Distance education

Distance education

Overview
Distance education or distance learning is a field of education that focuses on teaching methods and technology with the aim of delivering teaching, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional educational setting such as a classroom. It has been described as "a process to create and provide access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both." Distance education courses that require a physical on-site presence for any reason (including taking examinations) have been referred to as hybrid
Hybrid Course
-Definition:Hybrid courses blend face-to-face interaction such as in-class discussions, active group work, and live lectures with typically web-based educational technologies such as online course cartridges, assignments, discussion boards, and other web-assisted learning tools...

 or blended
Blended learning
Blended learning refers to a mixing of different learning environments. It combines traditional face-to-face classroom methods with more modern computer-mediated activities. According to its proponents, the strategy creates a more integrated approach for both instructors and learners. Formerly,...

 courses of study.

Distance education dates to at least as early as 1728, when "an advertisement in the Boston Gazette...[named] 'Caleb Phillips, Teacher of the new method of Short Hand" was seeking students for lessons to be sent weekly.

Modern distance education initially relied on the development of postal service
Mail
Mail, or post, is a system for transporting letters and other tangible objects: written documents, typically enclosed in envelopes, and also small packages are delivered to destinations around the world. Anything sent through the postal system is called mail or post.In principle, a postal service...

s in the 19th century and has been practised at least since Isaac Pitman
Isaac Pitman
Sir Isaac Pitman , knighted in 1894, developed the most widely used system of shorthand, known now as Pitman shorthand. He first proposed this in Stenographic Soundhand in 1837. Pitman was a qualified teacher and taught at a private school he founded in Wotton-under-Edge...

 taught shorthand in Great Britain via correspondence in the 1840s.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Distance education'
Start a new discussion about 'Distance education'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Distance education or distance learning is a field of education that focuses on teaching methods and technology with the aim of delivering teaching, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional educational setting such as a classroom. It has been described as "a process to create and provide access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both." Distance education courses that require a physical on-site presence for any reason (including taking examinations) have been referred to as hybrid
Hybrid Course
-Definition:Hybrid courses blend face-to-face interaction such as in-class discussions, active group work, and live lectures with typically web-based educational technologies such as online course cartridges, assignments, discussion boards, and other web-assisted learning tools...

 or blended
Blended learning
Blended learning refers to a mixing of different learning environments. It combines traditional face-to-face classroom methods with more modern computer-mediated activities. According to its proponents, the strategy creates a more integrated approach for both instructors and learners. Formerly,...

 courses of study.

History and development


Distance education dates to at least as early as 1728, when "an advertisement in the Boston Gazette...[named] 'Caleb Phillips, Teacher of the new method of Short Hand" was seeking students for lessons to be sent weekly.

Modern distance education initially relied on the development of postal service
Mail
Mail, or post, is a system for transporting letters and other tangible objects: written documents, typically enclosed in envelopes, and also small packages are delivered to destinations around the world. Anything sent through the postal system is called mail or post.In principle, a postal service...

s in the 19th century and has been practised at least since Isaac Pitman
Isaac Pitman
Sir Isaac Pitman , knighted in 1894, developed the most widely used system of shorthand, known now as Pitman shorthand. He first proposed this in Stenographic Soundhand in 1837. Pitman was a qualified teacher and taught at a private school he founded in Wotton-under-Edge...

 taught shorthand in Great Britain via correspondence in the 1840s. The University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 claims to be the first university
University
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

 to offer distance learning degree
Academic degree
An academic degree is a position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the degree...

s, establishing its External Programme
University of London External Programme
The University of London International Programmes is a division of the University of London that manages external study programmes.Several colleges and institutes of the University of London offer degrees through the programme, including Birkbeck, Goldsmiths, Heythrop College, Institute of...

 in 1858. This program is now known as the University of London International Programmes and includes Postgraduate, Undergraduate and Diploma degrees created by colleges such as the London School of Economics, Royal Holloway and Goldsmiths. In the United States William Rainey Harper
William Rainey Harper
William Rainey Harper was one of America's leading academics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Harper helped to organize the University of Chicago and Bradley University and served as the first President of both institutions.-Early life:Harper was born on July 26, 1856 in New Concord,...

, first president of the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 developed the concept of extended education, whereby the research university had satellite colleges of education in the wider community, and in 1892 he also encouraged the concept of correspondence school courses to further promote education, an idea that was put into practice by Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

. In Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, the University of Queensland
University of Queensland
The University of Queensland, also known as UQ, is a public university located in state of Queensland, Australia. Founded in 1909, it is the oldest and largest university in Queensland and the fifth oldest in the nation...

 established its Department of Correspondence Studies in 1911.

