Distance Learning: Observations

Article excerpt

Education has a new magic bullet. It is called "DISTANCE LEARNING" and the Internet mainly delivers it.

Discussion

Distance learning is a new term for what used to be called correspondence courses, I have been involved with this type of learning as both a student and an instructor, I took a correspondence course from a western university in 1976 dealing with rural sociology, and have been instructor of distance learning based general sociology, social problems, and medical sociology since 1992 here at my institution.

My school has been involved in correspondence, courses by radio, by newspaper, and now by Internet and by mail. Recent articles in NEWSWEEK, TIME, US NEWS, and BUSINESS WEEK suggest that many colleges and universities are moving toward some type of guided self-study or any time/anywhere classes.

BUSINESS WEEK (1999) leads with a headline of: "How the web is revolutionizing learning."

Critics maintain that they are easier than classroom courses. My research in this area COLLEGE STUDENT JOURNAL (1999) INSTRUCTIONAL PSYCHOLOGY (1999) COMMUNITY COLLEGE WEEK (1999), suggest that this is not the case. They are just as rigorous.

USA TODAY (2000) is going to follow a high school class that will all be online through the entire 4 years. I don't know what the outcome will be. However, what we have discovered here is that the successful distant learner is more likely to be an alternative (non-traditional) student which means over 21, organized, self motivated person. For others, the classroom is the better alternative.

Some strategies of distance learning such as showing a person lecture for 50 minutes on tape are probably not likely to succeed.

Erbe (2000) suggests that if the class is interactive and requires that the student respond to various questions and discussions that this strategy (with numerous bells and whistles) may be useful.

Another possibility, is that each student have a spy cam turned on them as they are tied into the course. Their verbal responses can be part of the discussion in a chat room or through e-mails. However, the system does not allow for students to learn at anytime or anywhere. Some students can really only study on the weekends. Some can fit their learning only in certain times, which may not be the same time as the class that originates from some campus. …