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Distance Education
Uhood Moseed Alzahrani
November 6, 2016


Distance Education.
Distance education can be described as the education of students who are not entirely physically present
in a learning institution. The concept of distance learning was first used by Sir Isaac Pitman in the 1840s who
used postcards to relay shorthand lessons to students across England. Today it is a widely accepted form of
education that avails courses of study in several principle forms that is, hybrid, blended and massive open
online courses better known as MOOCs. Other synonyms for distance learning currently used include
distributed learning, e-learning, and online learning.
Distance education is less a philosophy and more a method of education. Students can study in their own
time, at the place of their choice (home, work or learning centre), and without face-to-face contact with a
teacher. Technology is a critical element of distance education.
However, distance education programs may not be open. That is certainly the case at the University of
British Columbia (UBC). Students who wish to take distance courses and receive a UBC degree must meet
UBCs admission requirements (which are set very high), and take the necessary course pre-requisites. For
undergraduate education, at least half the program must be done in residence, that is, by taking face-to-face
classes on campus. Thus in practice students who live out of province or in foreign countries cannot obtain a
UBC undergraduate degree wholly at a distance.
If an institution is deliberately selective in its students, it has more flexibility with regard to choice of
technology for distance education. It can for instance require all students who wish to take a distance education
program to have their own computer. It cannot do that if its mandate is to be open to all students.
Distance is more likely to be psychological or social, rather than geographical, in most cases. For
instance, the vast majority of UBC undergraduate distance education students are not truly distant. The majority
(83 per cent) lives in the Greater Vancouver Region, and almost half within the City of Vancouver. Only six per
cent of the undergraduate enrolments in 1999/2000 were from outside the province (because of the residential
requirement). On the other hand, two thirds of UBCs distance students (67 per cent) were working. The main
reason for most UBC students taking distance courses is the flexibility they provide, given the work and family
commitments of students and the difficulty caused by timetable conflicts for face-to-face classes. Only 17 per
cent gave reasons to do with distance or travel (UBC Distance Education and Technology, 2001).
There are about 15,000 people using distance learning between Kindergarten to the 12th grade in North
East Ohio (U.S Department of Education, 2014). Distance learning has significantly seen a sharp rise in
participants over the last few years. There are several main motivation behind this. One of these factors is time.
This has allowed students to manage their own time in the context of when they want to learn as well as how
long they need to learn. The other motivation is that it is flexible. This allows students that have interests
elsewhere for example in athletics to fully participate without infringing on their demarcated study time. This
flexibility is the main factor why students are drawn to online learning. The other cause of increased DE
enrollments is that this form of learning is highly relevant in todays world which is dominated by mobile
devices and an all-time high in internet usage (U.S Department of Education, 2014).
Distance education teachers should know how to use the hardware and software programs. They also
must have a tertiary education certificate of any kind in a specific field of their choice. This includes courses
other than teaching such as law, medicine, and business and so on. This is a mandatory necessity so as to ensure
that the quality of distance education being offered is not compromised (U.S. Department of Education, 2014).
Distance education practitioners must also learn various online teaching techniques offered in distance
education programs such as, how to offer effective lessons as well as assessment of students, student
management, resource management and real-time support(Howard, 2004). Online teachers also need to
understand how to fully convert regular course work into forms that are more palatable to distance learning
students. The later requirements are not mandatory as per the law, however, they are common practice in the
distance education fraternity and hence vital to the profession (Thorne, 2003)
Among the most highly ranked schools were Mount Carmel College of Nursing and Hiram College.
There are two thousand students enrolled in the Mount Carmel College of Nursing. Also, There are two
thousand and 3 hundred students enrolled in the Hiram College. The schools have exemplary student teacher
ration with Hiram College having one member of the faculty for every ten students (1:10) while Mount Carmel
Schools of Nursing scores higher with a student-faculty ratio of one teacher for every eight students. This has