More recently, Charles Wedemeyer
Charles Wedemeyer
Charles A. Wedemeyer Philosopher, scholar, innovator, university administrator, humanist, and pioneer of distance and independent learning, Charles Wedemeyer espoused ideas that were decades ahead of their time...

 of the University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Madison
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. Founded in 1848, UW–Madison is the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It became a land-grant institution in 1866...

 is considered significant in promoting methods other than the postal service to deliver distance education in America. From 1964 to 1968, the Carnegie Foundation
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York, which was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 "to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," is one of the oldest, largest and most influential of American foundations...

 funded Wedemeyer's Articulated Instructional Media Project (AIM) which brought in a variety of communications technologies aimed at providing learning to an off-campus population. According to Moore's recounting, AIM impressed the UK which imported these ideas when establishing in 1969 The Open University
Open University
The Open University is a distance learning and research university founded by Royal Charter in the United Kingdom...

, which initially relied on radio and television broadcasts for much of its delivery.. Athabasca University
Athabasca University
Athabasca University is a Canadian university in Athabasca, Alberta. It is an accredited research institution which also offers distance education courses and programs. Courses are offered primarily in English with some French offerings. Each year, 32,000 students attend the university. It offers...

, Canada's Open University, was created in 1970 and followed a similar, though independently developed, pattern. Germany's FernUniversität in Hagen followed in 1974 and there are now many similar institutions around the world, often with the name Open University (in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 or in the local language). All "open universities" use distance education technologies as delivery methodologies and some have grown to become 'mega-universities', a term coined to denote institutions with more than 100,000 students.

The development of computer
Computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

s and the internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 have made distance learning distribution easier and faster and have given rise to the 'virtual university, the entire educational offerings of which are conducted online. In 1996 Jones International University was launched and claims to be the first fully online university accredited
Educational accreditation
Educational accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met...

 by a regional accrediting association in the US.

In 2006, the Sloan Consortium
Sloan Consortium
The Sloan Consortium is an institutional and professional leadership organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education. The goal of the Sloan Consortium is to "help institutions and individual educators improve the quality, scale, and breadth of online...

, a body which arguably has a conflict of interest in the matter, reported that: and that almost 3.2 million US students were taking at least one online course during the fall term of 2005. A study published in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education found that "From 2000 to 2008, the percentage of undergraduates enrolled in at least one distance education class expanded from 8 percent to 20 percent, and the percentage enrolled in a distance education degree program increased from 2 percent to 4 percent."

Today, there are many private and public, non-profit and for-profit institutions worldwide offering distance education courses from the most basic instruction through to the highest levels of degree and doctoral programs. Levels of accreditation vary: some of the institutions receive little outside oversight, and some may be fraudulent diploma mill
Diploma mill
A diploma mill is an organization that awards academic degrees and diplomas with substandard or no academic study and without recognition by official educational accrediting bodies. The purchaser can then claim to hold an academic degree, and the organization is motivated by making a profit...

s, although in many jurisdictions, an institution may not use terms such as "university" without accreditation and authorisation, often overseen by the national government - for example, the Quality Assurance Agency
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
Established in 1997, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education works to ensure that higher education qualifications in the United Kingdom are of a sound standard. It protects the public interest by checking how universities and colleges maintain their academic standards and quality...

 in the UK. In the US, the Distance Education and Training Council
Distance Education and Training Council
The Distance Education and Training Council is a non-profit national educational accreditation agency in the United States specializing in the accreditation of distance education institutions.- History :...

 (DETC) specializes in the accreditation of distance education institutions.http://www.detc.org/accred.html

Technologies used in delivery


The types of available technologies used in distance education are divided into two groups: synchronous learning
Synchronous learning
Synchronous learning refers to a group of people learning the same things at the same time in the same place. This is the type of pedagogy practiced in most schools and undergraduate programs, but not in graduate programs...

 and asynchronous learning
Asynchronous learning
Asynchronous learning is a student-centered teaching method that uses online learning resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place among a network of people. Asynchronous learning is based on constructivist theory, a student-centered approach that...

.

Synchronous learning technology is a mode of delivery where all participants are "present" at the same time. It resembles traditional classroom teaching methods despite the participants being located remotely. It requires a timetable to be organized. Web conferencing
Web conferencing
Web conferencing refers to a service that allows conferencing events to be shared with remote locations. Most vendors also provide either a recorded copy of an event, or a means for a subscriber to record an event. The service allows information to be shared simultaneously, across geographically...

, videoconferencing
Videoconferencing
Videoconferencing is the conduct of a videoconference by a set of telecommunication technologies which allow two or more locations to interact via two-way video and audio transmissions simultaneously...

, Educational television
Educational television
Educational television is the use of television programs in the field of distance education. It may be in the form of individual television programs or dedicated specialty channels that is often associated with cable television in the United States as Public, educational, and government access ...

