Distance learning is a study delivery technique that is also referred to as e-learning or distance education. In this type of learning, tutors are also called lecturers do their introductions and broadcasting over the internet or by a connection to learners. This is done with the students not necessarily having to appear physically in a class. It is a scheme that seeks to take priority in pedagogy and puts into implementation the ever changing technology and design models in cutting short distance as a barrier to education. This goes against all odds, to defeat the traditional education systems that are hindered by the geographical barriers (Porter, 1997).
According to research, content delivery in e-learning can either be set live on a television or recorded and later listened to or watch. It can also be delivered to many end points simultaneously through a satellite and take a form where the tutor does the delivery live from one station to others that are not. Distance learning is basically individual based and goes beyond time and distance barriers. In as much as most e-learning courses do not require the students’ physical presence at all, some do call for students to appear for practical and exams. Such are called hybrid or blended distance learning courses (Howard et al, 2004).
Distance learning started as early as 1728 but, however, was put into full implementation in the 19th century. Research claims that the very first distance learning experience took place at the University of London. What began as just a trial program of delivering weekly assignments to the students has now turned into a well known and internationally practiced program. This later spreads its wings to the United States’ University of Chicago. The high rate at which this university grew as the main reason behind the initiation of e-learning since the other campuses needed to get the same services that were offered at the central or rather main campus. Satellites were, therefore, set up to effect such a move (Lau, 2000).
Maybe having been implemented successively in the University of Chicago, distance learning was further adopted by the Columbia University which now has a set apart department for correspondence studies. Research reveals that more study institutions borrowed this idea and set up correspondence departments to take care of all distance learning activities. Most non-governmental organizations seem to have been impressed by such a move in the education sector, explaining why most of them offered to support this project. Later on an open university that has since remained purely focused on distance learning as established. In coming up with such universities, the means of delivery of distance learning were improved from just radio and television based on incorporating more other technologies (Howard et al, 2004).
The advent and the emergence of the internet and most importantly computers have had much influence on distance learning. This greatly makes e-learning easier and faster to initiate and deliver, hence, the rise of virtual universities. Research, however, recognizes that not just any institution is allowed to attach the term university to itself and then go ahead to offer distance learning. There are so many procedures to be followed before a learning center is allowed to offer distance education. The key to this all is the accreditation and certification process done by the quality assurance agencies (Howard et al, 2004).
Distance learning manifests itself in many forms. One major form is the synchronous technology, which is more of the traditional learning method. It requires that all learners to be present at the time of delivery in as much as the lecturer may not see them physically. Their presence in the lesson may be quantified by their participation during the class and by registers that are taken by the concerned tutors. In such a setting, timetables are made and delivered to all participants who need to be present. Learning can then either be carried out on a video conference or through other instructional televisions. Its major resemblance to the traditional classroom course is that all students in their remote areas must follow the set schedule. On the other hand, is the asynchronous technology that sets at liberty all participants to allow them have access to their lessons at their own convenient schedules. Unlike synchronous models, the asynchronous model uses the old communication media such as mails and video and audio recordings. No live meeting can be held with such a model. Also, there are no schedules set to enable students to carry out their studies. It is, however, acceptable that a couple of methods can be used in delivering a single lesson (Discenza et al, 2002).
Existing research identifies and associates some advantages of the current learning procedure to distance learning. First, this method is said to be highly flexible. This is mainly associated with time and geographical location. It is evident that e-learning gives learners lots of convenient advantages, allowing them to for instance earn as they study. This is true since one can choose to be working during the day and then be learning at night hours. This is an advantage especially to people that may be straining in life financially, and that may not enjoy luxury living styles associated with students (Discenza et al, 2002).
Distance learning saves so much on time and energy on the side of learners and also as concerns the tutors. Both options save on expenses that could otherwise be incurred were they to commute daily to their places of learning to do the same things that could have been done online effectively. This, therefore, eliminates the time and geographical barriers to education. In addition to this, distance learning advocates for convenience especially as regards submission of assignments and exams. Access to the available materials and the tutors is also made less difficult for learners than in traditional systems.
Distance learning also allows learners to study as accords their strength and understanding capabilities. This appreciates the fact that students in a classroom set up may not have the same abilities and taking them as equals is unfair to those that can be called slow learners. It also saves on money that could be spent on commuting, travelling allowances for tutors and the need to seek for accommodation (Belanger & Jordan, 2000).
Some researchers say that distance learning just lacks the fun of teaching and being taught. This is associated with the fact that learners do not even get to know their tutor and may not make fun. The failure to have a personal contact with tutors may also negatively eat into the learning curve making it less successful. They also attach this to the difficulties incurred in trying to grasp some hard concepts without someone to help. Then there is the overdependence on technology factor. Most, if not all, distance learning programs, need an internet connection to be successful. It is acceptable that if one tends to dislike the whole idea about online studying, then the whole learning process will never interest them (Belanger & Jordan, 2000).
There is a tendency of students requiring to be constantly pushed for them to perform. One then fails to understand how a distance learner is to maintain deadline discipline and good conduct yet they have all the freedom. If the concerned learners are not mature and self governed, then loneliness and boredom due to lack of personal contact with fellow learners may make them withdraw from the program. Distance learning also suffers lots of deficits since not all courses are covered, and not all employers value the program (Porter, 1997).
Belanger, F., & Jordan, D. H. (2000). Evaluation and implementation of distance learning technologies, tools, and techniques. Hershey, Pa.: Idea Group.
Discenza, R., Howard, C., & Schenk, K. (2002). The Design and management of effective distance learning programs. Hershey [Pa.: Idea Group Pub..
Distance learning. (2003). Lawrenceville, N.J.: Peterson's.
Howard, C., Schenk, K., & Discenza, R. (2004). Distance learning and university effectiveness changing education paradigms for online learning. Hershey, PA: Information Science Pub..
Lau, L. K. (2000). Distance learning technologies issues, trends, and opportunities. Hershey, Pa.: Idea Group Pub..
Porter, L. R. (1997). Creating the virtual classroom: distance learning with the Internet. New York: J. Wiley & Sons.