Distance learning is not a novel concept. Correspondence study (also called home study or independent study) has been around for more than 100 years. The biggest difference between those programs and today’s distance learning is technology. However, pure correspondence courses without the use of technology in some form (e-mail, fax, videotapes, audiotapes, CD-ROMs, satellite/cable television, video/audio conferencing, etc.) are quickly becoming dinosaurs. Correspondence study, regardless of its delivery method, is included in this book’s definition of distance learning. The U.S. Census Bureau‘s 2000 earning statistics shows the benefits of lifelong education. Accreditation of a correspondence course is critical since most colleges and universities will not accept transfer credits from a school that is not regionally accredited. You will find that the majority of correspondence courses are geared toward undergraduate rather than graduate-level study. Regardless of their level, correspondence courses generally work this way: You complete an application and mail it to a designated address with a check or credit card number for your fees. You can get financial aid and/or use scholarship funding for most courses and fees.You receive the course, study guide, instructions, syllabus, etc., in the mail.You order the textbooks listed in the instructions. You receive your textbooks in the mail and begin completing lessons. As each lesson is completed, you return it to your instructor where it is evaluated and graded.
Video and Audioconferencing
Videoconferencing and audioconferencing (sometimes called teleconferencing) are now affordable for any school thanks to continuing advances in technology. In fact, a school can hook up a system that lets students and instructors talk to and see each other in remote locations for a few hundred dollars worth of equipment. The more money one spends on teleconferencing equipment, however, the higher the quality of both the video and audio connection, so colleges and universities are spending much more than a few hundred dollars!
Unlike other distance learning teaching methods, unless you have a camera and other equipment on your computer, you will have to leave your home or office to join the conference from a location on another college campus or a commercial teleconferencing center.Videoconferencing allows the class to hold face-to-face discussions and to display visual aids for all to see. It is possible to look at and modify designs on the screen or to make presentations using PowerPoint software. Some programs use teleconferencing to allow students to “sit in” on traditional on-campus classes. The students in class interact with the distance students as if they were sitting in the classroom and vice versa. Instructors use special electronic white boards instead of chalkboards, so the distance learning student can even see what is written on the board in the corner of his or her computer screen.
Televised courses were aired over public television stations for many years, but today’s televised courses are usually broadcast over special cable channels (like the Learning Channel), via satellite, or from private television stations at universities. Television is a popular method of delivering education, since most homes in developed countries contain at least one television set. This category of distance learning also includes videotapes of classes that were conducted in special classrooms set up like television studios. These videotapes are often included as a part of correspondence courses today and require only a television set and VCR.