Distance learning (education) has become an integral part of the education process over the past few decades and is growing in popularity as technology advances.(Willis 1992) describes distance education (as) "the organizational framework andprocess of providing instruction at a distance. Distance education takes place when ateacher and student(s) are physically separated, and technology…(is) used to bridge theinstruction gap." (Coutts 1996). Furthermore, "distance learning activities are designedto fit the specific context for learning, the nature of the subject matter; intended learningoutcomes, needs and goals of the learner, the learner's environment and the instructional echnologies and methods." (American Council of Education 1996).
According to Moore and Thompson (1990), there are essential elements needed for effective distance learning to take place:
*Be prompt in coming online and insist students do the same.
*Use a natural style of delivery; speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
*Maintain spontaneity, avoid reading from a script.
*Use visuals effectively.
*Use frequent changes of pace to maintain interest.
*Frequently draw participants into discussions.
*Always refer to participants by name.
*Give short concluding summaries of the concepts presented.
*Provide structure by effectively using authority.
*Control verbal traffic.
*Provide socio-emotional support by integrating late group members and encouraging humor.
*Establish a democratic atmosphere by sharing authority and asking for participation.
*Create a sense of shared space and history.
*Model appropriate behavior.
*Seek and clarify a common definition of terms.
*Set an appropriate pace (Moore & Thompson, 1990)(Coutts 1996)
Willis (1992) states that distance education "can be equally effective if the distance educator puts adequate preparation into understanding the needs of the student and adapting the instruction accordingly" (Coutts 1996). Also technological decisions should be based on instructional content, the need for involvement, and the particular learning outcomes desired. (Counts 1996)
"There is some evidence that the success of distance education in schools depends largely on the effectiveness of the teacher, and that this is in turn depends on the teacher's knowledge, skills, enthusiasm, and commitment to innovation." (Moore & Thompson 1990).
When planning distance education, Willis (1998) lists a few factors to consider:
Distance education is about increasing access, not saving money. The technical, logistical and support costs can be very high. Therefore, the financial aspects must be considered.
Nothing should be assumed. Decisions should be based on definable problems and tangible customer needs. A needs assessment, though time consuming, may be worth the time to complete.
Realize that good plans are never finished. Rather than wait until all issues...