Distance education, or distance learning, is an education system in which the students are not seated in a typical classroom setting. Nor are the teachers physically present where the students are. They may be miles apart, states apart, or even continents apart. The students and teachers communicate through a variety of means, which include post, email, video and voice conferences, written chat and online discussion forums.
Distance learning might look like an idea that is very recent, but this system of education, on the contrary, has been around for quite a long time. Around the middle of the nineteenth century, most probably, the idea of distance learning started to develop as postal mail services evolved. Sir Isaac Pitman, a shorthand writing teacher located in Bath, England, used the system of distance education. He sent them transcribed text to study, and they sent their own work back to him to review. The medium for his correspondence course was postal mail.
Distance learning today
Most distance learning today takes place with the help of the internet. The internet has made communication faster, easier, and more efficient, which is why it has become the medium, mostly favored by people for distance education programs. While postal mail took days to reach the recipient, now course materials can be sent through email in seconds. Postal mail was more difficult to send than email, since it required a person to go to the post office. It is easy to send email and post things on online forums, since this can be done from the convenience of one’s working desk. Also, voice and video conferencing means that students can listen to their teachers’ lectures live, and can ask questions, so the internet has made distance learning more efficient too. Online classes mean that students have a schedule and a more organized study routine.
Are there any disadvantages of distance learning?
Distance learning has evolved over the years, but there are some fundamental drawbacks to studying in an unconventional environment – as compared to the traditional classroom environment – that remain regardless of how developed distance learning is today. For one thing, the face-to-face interaction that students can have with their teachers and fellow students in a classroom is not replaceable by video conferences. Secondly, if distance learning is being done using the internet, there is always the possibility that a bad network connection will hinder students.