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Distance Learning: Promises, Problems, and Possibilities

Distance Learning

   Distance learning is a big deal now. Although the growth of distance learning was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was already a growing industry. Now it is one of the fastest-growing ways to learn. While many people have returned to traditional in-person learning, many others have discovered that distance or remote learning is better for them. This is true not just for students or university scholars but also for people continuing their education with popular online learning platforms like Preply or Udemy. With the growth of the distance learning industry, we can expect to be a larger more significant part of education going forward. There are many distance learning problems, promises, and what constitutes a good distance learning program?

History of Distance Learning

               Although most people think of distance learning as a new phenomenon, it has actually been around for a while. Many schools and universities have had distance learning opportunities for their students. What has changed in recent years, is the technology used to conduct these courses. Used to, these courses were conducted via forums, and the material was sent by email. The course learning was distance-based but not live often. With the advent of video conferencing tools like Zoom, that changed, and students became able to attend live lectures. There have been great changes to the way distance learning is conducted, and new improvements and innovations are likely to continue to change it going forward.

Distance Learning

Definitions of Distance Learning

               What is distance learning exactly? Distance learning as the name might imply is learning at a distance. That sounds simple enough; however, there is more to it than that. There are different types of distance learning. Firstly, there are differences in terms of the time in distance learning. There is synchronous learning and asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning is a distance learning type where the teacher and the student can interact in real-time. This way the student can ask questions and view lecture materials as they are presented. Asynchronous learning is where the teacher and student are not having live interactions and instead the student is going through posted materials such as videos and articles. The advantage of this is that it gives the student more freedom with their time. As we can see it is not so easy to define distance learning, but it is important to note that all distance learning can accommodate people who wish to learn and can’t/do not want to attend a live in-person lesson.

The Promises of Distance Learning

               There are many benefits of distance learning, such as the ability to accommodate students who are ill or working, as well as students who live far away. Distance learning can make learning not only more efficient but giving students the ability to go back over course material at any moment providing them with better tools compared to a traditional classroom. Some of these tools include PDF editors like Lumin PDF which comes with a convert PDF tool for working with documents, Google Drive, and video conferencing software.

Problems of Distance Learning

               There are many potential problems with distance learning, these are mainly technical though and can be overcome. For online remote education, one of the biggest issues people face is connectivity problems. With a poor WIFI connection, it is hard to do lessons but with some planning ahead, this problem can be solved. Some of the other issues are lesson timing, communication, and student laziness when it comes to working from home.

Quality of Instruction

               As with a traditional classroom setup, there can of course be a wide range when it comes to the quality of instruction. One thing to consider though is that some teachers do better in a distance learning environment just like some students do. Teachers that are better at preparing for online lessons can feel more comfortable administering an online distance learning class. This gives more opportunities to those who want to teach but are more comfortable working remotely.

Cost-Effectiveness

               One of the biggest advantages of virtual learning or distance learning is the relative cost-effectiveness that it can achieve. Parents or learners who do not have the resources to send their child to a private school or live too far from good schools can find affordable opportunities online. This is because the overall overhead of running an online course is lower than an in-person course. The lack of a brick-and-mortar location reduces costs, and that cost deficit can then be passed on to the students.

Misuse of Technology

               One issue to be aware of with distance learning is the potential for misuse of technology or cheating. Since students will be working online, it is very easy for them to be able to use their access to other sources to cheat during tests. Another potential issue is students not being focused on the lesson. The internet offers a myriad of distractions that can keep students from being focused on the task at hand, so the teacher should check and make sure everyone is 100 percent focused on the content.

The Role of the Technicians

               It is important to have some designated professional or assistant to help with potential technical issues. This does not mean you need to have an expert sitting in your home but rather by working with an established platform, you will have a reliable set of helpers who might be able to work through potential technical issues you or your students might encounter.

Problems with Equipment

               It is a good idea to have the help of technicians who might be able to solve some issues not just with WIFI but also without equipment. Since most distance learning is done on laptops or even mobile devices, there are plenty of opportunities for equipment issues. While this can be fixed, it is wise to have a backup device or at least a plan for what to do in case there is some sort of malfunction. This is responsible since, at the very least, your students will be aware of any disruption to a lesson.

Conclusions

               Distance learning offers a ton of possibilities to both educators and students alike. This is because it allows for time, distance, and resource challenges that traditional education can’t overcome. This does not mean it isn’t for everyone or there are no challenges; however, with some foresight, these challenges can be mitigated and distance learning can be a great means of education.

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