The Effectiveness of Distance Learning
The goal of this research paper was to find out the effectiveness of distance learning in the contemporary world. The analysis provided in this research document reveals that indeed online learning is the most effective and efficient form of a learning system in the world today. This system, which largely uses technology to deliver knowledge, finds acceptance in both advanced and developing states in the realization of their educational goals. Advancement in technology and increased demand for skills upgrade have led to the wider spread of distance learning. This phenomenon gives students a chance to access education irrespective of their location, social and economic difficulties. In distance learning, teaching is done by a competent instructor who is not physically present to the learners regarding space and time. Communication occurs via technology, either through electronic or print media. (“Nasseh” [sic]). Similarly, key decisions in this system are done elsewhere rather than in the classrooms as it is in the case of the face-to-face system.
This distance learning system is effective due to several components that are always present. These components range from student and teacher-based to curriculum and policy-based. If these elements are not present, this system of study may not be effective (“Patru” [sic], Moore, and Alan 25).
The first element is the curriculum of education. The profile of the system is in line with its mission. It further provides the content of the system. This content lists key topics that the system tackles making it open for any learner to analyze even before the commencement of the actual studies (“Patru” [sic] et al. 25).
Learning materials is another key element. “Comprehensive, well-designed materials may stimulate self-directed learning and thus influence the quality of the system as a whole” (26). The quality of such materials is not questionable because they come from well-known and competent professors across the world. Existing resources such as textbooks, software, and articles are available.
“Communication between teacher and student is a vital element of successful distance education” (“Nasseh” [sic]). Instructors and learners distribute messages through documents, images, and sound via the internet. The messages reach many people synchronously. Communication helps to deliver information and provide a platform for teachers and students to interact (“Patru” [sic] et al. 25).
Another important component is good management of students and staff. This element involves a well-organized admission of new students and allocation of courses, explaining the mode of learning and criteria of teaching, monitoring of individual student’s progress, and administration of examinations and assignments. Instructors with different expertise are employed permanently or on the temporary basis depending on the need at the moment as “Patru” [sic] et al. states in their book.
From an administrative perspective, the student and the staff management sub-system comprises admission, allocation to courses and student services, administering the learning and teaching procedures, assignments and assessment, monitoring drop-out and completion, and examinations. Staff may be contracted on a part-time basis or may be in the core faculty in the case of a dual-mode institution, but in either case, they have to be recruited, trained and monitored (27).
An efficient and effective administrative staff who are competent to handle various administrative duties do exist. In addition to competence, the staff is friendly and adaptable to the frequent technological changes to help the learners understand all key concepts during their study period.
In a much as distance learning does not have resident students, there is the existence of housing facilities and equipment. Local learning institutions provide these facilities at a central place where production and storage of study materials occur. However, in cases where institutions combine face-to-face and distance learning, the available facilities are used for both purposes without necessarily building different equipment for the distance learning (27).
Finally, evaluation of students and the whole system is done “to provide information relevant to the adjustment of the roles and operation of system components” (28) and to ensure that students get updated knowledge. It helps in monitoring the system to identify challenges faced and solve them. Unless such problems are identified and solved, the effectiveness of distance learning will be low.
Distance learning contributes greatly towards the development of education in different levels. Such sectors include general, teacher, vocational, non-formal, and higher education.
This system is essential in primary and secondary schools as it offers programmes for both in and out of the school where teachers lack formal qualifications. It is also useful to students who are unable to attend school due to disabilities or sicknesses. Other programmes are tailor-made to ensure parents educate their children and for nomadic societies that do not have an irregular settlement pattern.
Distance learning is applied extensively in teacher education. Teachers use this system “in upgrading their knowledge and skills in areas such as the new technology” (30), to prepare for teaching lessons and to advance their academic qualifications. They advance their qualifications without necessarily going to colleges or universities. This trend ensures that all students constantly get a quality education. The trend also solves the problem of shortage of teaching staff. Countries that have limited technological advancement use radio, television set, and different print documents to educate teachers on various key topics. China, for instance, uses television to equip fresh teachers with necessary skills while Mongolia and India use radio and print media (31).
