The Impact of Distance Education on Developing Nations in Terms of Learning, Society and Barriers

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Definition of Terms

The following terms are defined to unify the concepts and research presented hereafter. Distance Education. Education taking place with the student physically or geographically removed from the instructor using some form of technology to facilitate learning and contact (Valentine, 2002).

Distance Learning. Used synonymously with distance education (Valentine, 2002). Leapfrogging. The implementation of a new and current technology in an area where the preceding technology has not been used (Davison, 2000).

Open source software. Usually free software that is often in the public domain (Fuggetta, 2003).

Currency of Issues

Distance education in developing nations is expanding at an increasing rate as technology grows and practices improve (Oblinger, 2001). New and innovative processes are being developed and implemented constantly to push the envelope in developing nations (Islam, 2008). With this increase of education and knowledge comes an increase in economic involvement and ability that is currently impacting the global marketplace (Naidoo, 2003).

Controversial Topics

There are several controversial issues affecting the implementation of distance education in developing nations and the effects therein. What is considered to be quality education among the academic world is a concept that distance education has long struggled to attain, however reaching that same level of quality in developing nations that wealthy nations often have trouble holding is seen in poor regard (Stella, 2004). Developing nations are often criticized for offering low quality education in distance programs (Stella, 2004). Along with this concern is the battle within developing nations to accept distance learning as a quality learning style (Baggaley, 2005). There is a strong mindset in many developing countries that the newer concept of distance education is inferior to traditional education, and because there is no proven track record of quality in those areas it is sometimes difficult to change this notion (Baggaley, 2005). In addition to the developing world there are still a significant number of instructors in higher academic circles who also believe that distance learning is inferior to traditional education (Yang, 2005).

Special Interests

The technology industry which creates programs and applications to assist and mediate distance learning has a significant interest in the increased use of distance education (Saba, 2005). Rivaling the technology industry, more in developing nations than in wealthier countries, is the increased use of open source software which affects profits and monopolization of software that technological companies would like to hold onto (Baggaley, 2005). In addition to these groups, the governments of developing nations have a deeply-vested interest in the effectiveness of educational programs because they are looking to further advance their nations human capital and economic potential (Post, 2004). Pulling on all the parties mentioned is the vested interests of the common people in developing nations who are hungry for education that they have been deprived of for generations (Oblinger, 2001).



Three significant areas that reflect the influential forces shaping distance education's effect on developing nations are the impact on education issues, societal issues and the impact of obstacles. Each of these areas carry significant considerations of factors impacting distance learning in developing nations and how distance learning is in and of itself impacting developing nations. The effect on education can be seen at the higher education level (Oblinger, 2001), primary and secondary education level (Marty, 2004) and in the area of general education (Islam, 2008). The societal impacts can be seen along the lines of affect on human capital (Downey, 2005), changes in traditional learning paradigms (Altbach, 2004), and the influences on culture (Vrasidas, 2003). …