Distance Education Essay

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Many researchers and organizations have constantly changed and reworked the definition of distance education over the last century. Schlosser and Simonson (2002) outlined four elements that define distance education: that it is associated with an institution, that the teacher and learner are separated, that the learning is done via interactive communication media and that these media connect the teachers with the learners and the course material. Schlosser and Simonson (2002) also described the definitions of distance education described by other researchers. One researcher in 1986, Desmond Keegan, narrowed the definition of distance education by specifying five main elements that he says are involved. First, he stated that the teacher and learner are separated at all times. Second, he specified that an educational institution assists in the creation of materials for the learning and supports the students. Third, technology is used to connect the teacher and learners and facilitate the learning process. Fourth, there exists a two-way communication between a student and learner. Fifth, distance learning involves almost no group interaction between students; as such, most of the learning is done individually (Schlosser and Simonson 2002, pp. 4). Two other researchers, Garrison and Shale, also added one more piece to the definition by stating that communication between teacher and learners does not occur at the same time; instead, it occurs asynchronously (Schlosser and Simonson 2002, pp. 6). The history of distance education does not just begin with the use of computer-mediated technologies and online learning management systems. Early distance education began through correspondence courses in Europe and the United States. The fir... ... middle of paper ... ...trol their own learning situations” (McIsaac and Gunawardena 2004, pp. 375). In determining whether or not a learner will be successful with distance education, it is important to take these factors into consideration. Some courses, however, do take into consideration those students who aren’t naturally suited for distance learning. These students usually require more interaction between themselves and the teacher and more connection with their fellow students. They must make the technology that aids the learning process easier for the students to use (Sherry 1996, pp. 348). This way, all types of students can take advantage of certain aspects of distance education, such as the ability to learn any time and anywhere, that would be beneficial in their daily lives, even if their personality and learning characteristics aren’t completely suited for distance learning.
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