Distance learning – distance education … How far away?

We live in an age where we e-mail a person instead of having a phone call, and we phone when we should speak in person. Hiding behind technology is an easy excuse, what is difficult for many to know in what medium is the most appropriate to communicate in.

On-line has become the rage in many organizations and academic institutions. The savings to a company in travel and per diem are compelling and one of the biggest edge.

Distance education is hot, available and backed because of its potential for savings, and to educate a greater number that might not have the opportunity, because of distance and schedule.

One could actually learn a new profession in just a few weeks for a several hundred USD!

The point is not to abandon the boot camps, rather to offer an illustration as to the motivation for most people holding the purse and resources with respect to motivation.

As educators, our first thought within a given medium of education has to be the quality of education. I phrase this in this manner, as there are times when factors, apart from education itself have direct impact on the medium we get to use. Regardless of the fact that some of us would like to be total purists, reality dictates otherwise.

My greatest concern with on-line learning is that it has the potential of providing more physical distance between the people.

What will be next? When will the first “on-line” marriage be held?

A whole sociology and psychology is emerging from the on-line culture. It is in a sense frightening to watch a society move from the bonds of human interaction to this forum. No doubt we could dig up “death to the world as we know it” articles involving the advent of the telephone, the motion picture, television, and most other ground breaking inventions, but this is not to say, that these folks concerns were not (and still are not) very valid today.

But, regardless of this sociological and emotional aspect, I must admit the prospect of this medium excites me as I have visions of my log cabin home in the mountains, getting up every morning and after taking a morning walk in the woods before going to teach a class in my home office to 10 people scattered across the country!

While this scenario is pretty cool, I feel some sense of a higher calling to my profession in that I have been initially somewhat reserved and skeptical regarding this medium. The question for me becomes, can “on-line” be a valid and viable and sustainable form of education? – I believe it can. I think that money and resources will dictate that it stays around long enough to establish itself as the new frontier. We never abandon stand-up as a medium! After a careful and highly skeptical examination of this medium, I come to the following conclusions.

  1. Quality educators will develop and deliver in this forum and will give the legitimacy and credibility it deserves to sustain it.
  2. Just like stand-up, it is and will continue to have its share of charlatans and other misfits that have nary a clue with regard to the profession of education. These people certainly exist in classroom based education and will end up migrating down this path.
  3. As technology continues to advance, particularly in the area of telecommunications and bandwidth more opportunities will be available to use this form of education.
  4. The need for student participation and interaction is as high as it is in a stand-up class. The nature of this forum over stand-up, given the same good educator, presents itself as a better forum for interaction and community of learning, than traditional college lecture halls, and time compressed corporate training.
  5. It will likely require a better formalization and further improvement of the courses objectives, assessment and measurement tools than we currently have (or do not have) in stand-up.

The future of the educations is in the distance learning, and it in not that much DISTANT!

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