Distance Education Essay

1199 words - 5 pages

Distance Education

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, advances in technology have provided people with the means for a new form of education, known today as distance education. In recent decades, the wondrous array of electronic communications technology has given distance education new status. It seems to have something to offer almost everyone. It is now a normal form of education for those in employment, for homemakers and for those who choose not to go to schools or universities for the purpose of learning. In response to this interest, institutions of distance education attempt to provide for their students a complete education system, from enrollment to examination, that is equal in quality, in quantity and in status to that offered to ordinary students in schools, colleges and universities around the world. In the 1990’s, more than ten million students, most of them adults, study at a distance. Distance education is a rapidly growing field with respect to both practice and promise. With respect to practice, distance education has permeated all sectors of education, ranging from primary school to higher education to business and industry. With respect to promise, it is a field which may redefine 21st century education. (Kember, 1995)

What exactly is distance education? As with any rapidly emerging field, there is some disagreement among proponents as to what should be allowed under the distance education "umbrella" and what should be excluded. As a result, the definition of distance education varies from one organization to another. The New Oxford Dictionary defines it as "a method of studying in which lectures are broadcast or conducted by correspondence, without the student needing to attend a school or college." Markel (1999) broadly describes distance education as instruction that is not bound by time or place, bringing about fundamental changes in higher education. And in a discussion of distance education definitions, Keegan (1986) defines distance education proposing five criteria: (1) the quasi-permanent separation of teacher and learner throughout the length of the learning process; this distinguishes it from conventional face-to-face education. (2) the influence of an educational organization both in the planning and preparation of learning materials and in the provision of student support services; this distinguishes it from private study and teach-yourself programs. (3) the use of technical media; print, audio, video or computer, to unite teacher and learner and carry the content of the course. (4) the provision of two-way communication so that the student may benefit from or even initiate dialogue; this distinguishes it from other uses of technology in education. (5) the quasi-permanent absence of the learning group throughout the length of the learning process sot that people are usually taught as individuals and not in groups, with the possibility of occasional meetings for...

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