Distance Learning As Adjunct And Alternative
Distance learning, also known as distance education, supplements classroom (or conference room) teaching and learning methods and materials. With technology steering the vehicle that is education, distance learning accelerates on-site learning in a number of off-site ways that contemporary learners benefit greatly from. Commuter students attending community college after working and caring for children and families will be the first to tell you that the media resources component in their curriculum allows them to learn off campus (when getting to campus is not possible. They can plug in a video tape, insert a CD-ROM, or go online to a designated distance learning website from their home across town from the college. Learners can log on to tutor services, and get real time help from a tutor or instructor--when in-person tutorial support is not possible. And students can, of course, communicate with an instructor by email or IM (Instant Messenger), asking questions, confirming assignments, submitting assignments, and/or getting support for continuous projects...such as essay drafting projects that need constant, consistent attention and revision. The separation of student and instructor need not inhibit the learning process. With distance learning tools, both learner and teacher benefit from consistent, contiguous, continuous two-way interaction, providing that which is known in therapeutic and other milieus as "continuity of care." With or without in-person instruction--whether the student is signed up for on-site courses or is taking a tele-course online only, with no classroom time at all--distance learning technology allows for an educational system to influence everyone of every age, race, culture, religion, ability/disability or other orientation. The diversity of distance learning, then, is in the course design, the special teaching tools and techniques, the alternative methods of communication and transmission of information, and in the very nature of technology to bring educator and learner close together...regardless of how far apart they are geographically.
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