Traditionally, distance learning has referred to educational experiences that you can have through a study abroad program. Students can enroll for a year or a semester at a college in another country; these colleges will sometimes send one of their students to that institution as a swap so that both sides can pay standard tuition rates. At the end of the semester, the grades are transferred between the two schools – though they often just go through on a pass/fail basis – and the students return to their respective schools.
Now, however, the idea of distance learning is taking on a new meaning. This is due in large part to the rise of technology. The Internet has made it possible for people to take online classes from almost anywhere. They can watch live or recorded lectures, chat with other students and submit their work electronically. They can do everything that could be done in a standard classroom, so they can graduate from anywhere with an Internet connection. Some students use this just to stay at home, rather than living at the local college, while others use it so that they can live in foreign countries without the hassle of transferring grades and records to another university. This is changing the landscape of education.
On one hand, this promises to be very good for students. It makes study abroad opportunities easier for everyone. There are fewer costs involved. Students who could not have taken classes before now have access to education. Living in another country can be hugely educational and beneficial. They get to learn about other cultures and interact with people in a way that would be impossible at home. They get to have life experiences that can shape them and even push them into new careers, all while getting a good education abroad.
There are some issues, though. First and foremost, taking a class online does not give someone the same level of interaction with their peers that they would get in a classroom. Talking on a web forum or a chat program is not the same as standing in front of the class and giving a presentation. On top of that, some programs have noticed that grades will start to slip. Students do not view things the same way, taking the online classes less seriously. They skip lectures or forget about assignment, and their grades drop. Are they really getting the same education?
However, it is not all negative. The possibilities here are extraordinary. All that has to be done is that the schools have to put enough emphasis on engaging the students and getting them to put time and effort into the courses. They could do this with strict attendance guidelines, for instance, so that skipping a live lecture is not an option if the students want to pass. They could also do it by putting more emphasis on frequent assignments, rather than just one or two tests, so that the students are more actively engaged for the whole duration of the class.
The upside to getting out in the world and living abroad cannot be overstated. Students who do it often say that it changed their lives. It helps them grow up and learn in a real-world sense. It shows them what is out there and helps break them free from the bonds of their surroundings. All of this can be as important as any education. If colleges and universities can simply set up strict, regulated academic programs, distance learning could be the wave of the future that students use to get excellent educations.
Sarah Daren is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to travel and technology. In this article, she discusses the prospect of distance learning, and abroad education and compares traditional vs. new age approaches. She aims to encourage education through Kent State University Online