era
In recent years, a new electronic media, namely the internet, has gained significant momentum. Although the network for the internet has existed since the fifties (Frank on-line), it was only accessible to people in military and academic circles until recently. ‘Internet’ is a general term for the electronic networks which connect computers around the world. There are several tools that simplify the network and provide the means of communication over the net. These widely-used tools include the ‘World-Wide-Web,’ ‘Newsgroups,’ and ‘Electronic Mail.’
World-Wide-Web (WWW), to give a simplified description, is an effective way of making information available to the general public. The information is formatted into web documents and ‘put on the web,’ and then users from around the world can use a ‘web browser’ (a computer program that displays the web documents) to view web documents. The WWW is also a recent development which did not start until the early nineties.
A Newsgroup is a collection of discussion groups that serve as places to ‘go’ for people who want to receive the latest information from other users, as well as to post their own opinions on the various topics. Each group has a name that tells the users the main topic being discussed in there. There is also a way to ensure one-to-one communication on the internet. It is called ‘Electronic-mail’ (E-mail). It works just like the regular mail, provided that both parties have internet E-mail addresses. The only differences are 1) no postage is required, and 2) messages are delivered almost instantly.
With these tools of communication available, it becomes clear to me that the distance education of another form can be as effective as the in-class schooling. Electronic distance education uses the World-Wide-Web to present course materials, a dedicated discussion group to promote instructor-student interactions, and the E-mail system to transmit messages, including messages that student wishes to keep private. This form of education is especially suitable for courses in which a student can do well without attending lectures. Examples of such courses are computer science, psychology, and economics, but not courses which demand extensive interaction during discussion sessions in real time, like languages, fine arts, and history.
There are three important advantages of electronic distance education compared to regular school. First, reading on-line materials replaces attending the lectures and saves students the trouble of taking down notes themselves. They will not have to complain about the pace of a lecture either, since they control their reading speed. Attending lectures only to find it impossible to do anything other than writing notes down is a frequent experience shared by all students. It is just too difficult, sometimes, for the instructors to present a lot of material and still allow students time to think about it or to elaborate it, all in fifty minutes. If a lecture becomes a note-taking session, then why not provide the notes for students and save the unproductive fifty minutes for engaging thinking activities?
Questions that cannot be understood without consulting with the instructor must arise after students have read through the material. Students will be able to post their problems in a designated on-line discussion group; the answers to the problems will be provided by either the instructor or other enthusiastic students within hours. Users can selectively view the posted articles; students who understand a concept can by-pass reading the question, whereas they would have to sit in the classroom and do nothing if that question were asked. Moreover, everyone in the class is a potential benefactor of anyone’s question.
Another bonus for using this kind of communication is that students will have plenty of time to formulate their questions instead of rushing toward the instructor who is already packed and ready to go at the end of class. Students will have a chance to get to know other students through the net, whereas they would not be able to otherwise. In addition to the open discussion capabilities of the internet, there is also a direct route of communication between a student and an instructor. Things like discussing the mark of an assignment, something students do not want to announce in front of the whole class, can be discussed with their instructor through E-mail.
The electronic media exhibits the characteristics of easy storage, reproduction and search. Therefore, at the end of the course students will have a ‘disk’ of notes instead of a ‘pile.’ (Kearsley, 2002) The stored materials can also be printed out if needed. To search for a particular item or section in any document is easy: it only requires a few seconds between the issuing of the command to the displaying of the information on the screen. For example, a student who is studying for an exam at the last minute will appreciate this feature, which saves him or her from having to flip through piles of printed or written documents just to look up a term. (Ligos, 2000)
According to Kim and Shih (2003), Policy, Technology and People are the fundamental elements of an operational model of distance education. The idea is supported by a somewhat similar model by Miller and King (2003), who have included technology, the learner, the instructor, the pedagogy and the organization in their paper. The sociological challenges on the other hand are more difficult to solve than technological issues.
The motivation of the students is one of the key factors that determine the success of a distance learning program (Kim and Shih, 2003). Education received solely by distance learning may put a learner at disadvantage, as social behavior is different in a virtual environment. There is a lot of frustration due to technological obstacles and absence of social interaction. One of the concerns commonly voiced about distance education is the lack of human contact and feelings of isolation (Hara & Kling, 2000).
