The purpose of my paper is to discuss distance education: What is it? What is its effect on education and the world? How will educators be affected? What are the pros and cons surrounding its use?
What is distance education?
"Although the term ‘distance education’ is of relatively recent coinage, the concept of ‘learning at a distance’ is not new at all. For example, correspondence courses first appeared in Germany, England, and the United States in the mid-nineteenth century (Neal, 1999, p.1). Neal continued to say that "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 proprietary institutes (Neal, p.1).
Weinstein writes that "…[Distance Education] gained momentum in the early 1980s using a combination of satellite delivered video and two-way audio. Many sites could watch the broadcasts, and phone or fax in questions and assignments. Now, spurred by the Internet and videoconferencing technology, distance learning is taking off…(Weinstein, 1997, p.1). He said that "initially, distance learning was envisioned as a way to serve students who lacked access to a complete education, whether due to insufficient resources, geographic isolation, or physical disabilities (Weinstein ,p.1). "Distance education is becoming a viable way to supplement programs and support innovation, rather than being merely a better-than-nothing alternative to doing without (Weinstein, p.1).
Effects on Education and The World
Today "distance education, [which is] broadly defined as instruction that is not bound by time or place, is bringing about fundamental changes in higher education" (Markel, 1999, p.1) As cited by Markel, "Ted Marchese describes the many ‘not-so-distant’ distance competitors to traditional colleges and universities: The University of Phoenix, the for-profit university with some 50,000 students in 12 states; and Britain’s venerable Open University, which has allied with several universities in the United States….(Markel, p.1)."
Also noteworthy is distance education’s effect on the corporate sector, according to Marchese. He "writes that private industry, which spends $58 billion annually on employee training, is realizing that distance education gives employees access to an enormous variety of educational and training opportunities; some 85% of the Fortune 500 companies now subsidize distance education for their employees," (as cited by Markel, p.1).
According to Weinstein, "there are three main distance learning modes: audio; video; and text-based data exchanges, such as e-mail, online chat, and document conferencing-all of which can be combined. Satellite and cable delivery continue, but thanks to new compression technologies, real...