Competitiveness and Distance Education

By Simonson, Michael | Distance Learning, March 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Competitiveness and Distance Education


Simonson, Michael, Distance Learning


* Distance learners are better students.

* Distance learners learn more.

* Distance education is cost effective.

* Distance education is more effective.

This list could go on. These four statements are often said about the field of distance education, and are even sometimes believed, and that is unfortunate. It is very clear that these four ideas, and others similar to them, are not supported by sufficient evidence, in the opinion of most researchers who study distance education carefully. Certainly, in some instances better students take online courses, and in a few situations distance education students learn more. It may even be possible to show a cost benefit for instruction delivered at a distance for specific courses or programs, and effectiveness is so difficult to define that almost anything is effective to some one or some group. No, we should not try to build the reputation of distance teaching and learning on weakly supported claims which to the critic sound more like slogans than statements of fact.

With that stated, the distance education field is very attractive to many students, including better ones. Students do learn and learn well in properly designed courses delivered at a distance. Cost effectiveness is a goal often reached, and effectiveness is a goal of every distance educator. However, supporters of the field should probably not make broadly sweeping generalizations that do not tell the whole story.

Recently, the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness issued a report that took a potentially more important position of advocacy for distance education-competitiveness. Their report, titled "Achieving Success in Internet-Supported Learning in Higher Education," was released in February 2005. It was summarized in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Dan Carnevale in the issue of February 4, 2005, on page A31. …

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