Distance Learning, what does it really mean?

Distance Learning, what does it really mean?

Read Time: 8 minutes, 27 seconds

Posted on Thu, Apr 02 2020

Traditionally, distance learning took place through correspondence. Students received their study materials via the post, and worked through these materials at their own pace. However, recent developments in technology have led to an increase in the variety of distance learning resources that are available. This, in turn, has made it possible for different types of distance learning to emerge.
In this article, we’ll take delve into what distance learning is, types of distance learning and modes of delivery.  We’ll also take a look at its benefits and challenges associated with distance learning.

What is Distance Learning
Distance learning is the education of students who may not always be physically present at a school. It is a way of learning remotely without being in a regular face-to-face contact with a teacher in a classroom. Often, students learn in the comfort of their own homes or satellite areas set up by their schools. Distance learning can completely be distant or can be combined with traditional classroom to form what is called blended learning.

Types of Distance Learning
Here are a few examples of the different types of distance learning available today:

Correspondence Learning: With correspondence learning, learning resources such as textbooks, study guides, assignments and other study materials are sent and received via the post. The students are expected to work through these materials in their own time and at their own pace. Engaging with the teacher is via e-mail, telephone, instant messaging, or post.

Electronic Learning: Electronic learning, often referred to as e-learning, enables the students to access course material on a computer. CDs, DVDs, and computer-based applications are used to deliver e-learning courses.

Online Learning: Online learning is a form of electronic learning that requires students to have access to the internet. It is often more interactive than the other types of distance learning, as it allows students to communicate with teacher and fellow students in real time. With online learning, students can download study material from the internet, submit assignments via an online student portal, complete assessments online, attend webinars, and participate in virtual classes.

Modes of Delivering Distance Learning
There are two modes of delivery associated with distance learning which are:
Synchronous Learning:
This refers to a learning event in which a group of students are engaged in learning at the same time. Traditional teaching methods are implemented here despite the participant being in different locations but connected remotely. This mode of distance learning requires a timetable to stay organized.
It can take place through web conferencing, video conferencing, education television, internet radio, live streaming, call conferencing etc. Some of its advantages include; Real-time interaction between students and teachers, Instant feedback from teachers and participation in class discussion. However, this mode of delivery is not really flexibility, as students and teachers will have to be available to attend sessions at the scheduled times. Access to the relevant technology (which may be expensive) might be required. It would require teachers and students to be comfortable using the relevant technology.
Asynchronous Learning:
This refers to learning that occur using resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraint of time and place among a network of people. Asynchronous learning does not require students to participate in learning activities at the same time with fellow students. Instead, students are given the opportunity to work through the course material at their own pace and according to their own schedule. Textbooks, email and postal correspondence, virtual libraries (of e-documents, graphics, audio and video files), online databases, message boards, CDs and DVDs can all play an important role in the delivery of study material for asynchronous distance learning.
Some of its advantages include; time flexibility as students can work through the course material at their own pace. This means that students can spend more time on the sections they struggle with, and can work more quickly through the sections they are comfortable with. However, students will need more self-discipline to study on their own and to stick to a study schedule, there might be fewer opportunities for interaction with other students, students might have wait longer for feedback from their teacher. Also, it requires much time on the part of the teacher to read, access, reinforce and encourage interaction on learning.

Benefits of distance learning

  • It can expand access to education and training for both general populace and businesses since its flexible scheduling structure lessens the effects of the many time-constraints imposed by personal responsibilities and commitments.
  • Distance learning programs can act as a catalyst for institutional innovation and are at least as effective as face-to-face learning programs, especially if the instructor is knowledgeable and skilled.
  • It can also provide a broader method of communication within the realm of education.
  • Distance learning can be a more cost-effective form of learning, and can sometimes save students a significant amount of money as opposed to traditional education. It may be able to help to save students a considerable amount financially by removing the cost of transportation. Also, it may be able to save students from the economic burden of high-priced course textbooks as many textbooks are now available as electronic textbooks, known as e-textbooks, which can offer digital textbooks for a reduced price in comparison to traditional textbooks.
  • It affords students to learn in ways that traditional classrooms would not be able to provide. It is able to promote good learning experiences and therefore, allow students to obtain higher satisfaction with their online learning. For example, students can review their lessons more than once according to their need. Students can then manipulate the coursework to fit their learning by focusing more on their weaker topics while breezing through concepts that they already have or can easily grasp.
  • It contributes to the students feeling a greater sense of support, since they have ongoing and regular access to their teachers, course materials and other students.
  • It enables students who are unable to attend a traditional school setting, due to disability or illness to get a good education.
  • It provides equal access to students regardless of socioeconomic status or income, area of residence, gender, race, age, or cost per student.

Challenges associated with distance learning

  • Domestic distractions and unreliable technology, as well as students' program costs, adequate contact with teachers and support services, and a need for more experience can be a barrier to effective distance education.
  • The lack of advanced technology skills can lead to an unsuccessful experience.
  • Time management skills and self-discipline in distance education is just as important as complete knowledge of the software and tools being used for learning.
  • Not all courses, subjects or topics can be taught using distance learning as some might require face-to-face interaction or field work.
  • it may be more difficult for the teachers to organize and plan a distance learning program as their organizational needs are different from a traditional learning program.
  • The cost of setting up a distance learning program can be expensive and capital intensiveness.
  • Time constraints and other pressures on teachers, the isolation of students from teachers and their peers can also a challenge.
  • The teacher might have difficulty in adequately evaluating students they never meet face-to-face.
  • The drop-out rates can be far higher than in classroom-based courses.
  • The cultural differences between student and teachers and among students might requires a proper understanding and awareness of the norms, differences, preconceptions and potential conflicting issues.

Modern distance learning employ Web-based Course Management Systems or Learning management Systems that incorporate digital reading materials, podcasts (recorded sessions for electronic listening or viewing at the student’s leisure), e-mail, threaded (linked) discussion forums, chat rooms, and test-taking functionality in virtual (computer-simulated) classrooms.
PRODIGY SCHOOL SOLUTIONS offers PRODIGY SMS as to tool to facilitate distance learning and manage learning outcomes. Contact Us to know more.

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