Evaluation of Distance Education Components: A Case Study of Associate Degree Programs

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Researchers have argued that when there are physical distance between students and their teacher in terms of interpersonal and group communication, encountering some problems when teaching is unavoidable. It was a bid to solve some of the problems that distance education evolve. The history of distance education goes as far as early 1700s in the form of correspondence education, but technology-based distance education might have evolved from the introduction of audiovisual devices into the schools in the early 1900s (Jeffries 2009). When we searched the literature related to distance education, it was apparent that people who were interested in distance education used the best technology of their day such as correspondence, radio, published books, TV, videos, e-mail, and computers. All of these mediums have been used to convey educational content.

There are five distance education models that are associated with delivery technologies of educational contents (Taylor 2001; McKee 2010). These are; Correspondance Model, (1st generation). This model was based on printed materials. Multimedia Model (2nd generation) is based on printed materials, audiotape, videotape and interactive video. Telelearning Model (3rd generation) is based on audio-teleconferencing, video-conferencing and broadcast radio/TV. Flexible Learning Model (4th generation) is based on online interactive multimedia, internet based access to WWW resources and computer mediated communication. Intelligent Flexible Learning Model (5th generation) is based on online interactive multimedia, internet based access to WWW resources, computer mediated communication, automated response systems and campus portal access to institutional processes and resources.

Alternatives to traditional higher education emerged in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. Trends such as escalating college costs, renewed interest in non-traditional education by a more mobile population, and the success of Britain's Open University paved the way for numerous experiments in higher education (Matthews 1999). Distance education programs that exist today have a wide range of approaches (Diane 2011). Computer aided learning programs offer independent study courses through computer networking (Ashby 2002) and relies heavily on computer-based student contacts and feedbacks. History has shown that proponents of non-traditional education have tried to blend their approaches with traditional education approaches while striving to meet the challenge of constantly changing learning theories and evolving technologies (Jeffries 2009).

Today, there are some media applications that are available to facilitate the application of distance education. However, only a few of these media are acceptable as tools for distance education. They use information technologies, networking, and interactions between the teacher and the student. Also, for a true distance education application, there must be some restriction on the number of registered students and the application must be supported by some associated educational functions. The rest can be accepted as open education, on-line education, web-based education, or e-learning. For these reasons, distance education applications must be accredited by independent institutions. For example, in the U.S., the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) approved accreditation for such programs, and the current number of accreditated educational institutions is 113 (DETC 2009). In Turkey, the Distance Education Commission of The Council of Higher Education of Turkey (YOK) accredited distance education applications. In Turkey, unless an educational institution is accredited, it cannot register students (YOK 2009).

Distance learning has become increasingly popular over the years. In the 2000-2001 academic period, more than three million students were enrolled in distance education courses in the U.S. and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) expects this number to increase 18. …