Pros and Cons of Distance Education

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I am a University professor and have taught in a campus program and in a distance education program. The campus program is superior because the students are right there with you. The word education comes from the root word meaning to draw out. A good education is based on a relationship between a student and a teacher. Both learn from each other. Relationships are much more likely when student and teacher are in the same room.

Also, students learn a lot from each other. I set up my classes so that can happen. My students have a lot of time to discuss issues and to share experiences, both in the small groups and in the classroom as a whole.

With that said, there are times when it is impossible for students to attend on-campus programs, such as students who live in areas where there is no training. Students can then learn a great deal from on-line and distance programs, but both students and teachers have to have the time and willingness to get to know each other if the experience of teaching and learning is to be the best it can be.

I set up small group discussions in the distance sites and structure them will questions that will help them focus. I have someone report from each group and then open up comments. I make sure that I make direct contact with several of the students in each distance site for every class.

A sense of humor is essential for both distance students and professor. For example, to involve the distance students, I call on them, which is something I rarely have done in the graduate courses I teach. On the monitors that are in my distance classroom, I cannot see the students’ faces. Therefore, I don’t know who has that expectant look of wanting to say something.

When I call on students at the distant site and students do not have a response, they can feel embarrassed. Embarrassment rarely helps students learn and may interfere with the trust on which relationships depend. I may say something like, “You know the answer to 150 questions, but not that one. Is that right?”

Of course the students say they do. Sometimes the students come up with a good one, such as “If you had asked me about (fill in the blanks)I could have given you an answer that would knock your socks off.”

Relationships remain the cornerstone of education, whether direct classroom teaching or distance education.

I much prefer on-campus teaching and learning, but at times on-line and distance education are a good resource.

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