, Instructional television
Instructional television
Instructional television is the use of television programs in the field of distance education. Educational television programs on instructional television may be less than one half hour long to help their integration into the classroom setting...

 are examples of synchronous technology, as are direct-broadcast satellite (DBS), internet radio
Internet radio
Internet radio is an audio service transmitted via the Internet...

, live streaming, telephone
Telephone
The telephone , colloquially referred to as a phone, is a telecommunications device that transmits and receives sounds, usually the human voice. Telephones are a point-to-point communication system whose most basic function is to allow two people separated by large distances to talk to each other...

, and web-based VoIP.

The asynchronous learning mode of delivery is where participants access course materials on their own schedule and so is more flexible. Students are not required to be together at the same time. Mail correspondence, which is the oldest form of distance education, is an asynchronous delivery technology and others include message board forums, e-mail
E-mail
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...

, video
Video
Video is the technology of electronically capturing, recording, processing, storing, transmitting, and reconstructing a sequence of still images representing scenes in motion.- History :...

 and audio recordings, print materials, voicemail
Voicemail
Voicemail is a computer based system that allows users and subscribers to exchange personal voice messages; to select and deliver voice information; and to process transactions relating to individuals, organizations, products and services, using an ordinary telephone...

 and fax
Fax
Fax , sometimes called telecopying, is the telephonic transmission of scanned printed material , normally to a telephone number connected to a printer or other output device...

.

The two methods can be combined in the delivery of one course. For example, some courses offered by The Open University use periodic sessions of residential or day teaching to supplement the remote teaching.

Other technology methods used in the delivery of distance education include online three-dimensional (3D) virtual worlds. A popular 3D virtual world, Active Worlds
Active Worlds
Active Worlds is a 3D virtual reality platform. The Active Worlds client runs on Windows. Users assign themselves a name, log into the Active Worlds universe, and explore 3D virtual worlds and environments that other users have built. Users can chat with one another or build structures and areas...

, is used for synchronous and asynchronous learning. Active Worlds
Active Worlds
Active Worlds is a 3D virtual reality platform. The Active Worlds client runs on Windows. Users assign themselves a name, log into the Active Worlds universe, and explore 3D virtual worlds and environments that other users have built. Users can chat with one another or build structures and areas...

 provides opportunities for students to work collaboratively.

Major benefits of use: an institutional perspective


Diana G. Oblinger, writing specifically of the US context, has identified four broad reasons why educational institutions might embrace distance learning:
  • Expanding access: distance education can assist in meeting the demand for education and training demand from the general populace and businesses, especially because it offers the possibility of a flexibility to accommodate the many time-constraints imposed by personal responsibilities and commitments.
  • Alleviate capacity constraints: being mostly or entirely conducted off-site, the system reduces the demand on institutional infrastructure such as buildings.
  • Making money from emerging markets: she claims an increasing acceptance from the population of the value of lifelong learning, beyond the normal schooling age, and that institutions can benefit financially from this by adopting distance education. She sees sectors of education such as courses for business executives as being "more lucrative than traditional markets".
  • Catalyst for institutional transformation: the competitive modern marketplace demands rapid change and innovation, for which she believes distance education programs can act as a catalyst.


Casey and Lorenzen have identified another financial benefit for the institutions of the US, stating that distance education creates new graduates who might be willing to donate money to the school who would have never have been associated with the school under the traditional system.

See also

  • Continuing education
    Continuing education
    Continuing education is an all-encompassing term within a broad spectrum of post-secondary learning activities and programs. The term is used mainly in the United States and Canada...

  • Degree completion program
    Degree completion program
    A degree completion program is an educational program providing a way for learners to get college credit for learning that they acquired through life and work experience. Degree completion programs, unlike diploma mills, work within the established university community to provide accredited degrees...

  • Electronic learning
  • Public, educational, and government access
    Public, educational, and government access
    Public, educational, and government access television, refers to three different cable television specialty channels...

     (PEG)
  • Sunrise Semester
    Sunrise Semester
    Sunrise Semester was an American television series which aired on CBS from 1957 through 1982. It was produced in conjunction with New York University . During the months of June, July and August, the program was known as Summer Semester....

  • Virtual education
    Virtual education
    Virtual education refers to instruction in a learning environment where teacher and student are separated by time or space, or both, and the teacher provides course content through the use of methods such as course management applications, multimedia resources, the internet, and videoconferencing...

  • Virtual learning environment
    Virtual learning environment
    Defined largely by usage, the term virtual learning environment has most, if not all, of the following salient properties:* It is Web-based* It uses Web 2.0 tools for rich 2-way interaction* It includes a content management system...


External links