The modern world is developing very fast in terms of the implementation of new technologies. Every technological advancement in the field of the Internet and communication creates new possibilities for people. One of such possibilities is distance learning. Distance learning can be considered one of the most discussed issues among education professionals. The majority of them perceive this approach to education as an effective solution for those students who cannot attend traditional classes because of a number of reasons such as the location, family problems, time restrictions, etc. However, in order to ensure that distance learning does not harm the quality of education, there is a need for considerable improvements.
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Economic instability, open borders, globalization, cultural integration, unexpected family problems, serious illnesses are the factors that often lead to the situation when students are not able to attend traditional classes and face a threat of the inability to further their education. This basically impacts the social and economic development of nations because of the fact that the educated population is one of the most important elements required for achieving progress. In this case, distance education can help to dramatically improve the situation.
Today, more than 60% of community colleges in the United States offer students an opportunity to attend distance learning classes (Allen & Seaman, 2015). This can be a helpful solution in the short term when a student faces an unpredictable situation such as an illness. Distance education is rather effective due to different types of technologies and the level of their development. These technologies include online courses delivered via the Internet and multimedia designed to provide students with an opportunity to use graphics, audio, and video materials to better understand the topic. Online courses and multimedia help students to become familiar with information that other students learn in class. However, in the majority of cases, those students who depend on distance education show no real interest in the process of acquiring new knowledge because they are left without control. Moreover, the lack of student-teacher communication leads to the situation when the quality of education decreases dramatically.
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There is no doubt that online courses offer flexibility that can be considered to be a benefit. However, flexibility is closely linked to the need to create a self-paced schedule. In order to be able to accurately plan time and create a self-paced schedule, a high level of motivation, self-discipline, and leadership characteristics are required. Unfortunately, in most cases, these characteristics develop when students actively participate in the educational process by communicating with teachers as well as other students and solving real-life problems. According to the statistics, less than 10% of the global population are born with a leadership gift (Antonakis & Day, 2018). These people usually have no need for traditional education because they learn through interacting with the external environment by starting their own business early in life. Richard Branson, an outstanding British entrepreneur, can be regarded as a great example of those who are born with a leadership gift. He started his first company at the age of 12 and left school at 16 in order to work on business development. The active participation in business activities at an early age allowed Branson to learn very quickly, eliminating the need for traditional education. Today, this British entrepreneur is considered to be one of the richest people in the country.
However, many scholars agree that it is incorrect to consider distance education to be good or bad because traditional classroom courses and online courses serve different needs and complement each other. For example, today online courses support the effectiveness of classroom courses by providing students with additional time for performing tasks. The thing is that classroom courses have time restrictions, so teachers are not able to cover all information during one lesson. With the support of online courses, it is possible to decrease the total duration of learning a particular course to devote more time to other more important courses.
However, the ability to improve the effectiveness of classroom courses is not the only benefit of distance learning. According to the National Forum on Education Statistics, the quality of distance education is improving, providing more benefits to both students and educators (Kentnor, 2015). The process of improvement is associated with the development of new technologies that support the effectiveness of the educational process. These technologies include audio conferences and web conferences. They are becoming more and more interactive, which allows ensuring effective distance communication between students and teachers. With the help of modern technologies, teachers can provide students with required guidelines. Moreover, isolation associated with distance learning, which is considered to be the main problem of this approach to education, will be transformed into the collaborative environment with the ongoing development of technologies. It is projected that during the next 10 years the majority of educational institutions will give their students an opportunity to learn via the virtual learning environment where they will be able to interact with teachers and other students through real-time communication.
It is possible to conclude that distance education has both positive and negative sides. However, with the ongoing development of technologies used to support distance learning, it will be possible to transform the traditional education system. As a result, both students and educators will be provided with more freedom that will ultimately lead to the further development of the effectiveness of education.