The Next Educational Frontier: Online Distance Learning and Online Distance Learning Programs

In the early 90’s, it was predicted that online distance learning programs would grow tremendously in the coming years. By the late 90’s, up to 80 percent of US community colleges have some form of distance learning in place.

There are many technologies that are required with having an online distance learning system in place. The communication form between student and teacher is basically distinguished by two categories: the synchronous and asynchronous. In the former, students and teachers participate in real time. In both cases, telecommunication such as videos, audio files, and electronic messaging are important to create effective online distance learning programs.

With the improvement of internet technologies, the learning process has evolved to include audio conferencing as well as livestreaming of lectures. This trend is expected to continue and institutions that offer online distance learning programs will tend to rely on a combination of recorded as well as live sessions with the instructor.

According to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the profile of those who take up online distance learning are usually in their mid-20’s and highly motivated to pursue their studies. They are also unable to attend more traditional educational settings because of work or geographical considerations. They tend to take online distance learning programs because of convenience and the flexibility offered by the schedules. It is also a way to cut down on costs from transportation and even relocation.

For institutions that are planning to start offering online distance learning programs, there are many investments that need to be made in terms of finances. New courses would have to be developed and equipment such as computers and software would have to be purchased. Investing in such programs, however, does create substantial savings for schools in the long run. Teachers can conduct multiple classes at the same time from remote locations. To fund educational institutions, private and public funds as well as grants are usually used.

According to studies, students that participate in online distance learning programs show no significant differences in terms of average GPA when compared to students from traditional classroom settings. This indicates that it can work just as well as more popular forms of education. However, it is important to maintain access to technology so the educational process is not interrupted. Individuals from remote locations or low-income situations are among those who are most affected by this problem.

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