Distance Learning Programs Come of Age, by Beverly Rosenbaum
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, we are seeing phenomenal growth in distance education offerings and enrollments.
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. The United States Distance Learning Association (www.usdla.org) provides links to courses
in all of these areas, and plans a fall conference to address a number of different approaches to providing learning materials. The methods encompass “blended” learning (improving effectiveness
with a mix of classroom and online training), “active” learning (using games to improve attention and retention), and “partnership” learning (improving
any program by partnering with a higher education institution).
Most distance programs come from a specific university, just as a campus-based program comes from a specific university, and students get information on those programs directly
from the university’s web site. Students taking credit-bearing distance-education classes at a regionally accredited higher education institution are earning the same credit
as the on-campus students. Degrees offered online are, for the most part, traditional on-campus programs that have been converted to the online format. So the course content and
program requirements are the same and the online graduate’s degree will be exactly the same as every other graduate. Students and instructors communicate using chat rooms,
electronic conferencing, e-mail, online assignment submission, postal, threaded discussion boards, voice, video, or online journals. Exams are held at accredited testing sites.
In higher education, distance learning provides undergraduate and advanced degrees to students in offices, at community colleges and at various receive sites. Students are earning degrees by satellite, audio, and over the Internet. Many corporations use distance learning, both internally and externally, for all aspects of training. Educational materials are delivered primarily through live and interactive classes.
Distance learning is not easier and does not require less homework and concentration than taking the traditional classes. In fact, each hour of course credit requires about
3 hours of effort per week. Basically, students must still read the textbook and lectures, take the exams, turn in homework assignments on time and, in many classes, research
and write a good term paper. In addition to all of those items, students are required to participate in online class discussions, either through online threaded discussion
forums that are not time-constrained or through live chat or teleconferencing at specific times.
According to the Sloan Consortium, 49% of public colleges and universities and 34% of all higher education institutions offer complete online degree programs. Anyone who has access to a computer and the Internet can take advantage of distance learning at any level. The information and educational resources are available for Pre-K through grade 12 students, adults, senior citizens, local governments, organizations and businesses.
Beverly Rosenbaum, a HAL-PC member, is a 1999 and 2000 Houston Press Club “Excellence in Journalism” award winner. Send her your comments about this column to email@example.com.
Beverly Rosenbaum, a HAL-PC member, is a 1999 and 2000 Houston Press Club “Excellence in Journalism” award winner. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.