Distance learning opportunities used to exist through what was called correspondence courses, which were conducted over the mail, on the radio or on television. Today, the internet is the primary method of presenting educational materials. Online education affords students who little time or money, or who live in remote areas, to attend classes.
Classes Offered Through Distance Learning Online Education
Almost any curriculum can be pursued online. Students can seek programs that result in certification, advanced technical skills, associates degrees, bachelors degrees, graduate degrees and even doctorates. Even continuing education classes for licensed professionals and high school equivalence courses can be completed through virtual classrooms.
Methods for Distance Learning Online Education
Online education is usually web-based with a specific web site designated for the course. Supplemental materials, such as software, may also be part of certain online courses. Students visit the course web site to complete the posted assignments and take tests. Instructors and students communicate through email and chat rooms. Sometimes virtual lectures and discussions are part of online coursework. Students can attend virtual classrooms to complete their education and some colleges even have virtual graduation ceremonies.
Types of Students Who Pursue Distance Learning Online Education
Many different students from all over the world participate in distance learning online education opportunities. Some students work and attend classes online during their free time. Other students live in remote areas where local colleges do not exist. Still other students choose to combine online courses with traditional classes for what is known as a blended learning experience. Student who pursue distance education do not fit a particular mold, but should possess the following qualities:
good time management skills; and
excellent communication skills.
Validity of Distance Learning Online Education: Research from the Sloan Consortium states that online learning is comparable to education obtained in a traditional setting, based upon a poll of academic leaders. Academic leader James Sherwood, Ph.D. and dean of University Extension, the continuing education branch of The University of California at Berkley states that, "Coming out of World War II and getting into the 60's and 70's there was a kind of stigma associated with distance education. That has certainly changed." Because of technological advances and online resources, distance education has improved and offers an equivalent opportunity to traditional education.
Faculty Perspective of Distance Learning Online Education. Dr. Michael Otaigbe of Strayer University in Virginia has taught courses both in person and online at the same college. His opinion is that online classes generate an unexpected level of motivation, saying, "Online, I have the freedom to require contributions. Every week, my students have to submit essays and participate in group discussions. I get a better sense of the learning process." He also finds that online students come from all over the world and have unique contributions that benefit the other students.
Online Education Distance Learning Association in the US. Several distance learning associations exist within the United States that offer additional information about taking classes online for prospective students.
The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA). The USDLA is a non-profit association that promotes the development and application of online distance learning for education and training purposes. The USDLA encourages distance learning for grades K-12, college and higher education, corporate training, continuing education, government training and military training. Further, the USDLA supported the implementation of the Snowe-Rockefeller Amendment to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, as well as other legislation in 1997 that was introduced by Kennedy and Snowe.
The Distance and Education Training Council (DETC). The DETC is a non-profit educational association that is a central hub of information about distance study and the correspondence learning field.
Federal Government Distance Learning Association (FGDLA). The FGDLA is also a non-profit association. The FGDLA was formed to promote development and application of distance learning programs. The Association also acts to foster understanding and collaboration among the people involved in education and training within the federal government.
Covering Costs for Distance Learning Online Education Programs
Financial aid is available to online students, just as it is for traditional students. Online students can apply for applicable state and government financial aid, Stafford loans, student loans, tuition reimbursement and scholarships to cover costs for cyber classes. Also, virtual students save money on transportation and housing. Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, said, "The College Board continues to advocate for need-based aid, so that students can have the opportunity to benefit from college education."
National and international strides are being made everyday in distance learning online education. Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Mich., introduced legislation to scientifically scrutinize online learning. The Independent Study of Distance Education Act of 2007 directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study that would compare classroom instruction with distance learning programs. Colleges such as the University of Wyoming are experimenting with gaming as a form of teaching online education. Consider that the dynamic nature and convenience of online education has attracted about 3.2 million people to take a distance learning course in the past year. Distance learning online education programs are an effective way to achieve higher education.