Distance Education Programs
Telecommunications technologies support
a variety of educational activities. Students have used teleconferencing
to speak with scientists, interview government officials and
talk rock stars and link with one another. Electronic field trips
have taken them to China, Germany, France, Russia, and the ocean
floor. We are witnessing the birth of new learning communities,
which are defined by telecommunications links and not by the
space in which they exist. They permit a level of geographic
and cultural diversity in education that could only have been
imagined previously. In these new communities, the roles of teachers
and students are undergoing dramatic redefinition. Teachers have
moved from centerstage to concentrate more and more on overall
coordination, planning, the organization of learning opportunities,
and the mentoring of individuals and small groups of students.
At the same time, students have considerably more freedom to
define their activities, choose the direction of their research,
and collaborate with their peers in their own and other classrooms.
The use of telecommunications technology redefines teacher and
student roles and plays a major role in efforts to restructure
Courses delivered at a distance over a
number of telecommunication platforms serve as important resources
for the curriculum of many school districts. Growth in distance
education has occurred in both K-12 and higher education. In
the K-12 setting, there has been a special emphasis on courses
in foreign languages, the sciences, and mathematics, but courses
in the humanities, social sciences, business, and vocational
education are also broadcast.
Networks range in size from relatively
small district-wide networks to TI-IN, a national satellite-based
educational network, which broadcasts whole courses, student
enrichment programs, and professional development programs into
1,000 school districts in 29 states.
Distance education has been of particular
benefit to rural communities that have a low demand for particular
courses, difficulty in meeting state-mandated curriculum requirements,
and problems in attracting teachers in specific areas of the
curriculum. It has also been a solution for both insufficient
enrollment and the lack of specialized teachers.
In addition to restructuring, telecommunications
technology makes vast improvements in available educational resources.
The inclusion of on-line databases such as Dialog, CompuServe,
Prodigy, America Online and e-World in media centers and classrooms
puts enormous research capacity at the fingertips of teachers
and student. Comprehensive databases on scientific research,
the social sciences, finance and current affairs can be accessed
almost instantaneously. SCOLA, a satellite-based news service
brings foreign TV new programming in 20 languages from 30 countries
The number of college and university students
enrolled in distance education is in the high six figures nationally.
Courses might be offered through interactive satellite courses
with two-way audio hook-ups, compressed video with two-way audio
and two-way video, interactive audiographics courses which employ
two-way audio hook-ups, prerecorded video telecourses, cable,
closed circuit, ITFS, computer and audioconferencing. For example
2,000 institutions of higher education use the Annenberg/CPB
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for
the growth of distance education in higher education is the changing
nature of work and society. Many students are working adults
who have schedules that prevent taking classes at regular times,
or they live so far away from any college or university that
they would have to move to attend school.
from "A Technical
Guide to Teleconferencing and Distance Learning," 3rd edition