Distance Learning in Adult Education Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1588 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Teaching

Higher Education

Distance Learning in Adult Education

History of Distance Learning

Throughout the nineteenth century, in the United States, several activities in adult education paved the way for the organization of university extension beyond campuses. In 1873, Anna Ticknor formed the society to encourage studies at home for the purpose of educational opportunities for women of all classes in the society. This Boston-based, largely volunteer effort offered correspondence instruction to 10,000 members over a 24-year period. Printed materials were sent through the mail as the main way of communication, teaching, and learning. In 1883 a Correspondence University headquartered at Cornell University was founded, but never got off the ground. The first official acknowledgment of education by correspondence came from 1883 to 1891 by Chautauqua College of Liberal Arts. This college was certified by the state of New York to grant academic degrees to students who successfully completed work at the Summer institutes and by correspondence during the academic year (Nasseh, 1997).

The Internet and the technology that surround it are reaching out to touch nearly every aspect of modern life, and education is certainly no exception. Even though the concept of distance education has been around for quite some time, the widespread use of the Internet has ensured that a vast selection of online classes is available via distance learning. In a recent survey conducted by the nonprofit Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, it was found that almost two-thirds of all traditional schools now offer online classes. This figure has grown by almost 20% since 2003 (Fairfax, 2010).

Benefits of Distance Learning

Distance learning technologies offer a myriad of benefits for education, including convenience, flexibility, effectiveness, and efficiency. Distance learning tools can provide convenient locations for both students and instructors. Many of the things, such as the Internet and telephone, are easily accessed at home. Others, such as videoconferencing, can be dispersed from a single point such as a university to multiple remote sites. Satellite transmissions can be looked at from specified sites, or the transmissions can be recorded for later viewing at home or school. Wikis can also be built and accessed by all whenever they need to (Benefits of Distance Learning, 2009).

Many structure of distance learning provide students the option to participate whenever they wish, on an individualized basis. Some students may want to assess a podcast in the middle of the night or read their e-mail during early morning hours. Additionally, one student may wish to spend 30 minutes reviewing a website, while another spends an hour. Not only is distance learning handy, it is also effective. Several research studies have established that distance learning is equally or more effectual than traditional instruction when the method and technologies used are appropriate to the instructional tasks, when there is student-to-student interaction and when there is timely teacher-to-student feedback (Benefits of Distance Learning, 2009).

Many forms of distance learning involve little or no cost. Nearly all of the homes in the United States have televisions and many are connected to a cable-TV service. For these people, it is relatively easy for the students to watch a public broadcast television show or educational documentary. Also, almost all homes have access to a telephone and the Internet, enabling the use of voicemail and audio conferencing in education (Benefits of Distance Learning, 2009).

One of the benefits of distance learning is that there is a broad variety of materials that can meet everyone's learning inclinations at least part of the time. Some students learn from seeing things, such as video, and others learn best by listening or interacting with a computer program. If distance learning courses are well put together, they will likely offer learners a broad range of choices, thus providing the optimal combinations of interaction and media (Benefits of Distance Learning, 2009).

Contrary to what a lot of people think, distance learning courses can offer increased interactions with students. Particularly, introverted students who are too shy to ask questions in class will often open up when given the opportunity to interact via e-mail or other individualized means. Through these greater interactions, teachers can better meet individual student's needs (Benefits of Distance Learning, 2009).

The programs that are available to online students are almost equal to traditional colleges. Programs vary from paralegal, business, automotive, and banking. Online schools put forward a variety of degrees and levels of certification. Many online schools present degrees from a two-year associate's degree to a doctorate degree in many fields. Time requirement and pricing will considerably vary depending on major, online school, degree, and certification (McGee, 2010).

Another advantage to online distance learning is the number of unlimited online resources that are available. These include things like: Wikipedia, Google and online publications. These resources make it very easy for students to access the information that they need, whenever they need it.

Limitations of Distance Learning

Compared to the traditional classroom, distance learning does have its limitations. Limited association between course material and its explanation. This is in contrast to the customary classroom where students follow the written material and are guided by the human interaction of the teacher and their peers (Larson, 2005). Having a lack of computers and equipment is one thing that can often make this difficult. There is also a need to be very computer literate in order to make this type of learning successful.

One disadvantage is the limited human teacher expression and interaction. As an alternative to following the human teacher's body expressions and language patterns to learn, distance learners following an inanimate computer screen. Students sometimes miss the teacher's gestures and the full impact of the oral interaction with the teacher (Larson, 2005).

There is also a lack of human connection. Most people have become accustomed to receiving direction and instruction from a human, our parents are our very first teachers, and that is how we learn. In distance learning a number of students find it difficult to relate to an online tutor and they miss and need that human touch (Larson, 2005).

There is sometimes limited peer support. Even though a student can and will develop friendships amongst their co-learners in a distance learning program, it is sometimes hard to learn in the interaction with peers. In learning people often support one another and that is a little more difficult during distance learning (Larson, 2005).

There can sometimes be a lack of contextual understanding. In the traditional classroom all of a person's learning is done by using examples to help them understand the context of what is being taught. In distance learning there are fewer examples or explanations past the initial concept or theory and it has been found that contextual understanding is sometimes difficult under these circumstances. For some students who are accustomed to learning through contextual discussion it may be difficult to grasp or understand some basic and important ideas (Larson, 2005).

There are two types of behaviors that seem to differentiate the self-directed learner in distance learning environments, self-discipline and metacognitive processes. Since many types of distance learning involve options by the learners about when they will actively engage in the learning process such as time-shifted learning, the learners must have the self-discipline and time-management skills which will enable them to keep up with the expected learning schedule and pace. Actually distance learning simultaneously demands and encourages self-discipline in the learning process. While instructors should make this requirement clear in the orientation, learners must buy in to the importance of this demand, or select out of the distance education environment if they are not ready to acquire it. The metacognitive process is one of asking ones-self if the learning has taken place. The learners must then seek out other learning opportunities by either re-doing the previously engaged-in learning activity or by asking for help. This procedure… [END OF PREVIEW]

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