There is an old saying: Time moves on. That is certainly true in the world of education. In the past, higher education was strictly an option for the wealthy and privileged. Beginning in the last century, higher education became a reality for the common person. But the pace of change has not slackened up one bit!
And while the so-called ‘experts’ argue among themselves about future trends, we know one thing for certain: technology has turned the world of higher education upside-down. It is now the primary delivery channel for millions of students worldwide – in the form of ‘Distance Education.’ Coupling the power of the home PC with the interconnectivity of the Internet, distance learning is revolutionizing the educational landscape, right before our eyes.
Let’s put it in it’s most simple form: Distance learning means that a student can participate in class – in India, let’s say – when the school is located in Boise, Idaho. Distance is no longer an obstacle – in fact, distance from the school, from the instructor, or from one’s fellow-students has become irrelevant. What matters now is receiving the course content, whether one lives down the street or in another continent.
The U.S. has a population that is aging, as is well-known. And an aging population is one with increasing responsibilities – work as well as family – that throw up road-blocks and obstacles in the path of the would-be student. Distance learning is a solution that works for them – as academic assignments and classroom participation can now be completed around work schedules and family activities.
Here’s our take on the situation: as more and more schools start distance learning programs, more and more adults will take advantage of them and enroll. And when these students graduate, they will bring their up-to-date skill sets into the workplace. As a result, business will greatly benefit. Overall, we can see the American worker becoming more and more efficient. Our workforce will then be positioned to keep – and retain – better paying jobs, as we compete in the global marketplace.
What is a part of the distance learning experience? Well, after your enrollment is approved (and courses paid for) you will sign in(via your home PC) to a ‘virtual campus,’ where your course instructor, fellow students and you all interact in a kind of chat room experience. You will be given assignments there, e-mails will be used as a means of communication, and course papers will be uploaded for review. You will often be required to complete assignments in collaboration with other students – just like collaborative projects in the real world.
Course testing in distance learning programs is also unique. Instead of the traditional approach, where you would ‘spit out’ on paper everything that you have memorized, you will be asked instead to complete projects and collaborate with others. This is because there is no way to administer a test online in such a way to guarantee that the student doesn’t look at their book/notes to cheat!
This means that distance learning programs put a premium on ‘learning by doing’ – not simply spitting out facts that have been memorized. And does this not more accurately mirror the kinds of responsibilities one has in the real world? Graduates of distance learning programs are in fact better prepared to ‘hit the ground running’ and be productive in their job from the first day of employment.