greatly facilitated the successful use distance education within these two institutions. The faculty is well
managed and as a result, both schools were ranked in the top 10 most performing universities in Ohio (The
Carmel Rapper, 2015). The main reasons behind the schools stellar performance are mainly course work and
infrastructure oriented. The schools mentioned above have low student to faculty ratios which mean that
students do not have to compete for the lecturers time. Resources are also spread out evenly due to the modest
student intake of both schools(U.S. Department of Education, 2014). In as far as distance education is
concerned, both schools have managed to create online portals that are relatively easy to use which allows
effective feedback between the teachers and students(Howard, 2004). The coursework in the two schools has
also been carefully reformatted to better suit the needs of their distance learning students. This has in turn led to
more informative and effective online lessons which has in turn translated into the high-performance ratings
found in both schools(U.S. Department of Education, 2014).
Hiram College has a simple course management system known as Moodle. It allows users to easily
navigate the system without need for supervision or consultation. This is mainly attributed to the simple layout
employed in the design of the system. The schools course management system is composed of several parts, all
of vital importance. There is the logging in section that facilitates the registration of all the systems users(U.S.
Department of Education, 2014). This is effective in keeping proper documentation on all the users. The system
also contains a technical support section. On this section, there are articles concerning the relevant computer
software necessary to register and successfully complete an online course with the college (The Carmel Rapper,
2015). It also offers basic support on where to download the said software as well as how to update it when it
expires. There is the adobe connect section that allows online students to send, receive as well as view files that
are relevant to the courses they are studying which greatly improves the academic quality of the online courses
being offered. There is also an examination component of the system that educates learners on the various types
of question found in quizzes and examinations and how to better understand them. In addition, there are several
other minor components of the course management system such as the grades sections which avail an electronic
report card to the users so they can evaluate their academic progress (The Carmel Rapper, 2015). Finally, a
discussion forum is available where all distance learning student of the institution can interact and initiate
discussions on various topics that interest them(The Carmel Rapper, 2015).
Mount Carmel School of Nursing has a slightly different learning management system known Canvas.
However, it encompasses most of the functions found in other systems such as Moodle. The canvas learning
management provides section that house learning content for its online users. It also facilitates interaction
between teacher and students as well as interactions between students among themselves, this is found under its
discussion forum(The Carmel Rapper, 2015). The system also allows for learners to easily drag and drop their
content onto the system through its interactive user interface. This allows learners to easily post and share their
content on the system without wastage of time. Canvas allows for users to create videos with ease by utilizing
web cameras and computers. This enables students to correspond with their teachers in real time via the use of
video messages. It will also help instructors in introducing learning modules for their students. In addition,
Canvas also facilitates access via mobile devices which allows students without computers to fully benefit from
the system (The Carmel Rapper, 2015).
The Web-Based Instructional model (W.B.I) is commonly used in the academic field towards the
creation and development of courses that require distance learning. It is founded on the recommendations of
various specialists from various academic fields but mostly dwells on teaching practices recommended by
experts(U.S Department of Education 2014). The online course created through this model consist of four
major components. The first component of this model is the learning management system also known as LMS.
The LMS is considered the vital infrastructure that facilitates the learning process (Demiray 2009). It is the
platform that allows successful interaction between students and their teachers. It also introduces issues vital to
the academic welfare of the students such as important dates in the academic year as well as the recommended
code of conduct. The second component is the course materials. Most online educators will suggest that their
students read e-books or order print textbooks to enhance coverage of course material. Other teachers will
implore their students to access course material by use of podcasts and PowerPoint presentations(U.S.
Department of Education, 2014). Teachers may also use web cameras to deliver the coursework themselves
through a series of lectures known as webcasts. The other vital component of an online course is assignments

and group projects. These are presented on the learning management system as lists that contain assignments or
group projects, their instructions as well as due dates. Students are also required to submit papers on various
topics of the course as well as participate and lead discussions on the discussion boards. This is a major
determinant in the outcome of an online course as it is here that students learn how to appropriately answer
question with some educators giving word counts to their students when responding to discussion boards. The
final component of an online course is grading. Some educators create and issue multiple choice examination
while others demand that their students submit written papers or complete projects for purposes of grading
(Howard, 2004).
Traditional classrooms have been the prevailing technique used in imparting education. However, with
the advent of the internet alternative solutions have come to light. The following is a comparison and contrast
between the two modes of education. Under traditional education, the length of the program is fixed. For
example, a course in business administration will take four years. The timetables are rigid and classes are
offered at specific times only. However, distance education allows for maximum flexibility of courses because
lessons are held at the students convenience.(U.S Department of Education, 2014). As a result, online
programs can be completed quicker than their traditional counterparts. However, some online courses also have
rigid timetables that encompass strict assignment and examination deadlines. The technical implications of
traditional learning are quite simple with students using their computers minimally(U.S. Department of
Education, 2014). There is also no apparent need for supporting computer hardware and software when learning
traditionally. In juxtaposition, distance learning requires heavy computer usage as well as the purchasing of
supporting software and hardware such as web cameras and headset microphones that are essential to the online
learning process. Students are also expected to have constant access to the internet which is not the norm in
traditional learning. Cost is also variant in the two learning methods (Thorne, 2003). Traditional learning has
proven to be more expensive. Factors such as tuition fees, on-campus living or commuting expenses, affect the
cost of the program. Restrictions on state residency also affect tuition fees. In comparison, distance learning
harbors no tuition costs in most cases and eliminates the problem of commuting as classes are held at the
students convenience. However, it is important to note that distance learning does not provide access to school
libraries and equipment(Howard, 2004). As a result, these costs are passed on to the student which might cause
the cost of the program to exceed that of traditional learning (Thorne, 2003).
There are several advantages and limitations to both modes of learning. Distance education, for
example, is cost effective due to the modest or non-existent costs of tuition. It also allows students to decide
their place and duration of study hence allowing flexibility in the study program.(Thorne, 2003). It also
eliminates the added constraint of having to travel to another country or city to get educated, moreover, the
lecturers offer dedicated support to their distance learning students which is not the norm in traditional learning
(Howard, 2004). There are however several disadvantages to this method. For example, distance learning
greatly deprives students of the experience of physical interaction with other students as well as the teacher. It
also deprives students of access to vital facilities necessary for learning and as a result, some programs cannot
be offered via distance learning.
However, there are disadvantages of a traditional classroom environment There are usually anywhere
from twenty to thirty children and one teacher. In some cases, that teacher might have a "teacher's aid" or an
assistant teacher. This is where the disadvantage starts- it is simply impossible for one person to give each
student the one-on-one attention or instruction that may be required
In a classroom of twenty to thirty children, there are going to be several children with differing learning
styles and academic strengths and weaknesses. A teacher and/or teacher's aid is going to be woefully
unequipped to handle any and all learning styles or weaknesses. And woe to the teacher who has a couple of
students who present themselves as "problem students," a child who is difficult to manage or who disrupts the
classroom is also going to take away time that the teacher could be using to help with one-on-one time with his
or her students.
In a traditional classroom environment, it's not uncommon for children to become bored or frustrated.
Some children learn better by visual means, others will learn better with auditory means, and still others are
going to learn better with a hands-on approach.

