Higher Education in an Era of Digital Competition

Distance Learning

There is a great responsibility for society to educate its citizens properly and to provide them the necessary tools to become successful. Educational systems are varied and are designed for different purposes that places each member within society according to its skills, talents and desires. One form of education, distance learning, is becoming very popular in today’s world. The purpose of this essay is to examine the advantages and disadvantages of distance learning and contrast them with more traditional types of education.

Hanna described today’s educational world as ever changing and offered many approaches to solve this dilemma. He claimed “our approach to creating positive environments for learning must change to engage learners more directly with the world at hand. Teaching and learning strategies must meet learners where they are and build from the knowledge and understanding they bring to the learning situation ” (9). It is important for any particular evaluation of a system to first understand the basics and definitions of the subject. Distance learning occurs, in most instances, when a student is not physically present within a classroom and simultaneously receives instruction from an educational source. Distance learning in today’s world is often performed with the aid of the Internet and computer-based classrooms.

A great advantage of distance learning is the ability to learn anywhere in the world. Having the opportunity to study when and where one desires makes the educational system and the learning process more welcoming. This advantage is particularly of great worth to those who do not want to move away from their current home in order to go to school. Many people have jobs and families that require them to be available at all times to these people. With the advent of distance learning in its current form, many people who would not be able to obtain a better education in the past due to these restrictions are now capable of studying further and earning more accreditations.

In Sherry’s analysis she claimed that “the cost-benefit of technology can vary significantly with the specific characteristics of schools and students and a successful program in one location may be less successful elsewhere.” (4). This type of learning therefore has a great opportunity to become a timesaver and a money saver. Efficiency and simplicity need to be enforced in order to maximize potential. However, without proper planning for projects, distance learning programs can become complicated and run over budget making it a disadvantage. Further monetary savings can be realized when it is understood that studying from your chosen spot allows you to maximize material worth of that particular location. For instance if studying from home, there is no need to waste excess energy on the day-to-day expenditures of living. Those who choose to obtain a higher education now seem to have more spending power if they successfully utilized this particular advantage.

Other great advantage of distance learning is the technique of teaching one’s own self. Independent research and independent thought are very valuable in developing a strong academic standing. While it may be frustrating not to have a human physically present, if problems do come up, the technology available makes communication easy and quick. This technique has its advantages in itself. Teachers are not bombarded with questions that students will now most likely take extra thought and will have a tendency to solve them on their own accord. Students will reap the benefits of this if they become a strong independent learner and become confident and positive about their own abilities to investigate and understand the world at large.

There are also disadvantages to distance learning that will impact the learning and ultimate principles of education if they are not properly understood and addressed. The availability of certain courses and the availability of certain programs are not as widespread as some may like. Certain universities and educational institutions do not offer distance learning programs for all of their offered curriculum. For younger students, availability of quality programs are hard to qualify due to the lack of regulations and standards available. Having a wide variety of courses available for students to select from or having a variety of elementary and secondary school distance learning programs will help eliminate this disadvantage when more programs are available for this type of method.

The quality of distance learning programs are often put into question. Bronack noted that “the explicitly social nature of our virtual world process more often and be more opportunities for the students to take their own path through these resources and activities together” (230). Living in a virtual world does not provide the same physical and emotional qualities that human interaction provides. Distance learning may have a negative impact on students getting along with each other in larger and more social situations. Too much time in a virtual world can tempt young students to become despondent and not interested in other important aspects of life. This disadvantage in distance learning needs to be taken into account if proper and suitable courses are to be used effectively within our society today.

This problem is further compounded when students fail to learn how to communicate orally with others. Distance learning programs provide the opportunity for students to communicate in written words, but as a disadvantage, oral communication skills and abilities may diminish. The ability to communicate with one another is very important in today’s world and an education system that does not provide a useful set of these pertaining skills is not very valuable. Explaining and understanding what we have learned to others is the essence of an education and the ability for both students and teachers to become too isolated and too drawn off from society becomes a risk to a solid and whole education if this promise not understood and address properly.

Overall, distance learning education has both positive and negative impacts. Once understanding the definitions behind distance learning and putting these definitions through a logical examination it is evident there are many learning opportunities contained in this particular subject. Weighing both pros and cons is important and mandatory if one is to determine what is the best and the most logical way to address this idea. This consistently changing method of educating our citizens significantly affects our social communities and children in the future

Works Cited

Bronack, Stephen, Riedl, Richard, Tashner, John. “Learning in the Zone: A social constructivist framework for distance education in a 3 dimensional virtual world.” Interactive Learning Environments Vol 14, No 3 December 2006, 219-232. Web

Hanna, David. Higher Education in an Era of Digital Competition. Atwood Publisher, 2000.

Sherry, L. “Issues in Distance Learning.” International Journal of Education Telecommunications 1, (4), 337-365. Web

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