With the growth and use of distance education, it becomes necessary that some guiding principles for the use of this technology emerge (Miller and King, 2003). With the same idea in mind, researchers have included best practices or recommendations in their papers. Almost everyone agrees that the most important is the need to develop a rich level of personal interchange between professor and student and students themselves.
There should be educational requirements for the course and an assessment should be conducted for each program. The course design should be shaped to the potentials of the medium. Faculty teaching distance education courses must become proficient in the communications technology employed in their distance education courses. The selection of technologies should be based on the appropriateness for learner and curriculum provide. (Bower & Hardy 2004)
Distance Education as Convenient Learning
Since the emergence of computers, information is more accessible to people. The traditional outlook on learning has changed significantly and allows people to learn at their own pace. With all this information so readily available why not attend college online and allow people to earn a degree from the comfort of their own home? Distance learning is a great alternative to the traditional school and can allow students the convenience of learning from their own home or workplace. Many companies and universities are participating in distance learning to better serve their employees and students. Online courses offer more flexibility in course times, which can appeal to the student with a career and family. (Weinstein, 2001) The cost of tuition for an online university is also lower than a traditional school.
Time is very important to most students today. Especially for the student who is returning to school to help better themselves in their current job or even going to college to help them find a better job. The college experience is not important to these people and therefore makes distance learning a great alternative to traditional college. This also offers privacy to the student in a way that traditional college can not offer. In a traditional college environment a student is often forced to participate in a classroom whether that student is comfortable or not. (Blumenstyk, 1999) Distance learning offers students another way to attend college without the burden of the college life.
A student who attends a traditional school and lives on campus also has to pay dorm and meal fees. Students that use an online university do not have to worry about paying these fees. Costs of using an online university are lower than traditional schools for many reasons. Expensive textbooks that a traditional student would have to buy are not needed since the information is available online (Computer Colleges: Distance Learning). Students do not have to pay additional costs for renovations of the regular universities’ buildings. This is also true with a traditional student paying more for tuition to help support athletics and other campus activities.
Online courses offer many conveniences to students. For instance, they don’t have to try and find classes that fit in between their work hours and other responsibilities. Online universities offer classes that can be taken late at night when a persons’ children are asleep. Most traditional schools have a thick course catalog full of times that classes are offered. Using an online university, a student does not have to spend large amounts of time trying to find courses that do not conflict with their schedules. Although not all classes can be completed whenever a student wants to, they are given deadlines which can allow the student to work at their own pace and can help to eliminate additional stress. (Steinberg, 2000)
Requirements of Successful Distance Education
As an alternative to listening to a lecture, a student can have first hand access to the material over the internet or directly from the distance learning course website. For instance, if a student is studying Shakespeare, they can view his work on the internet as well as other information about him (Detweiler, B8). Another benefit would also be students who are struggling in math courses. There is plenty of information on the web that can assist the student. Many traditional students have to set appointments with teachers or get a tutor to improve their grade or to have something explained to them better. Using an online course, all of that information is readily available which can reduce hassle on trying to track down the teacher for help.
Students must be very responsible compared to students in a traditional school setting. There are no teachers giving students reminders as to when homework is due and dates the tests are going to be given. Online classes can be more challenging than traditional classes, so the student must work harder to keep good grades. It is easy to take a class whenever a person wants, but deadlines are still there and the must be kept, otherwise the student will not keep up with the other members of the class. It can be very hard on some men and women to get an education due to a disability that prevents them from leaving the house without someone to assist them.
For example, a person that cannot operate outside of a wheelchair must struggle with special equipment to get out of their house, into a car, and then get to school. Although schools are now handicap accessible, it can be very hard for them to get around campus with all of the students and other traffic. Distance learning can benefit them because they do not have to leave their house, they can pursue their education through their computer.
College students are not the only ones that are taking advantage of attending class through online learning. High school students are able to take some classes online as well. Sometimes a school does not offer a class that the student needs, they need to make up a class that they failed, there is a scheduling conflict, or they need additional credits towards graduation. Some schools in rural districts may not offer classes that a student needs to get into college such as a higher level math or science class. A student may get online and attend a distance learning course taught by a teacher in another city or state. This helps high school students to get a better education, no matter what part of the country or world they are in.
