"Distance education is based on the premise that students are at the center
of the learning process, take responsibility for their own learning, and work at
their own pace and in their own place. It is about ownership and autonomy."
The good news: studies have shown that below grade students
perform better in distance education courses if they finish them; and that
at-grade or better students perform about the same.
The bad news: students tend to procrastinate and drop out at
higher levels than in traditional courses, especially below grade students
There are many delivery methods of online courses in an institution's
"Virtual Learning Environment":
Via the Internet, conducted either synchronously or
Telecourse/Broadcast where content is delivered via radio or
CD-ROM where the student interacts with computer content stored
on a CD-ROM,
especially in locations without or unreliable Internet access
Pocket PC/Mobile Learning where the student accesses course content
stored on a mobile device or through a wireless server (see
Correspondence conducted through regular mail(!)
Required attendance at certain times during the semester or even
class day/week, as for seminars or taking tests is considered to be a
hybrid or blended course or program.
Electronic classrooms on campus as well as in satellite locations
Levels of accreditation vary; (Some institutions offering
distance education in the United States receive little outside
oversight, and may be fraudulent diploma mills.)
Courses that meet in multiple locations at a specific time for
lectures, course information delivery, and/or student interaction
Courses that do not meet at any specific time, in one or many
If you are taking distance learning courses as part of a formal degree program, before getting started:
Schedule yourself daily/weekly for course communications for
peer learning/fellow student interaction via listservs, discussion groups,
case studies, etc. Often you will be required to work on group projects or
case studies, whether at one location or through the Internet. See the guides on
group projects, or case studies.
feedback to the instructor In a face-to-face course, an instructor relies
on feedback from students, whether with questions or facial/physical
expressions. In a distance situation this is most difficult, and you carry the
responsibility to inform the instructor how you are doing in the course, whether
by appointment or through phone conversations or e-mail..
assignment progress and submission
progress reports: The instructor must provide feedback to you on your
progress through the course.Request an evaluation schedule,
conditions, and methods for your progress through the material. Methods include
tests reflecting knowledge acquisition or performance of tasks
reports, projects, case studies, course portfolio, etc.
qualitative and quantitative input into course discussions and projects
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