The system provides vocational education that is vital in the economy since it helps to improve productivity and it also increases employment chances of many people. Learning in this sector includes practical training. Several institutions develop online courses to aid advance the technical expertise of their employees.
Furthermore, online learning is highly employed in higher education. Several courses are developed and offered at tertiary level. The invention “of the Open University in the United Kingdom provided the model for the integrated” (36) that helps deliver education to many students across the world by a single institution. Every university develops a curriculum that suits the demands of its students.
Distance learning impacts the technological advancement in a great way. It provides a simpler platform to access information. The available materials are tailor-made to tackle specific issues. Hence, it is easy for one to carry out a particular research. Through this system, several institutions ensure workers upgrade their skills to match with the technological advancements. It ensures there are curriculum reforms that make learners competent and competitive in their areas of study. The reforms also provide the learners with many avenues through which they can interact with instructors and other scholars thereby increasing their competence (39).
Online learning system outweighs traditional or face-to-face learning. Several factors put forth to support this statement. These factors are utilized maximally, making this system transform the society greatly.
Firstly, the system gives an opportunity for one to learn more units. He or she is also able to study courses “that are not available in his or her vicinity” (Mikropoulos 6). Additionally, it is flexible in the sense that one can study and at the same work without causing interference.
Secondly, it enhances networking. Learners in this type of system of education have unlimited networking opportunities. It provides an avenue for them to interact with people from all walks of life and work on similar projects.
Contact between classmates becomes feasible, making group tasks and project work real options for the isolated distance learner. It should also be easier to stay in contact and keep abreast of developments after the course ends. (Keremidchieva and Plamen 1).
Thirdly, it enables learners to study at their speed without interference. Slow learners take their time to study unlike in the traditional learning where students have to maintain the speed of the lecturer.
Additionally, distance learning ensures that students take their classes at their own time. It does not confine them to a particular schedule. Similarly, it enables learners to study in the comfort of their houses without necessarily traveling to classrooms.
Finally, this system of learning exposes students to the best lecturers in the world. Through video conferencing, learners engage with prestigious lecturers and professors in each area of their study.
Any good system does not lack faults. Likewise, distance learning has few challenges that need attention. The challenges include low quality of education, wrong use of technology, and wrong attitudes. However, these limitations are very minute and do not affect the quality and effectiveness of distance learning.
In some cases, poor or lack of proper training in technology can lead to “the possibility of not utilizing all its potential” (Doug). Some teachers may not undergo skills-upgrade. Thus, they may not be able to keep up with the advancing technological changes. Similarly, students who are not well trained find it hard to adapt to the changing technology.
Additionally, some equipment may be ineffective posing a threat to the quality of distance education. One cannot work on a defective equipment. For instance, the breakdown of a projector during the presentation can hinder the instructor from teaching. Similarly, it blocks students’ ability to follow on the lessons thereby affecting their progress in class (Doug).
In conclusion, distance learning is the fastest growing system of education, and it’s the most efficient system in the world today. It enables students to access quality education in the comfort of their homes from competent professors. The system boosts networking among students and increases innovation that in turn promote productivity. Many institutions strive to keep up with this trend by introducing distance learning centers in their curriculum. Just like any other systems, distance learning has its flaws. However, its benefits outweigh these defects by far. Therefore, this online learning system is the best of all the education systems in this current technological world, and all and sundry need to embrace it.
Doug, Valentine. “Distance Learning: Promises, Problems, and Possibilities”, 2002. The State University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center Website. Web. 9 November 2015.
Keremidchieva, Greta and Plamen, Yankov. “Challenges and Advantages of Distance Learning Systems”, 2001. Information and Security Website. Web. 9 November 2015.
Mikropoulos, T.A. “On the Pedagogy of Open and Distance Learning Systems”. Earth Lab Website. Web. 9 November 2015. Print.
Nasseh, Bizhan. “A Brief History of Distance Education”, 1997. Ball State University Website. Web. 9 November 2015.
Patru, Mariana, Moore, Michael, and Alan, Tait. Open and Distance Learning: Trends, Policy and Strategy Considerations. Division of Higher Education, 2002. Print.