There are also some disadvantages to online learning or distance education. Taking courses from the comfort of your home can also be very lonely. Interactions between a students’ teacher and other classmates are very limited. In addition to limited interactions, a student cannot just raise their hand or lean over to ask another student a question. The student has to send an e-mail to the course instructor and wait for a response. Attending an online university causes a person to miss out on traditional university life such as living in the dorms and attending campus activities. Another disadvantage is procrastination. A student that has the opportunity to work at his or her own pace may wait until the very last minute to do the assignments given or even study for a test right before they are scheduled to take it.
Focus of Distance Education
Since the purpose of instruction is to promote effective learning, the central focus for normal source of instructional techniques should be on the learner. Effective learning is not simply about teaching the students. Learning can happen in an in-class and/ or out-of class environment. The boundary of a learning environment is defined in terms of time and place. In-class environment is constrained with fixed time and fixed place. The feature of this environment is the physical presence of an instructor and students. (Carnevale, 2000) The most common in-class teaching standard is face-to-face lecture, with or without audiovisual aids.
In an out-of-class environment, the student can learn at flexible time, schedule, and place. In this environment, a student acquires knowledge with computerized media, such as books, correspondence and telecast educational programs with or without help from an instructor. Help and feedback from an instructor in an out-of-class environment is more difficult since the student does not have an instant answer for a spontaneous question. With information technology, in particular the Internet-based one, a student can obtain knowledge either inside or outside the classroom environment. (Lau, 2000)
One of the primary liabilities of distance learning is that the success of the program is dependent on technology. When that technology fails, the course can fail with it. Access to technology can impose economic barriers in some cases. Students uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the technology will either avoid the course or focus on the technology to the exclusion of the content. Another liability is a course is presented to students outside the usual classroom environment; it demands a significant level of maturity and commitment from the students. The last primary liability is some courses or programs demand additional support (library resources, counseling and registration services, etc.) which in most cases will also have to be delivered at a distance.
Electronic, virtual or distance education is a good alternative for students to learn topics which do not require discussion in real time. Students save time and energy while they study the on-line notes, prepared by the instructors, in the comfort of their own homes. There is a communication channel which allows students to discuss course material with the instructors. Course notes can be stored easily on computer disks, and students will be able to quickly reference the information on the electronic media. Knowing the above advantages, we are in a safe position to promote the use of electronic distance education, so that students can be away from the school, whether for work or travel, and still on their way to bachelor degrees in their intended studies.
In the contemporary era, distance education has gained maximum popularity. It has become the most exciting new trends in education. Many universities and corporations have ventured into it, and, in fact, some universities are devoted exclusively to providing an entire curriculum and degree through distance learning. Although the term “distance education” is of relative recent coinage, the concept of learning at a distance is not new at all.
For example, correspondence course first appeared in Germany, England, and in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. These courses were intended to provide vocational training to serve the demands of growing industrial economies, but the idea of learning on one’s own proved so attractive that by the early twentieth century courses in every conceivable subject were offered by colleges, universities, and property institutes. Distance education has taken a number of new and exciting turns. One of the most notable is a result of the advances in telecommunications technology and computers, cable television, and satellites.
Throughout its history, education has kept up with social changes by increasing access. Today higher education is not just for traditional college-age students, but also for students who are older, working, and may have families to support. Many of these students cannot afford to quit their jobs to attend school full time. Because of the changing demands of a growing student population, as well as diverse demographics and increased costs, educational institutions have been forced to find ways to become more productive, creative, and flexible in their delivery methods. Not only are higher education institutions expanding their use of distance education but business and industry have also entered the distance education field.
The challenges for distance education are technological and social. The technological issues require researchers from education and information technology field to work together, some of these issues have been partly solved while others remain open. There were similar suggestions by many researchers that faculty and learners both must gain technological training, there should be institutional support for learners and also that distance education may change institutional culture. Distance education requires to change a number of aspect of teaching, including course content, teaching roles and methods, assessment strategies, interaction, and communication; teaching online requires different skills and pedagogies from those needed in the traditional, face-to-face environment. The most crucial is the change in the teaching methodology, assessment techniques and examinations.
