Advantages and Disadvantages of Distance Learning
The first question to be asked is what is Distance learning? Distance learning, or e-learning, is recognised today the transferring skills & knowledge, via the internet or other technology, to deliver learning and training programs. With recent advances in communication technology methods used include e-mail, skype, video-conferencing, snail mail or perhaps a combination of all of these, plus other technology currently being developed. The numerous recent advances in computer based learning, matched with a growing acceptance that this type of training, offers many advantages, as well as some potential disadvantages which we will examine in this article.
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Let’s look at the advantages first and then move on to the disadvantages before, lastly, considering how to eliminate some of the perceived disdavantages. This article will look at the situation from three viewpoints: teachers, students and employers.
The advantages of Distance Learning are profound. They include important matters such as cost, ease of arrangement of study/work time, efficiency in the saving of travel time and many more, some of which are listed below:
- Distance Learning is by far the cheapest method of training available
- There is no wasted travel time to visit colleges or classrooms
- There are no wasted travel or clothing costs for the employer or the student
- The convenience of being able to study when and wherever it is convenient e g when commuting to work or on Sunday afternoons. This allows the students to fit their study time around their working hours.
- The chance to inter-act with group members from different countries or cities.
- The opportunity to re-visit former lessons recorded and stored on archive to assess progress and to revise topics
- The opportunity for the student, teacher and employer to monitor work and progress from the student’s archive of work and tests
- Students can work at a pace which suits them – each person learns at a different speed – some students need to view the material more times than others
- Different learning styles can be accommodated through different learning techniques.
- Employers can ensure students in different locations all receive exactly the same course and can monitor results – This is very useful for the introduction of new procedures, skills or mandatory professional training.
Recent improvements in technology, especially within the last 18 months have addressed the possible disadvantages to students and employers listed earlier in this text.
Many of the disadvantages related to the employer’s inability to monitor effort and progress because there was no-one who could view a record of the student’s work without considerable time and effort. The introduction of the archive feature into some Distance Learning technical systems eliminated this worry. Now teachers, students and employers can access the work archive to check if work is done and the level of success or effortt hat is put into i. For employers with students in different locations there is the added advantage of being able to compare the work and success of different staff members in different geographical offices against each other. Put simply the results from, say, the Beijing office students can be checked against the Moscow office students to see which student in the company is strongest in a particular field of law.
The problems of the feeling of remoteness or not understanding tasks can now be dealt with by the use of split-screen video-conferencing. This technology divides the computer screen into boxes with each student and the teacher being shown live to all the group. The entire group of students, plus the teacher, meet on-line with everyone able to see, speak, hear and inter-act with each other. It allows the teacher to deal with individual questions as they arise from the students as well as being able to use all the facilities of Word, video, audio and other programmes which his computer contains. The facility also allows students to continue speaking each other after the lesson finishes to work on team assignments or merely to make new contacts and develop business relationships with others in the group. The new software has overcome the lack of ‘hands-on’ training. A student’s computer can now relinquish control to the trainer in order to complete or assist with tasks on the distant student’s computer. The best analogy for this is that the trainer is looking over the shoulder of the student and, where necessary, is joining in to write or complete the task with the student and correct mistakes as the student makes them.
Given the main advantages of ease and cost, e-learning is now changing the way training and knowledge are being disseminated globally. Hallowed universities and professional institutes are now turning to the new technology to augment or up-date existing courses and training delivery. There are even some teaching aides the new technology can deliver which were not formerly available. One thing is certain the Internet has changed the way modern teaching and training can be delivered the next question is which students and employers will take advantage of the new opportunities it offers?
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