It is virtually impossible for a single teacher to accommodate all methods of learning when he or she is
responsible for teaching a large number of children. Thus, children who do not fall into the "traditional learning
method" category are far more likely to "fall through the cracks," become bored or discouraged, or to display
behavior problems in the classroom.
The traditional classroom environment works well for a large number of children, but there are many
others who simply have difficulty learning in this environment, have difficulty interacting with peers that are
strictly in their age range, or who require more one-on-one attention and time to grasp certain concepts.
The advantages of the traditional classroom setting, children are taught how to wait their turn, how to
treat others with respect and that there are consequences to disobeying the rules, all skills that some parents find
difficult to teach in a home environment. As the children age they are monitored less, but there are still very
clearly defined rules and the punishment for breaking those rules are consistent and enforced. Inadvertently this
teaches the child a decision making process that will serve them well later in life. Is what I am about to do
worth the consequences that I will receive for doing it? No one succeeds in this life without taking risks and so
the sooner a child learns how to judge the ratio of risk to gain the better equipped they will be to handle
important decisions later in life when the consequences can be dire.
Perhaps the most important thing a child can learn in a classroom is how to find their place in a group.
Think about your daily interactions as an adult. Whether in the work place or on the road, while shopping or
enjoying a night out on the town, how you define yourself within a group of the school day. The desire to
protect ones child from these things is very natural but the hard fact is that adult life also has its share of
intimidating people and those that would gladly take advantage of you or teach you things you'd rather not
learn. Everyone deals with these issues regularly and it is how you deal determines your success or failure at
any particular endeavor. Again this skill set, although not specifically in the classroom's curriculum, is an
integral part of what is learned there.
Classroom life is not without its risks. Unfortunately intimidation and unsavory characters are also a
very real part with these incidences that makes the difference. Allowing your child to encountered these
scenarios in the relatively safe environment of a classroom will give them the skills they need to deal with them
later in life. Just like learning to chew there are bound to be mistakes made along the way, so watch carefully
but allow your children to grow (Demiray, 2009).
It is clear that the students that would benefit the most from distance learning are those that have
inflexible schedules such as sportsmen; it would also greatly benefit economically disadvantaged students who
cannot afford tuition fees. Students that have strict work schedules or have other major extra-curricular
activities that they would like to focus on would also benefit significantly from distance education. It would also
benefit students with psychological conditions that may hinder successful learning such as claustrophobic
students as they are availed the choice to study from a location of their choosing. On the other hand, students
that would benefit the most from traditional learning are students who pursue technical programs that require a
more hands-on approach such as medical and engineering students (Demiray, 2009).



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Information Science Reference.
Howard, C. (2004). Distance learning and university effectiveness: Changing educational paradigms for online
learning. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publications.
The Carmel Rapper. (2015). MCCN to launch canvas as new management system. Mount Carmel College of
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Thorne, K. (2003). Blended learning: How to integrate online & traditional learning. London: Kogan Page.
U.S. Department of Education. (2014).Enrollment in Distance Education Courses, by State: Fall 2012. National
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