Berman, S and Tinker, R (1997) The world’s the limit in the virtual high school, Educational Leadership,55 (3), pp 52-54.
Blumenstyk, G. & McCollum, K. (1999). 2 reports question utility and accessibility in distance education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A31.
Bower, B. & Hardy, K. (2004). From correspondence to cyberspace: Changes and challenges in distance education. Web.
Carnevale, Dan. “Congressional Commission on Web-based Education Narrows its Focus.” Chronicle of Higher Education (2000): A38.
Clark, T (2001) Virtual Schools: Trends and Issues, report commissioned by the Distance Learning Resource Network, a WestEd Project; co-sponsored by the Centre for the Application of Information Technologies at Western Illinois University.
Detweiler, Richard. “At Last, We Can Replace Lectures.” Chronicle of Higher Education: 50 (2004): 8-10.
Elbaum, B (1998) Is the virtual high school ‘educational reform’? Concord.Org: Newsletter of the Concord Consortium, Concord, MA, pp 10-11.
Fulford, C and Zhang, S (1993) Perceptions of interaction: the critical predictor in distance education, American Journal of Distance Education, 7 (3), pp 8-21.
Hara, N & Kling, R. (2000). Student’s distress with a web-based distance education course. Web.
Kearsley, Greg and Moore, Michael. 2002: Distance Education: A Systems View. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Kim, W. & Shih, T. (2003). Distance Education: The status and challenges. Journal of Object Technology, 2(6), 35-43.
Kirby, E and Roblyer, M (1999) A glimpse at the past, an eye to the future, Learning and Leading With Technology, 27 (2), pp 46-52.
Klesius, J, Homan, S and Thompson, T (1997) Distance education compared to traditional instruction: the students’ view, International Journal of Instructional Media,24 (3), pp 207-20.
Lau, L. K. (2000). Distance Learning Technologies: Issues, Trends, and Opportunities. Hershey, Pa. Idea Group Publishing.
Ligos, Melinda. “Turning to On-line Schools for Advanced Degrees.” New York Times (2000): 3.10.
Loupe, D (2001) Virtual schooling: a new dimension to learning brings new challenges for educators, eSchool News,4 (6), pp 41-47.
McLester, S (2002) Virtual learning takes a front row seat, Technology and Learning, 22 (8), pp 24-36.
Miller, T. & King, F. (2003). Distance education: pedagogy and best practices in the new millennium. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 6(3), 283-297.
Osborn, V (2001) Identifying at-risk students in videoconferencing and Web-based distance education, American Journal of Distance Education,15 (1), pp 41-54.
Peters, Otto. 2004: Learning and Teaching in Distance Education. Sterling, Va.: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Roblyer, M (2000) Digital desperation: research reports on a growing technology and equity crisis, Learning and Leading with Technology,27 (8), pp 50-53, 61.
Roblyer, M (2003) Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, 3rd edn, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Roblyer, M and Elbaum, B (2000) Virtual learning? Research on virtual high schools, Learning and Leading with Technology, 27 (4), pp 58-61.
Roblyer, M and Marshall, J (2002) Predicting Success of Virtual High School Distance Learners: Preliminary Results from an Educational Success Prediction Instrument, Journal of Research on Technology in Education.
Roblyer, M and Wiencke, W (2003) Design and Use Of A Rubric To Assess And Encourage Interactive Qualities In Distance Courses, American Journal of Distance Education, 17 (2).
Steinberg, Jacques. “Skeptic Now Sees the Virtue In Teaching Children On-line. New York Times (2000): A14.
Traub, James. “This Campus is Being Simulated.” New York Times Magazine (2000): 6.90.
US Congress (1991) Star Schools for all our Students: Examining the status of the Star Schools Program, Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, Washington, DC, April (ERIC Document Reproduction no. ED344570).
Wang, A and Newlin, M (2000) Characteristics of students who enroll and succeed in Web-based classes, Journal of Educational Psychology,92 (1), pp 137-43.
Weinstein, Bob. “Forecasting Future of Distance Learning.” Boston Globe (2000): C5.