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Traditional Vs Distance Education

Essay by   •  October 29, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  3,982 Words (16 Pages)  •  3,493 Views

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Education is an essential element in societies throughout the world. For many years education has been provided in classrooms on campuses worldwide, but there has been a change made to the conventional method of classroom learning. With the advancements in technology, education has been restructured so that it may be accessible to everyone through taking courses online.

Distance learning takes place when the teacher and student are separated from one another due to their physical location and technology is used to communicate instructions to the student and to communicate feedback to the instructor. The virtual classroom is one of the various forms of technology used as an alternative to the traditional classroom settings. Other tools used to educate from a distance include audio, video, data, and print.

Accessibility to technology and knowledge of certain software application are needed to be able to successfully take an online course. A student must know how to use a computer, so that they can communicate with an instructor, submit any assignments, and also communicate with peers. The other requirement a student must meet is having access to a computer system. Having a system at home is the best method, but being able to use a computer at work or another reliable location may be beneficial as well.

The effectiveness of online education is constantly being analyzed. Since online education is fairly new, research on it is critical at this time. Findings are showing that online education is just as effective as traditional education, based on the comparison of grades, but online education is not surpassing traditional education at this time. Depending on the proper implementation of technological tools used for online courses, it can have a great impact on the effectiveness of distance learning.

Only a selective few are ideal candidates for online education. Self motivated and

Distance learning through online education is a great alternative to traditional education, but it cannot replace the experience of a traditional education.

Many professors are weary that online courses may be the fall of universities and campuses. Others think that it is a fad and once it is proven to be not as supportive as having teacher to student contact in person, it will lack the credibility that is needed and it will become a thing of the past. Although these views may be a reality one day, there is not enough evidence to rule them as being true or untrue.

However to every up there is a down and to every in there is an out; everything will not be perfect. Online education, no matter how convenient, does not offer the social grounding and exposure most college campuses have to offer. That is the one advantage that universities have over distance learning. Many prefer the campus lifestyle versus the distance learning because they can use campus resources for their everyday life.

Distance education is becoming a more vital part of the higher education family. Just about every major American university offers these courses. Distance education reaches a broader student audience, better addresses student needs, saves money, and more importantly uses the principles of modern learning pedagogy (Fitzpatrick, 2001). Public as well as political interest in distance education is especially high in geographic regions where the student population is widely distributed (Sherry, 1996). In fact, public policy leaders, in some states, are recommending the use of distance education as opposed to traditional learning.

As distance education increasingly becomes a vital part of higher education, one must ask, if distance education is in fact better, worse, or as good as traditional education? A vehement argument is being waged, pitting distance education against traditional face-to-face education. Some argue that distance education is viewed as being different from other forms of education. Many educational-technologists view it as being linked to technology (Garrison, 1987), an aspect that may play a role in course development and acceptance problems (Jeffries, 1996). According to Fox (1998), what is in dispute is not whether distance education is ideal, but whether it is good enough to merit a university degree, and whether it is better than receiving no education at all. He alludes to an argument that states students learn far too little when the teacher's personal presence is not available because the student has more to learn from the teacher than the texts. Thus, in order for the student to be taught well, does the teacher have to be personally present?

Many advocates of distance education are ardent about their venue and very critical of traditional education. These online education devotees view traditional classes as being unchangeable, inflexible, teacher-centered, and static (Fitzpatrick 2001). However, proponents argue that many simply would not be able to get a degree without distance education--the full-time police officer, the mother of four, or the individual living in a rural area approximately 100-200 miles away from any educational institution. Many individuals desperately need distance education courses because they "have jobs, families, civic responsibilities. They are thirsting. But some want us to say, 'Sorry you don't want to drink the water there, but we can't bottle our fresh spring water, so you'll have to come here or drink nothing" (Fox, 1998, p. 5). Proponents contend that distance education is "as good as" traditional education. In other words, learning occurs as much in distance education as it does in traditional education. However, is this really so? Does distance education work better for some students as opposed to others? Does student assessment in distance education differ from that in the traditional classroom (Phipps and Merisotis, 1999)?

Opponents of distance education may agree that it is possible for some learning to occur through this medium, but that isn't enough. They stress focusing on the fullness of learning (Fox, 1998).

Review of Literature

A profusion of online articles presents arguments both for and against distance education. Why such a dichotomy of opinions? It is because in spite of all of the research studies conducted as well as the large amount of written material focusing on distance education, "there is a relative paucity of true, original research dedicated to explaining or predicting phenomena related to distance learning" (Phipps and Merisotis, 1999, p. 2). Most original research focuses on student outcomes (grades, test scores), student attitudes, and overall student satisfaction toward distance education. Moreover, most of these studies conclude that

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