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Home Schooling
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Distance Learning – The Future of Education

By James Donahue

A few colleges and universities have been experimenting with “distance learning,” or classes taught via home computer programs for several years. Such courses solved problems of having to deal with the high cost of living on campus and being present to attend full class loads during on-going semesters of higher learning.

Home computerized classes were perfect for people in far-off places with jobs and other obligations that prevented them from ever considering dropping everything and devoting four years to college study and going deep in financial debt in the process.

Now as college tuition rises, the cost of travel is rising, and the price of rent and living on campus is making the chance for a college education out of reach for all but the children of the wealthy, the concept of buying education via the home computer is growing in popularity.

After all, attending college involves attending lectures, reading text books, taking examinations to show that the students are grasping what they are being taught, and learning to apply what they have learned through research and writing term papers. Why can’t all of this be accomplished at home and at times convenient to the student?

College level classes can technically be offered either on line or via purchased CDs, the written papers and examinations printed and e-mailed to the colleges offering the classes, and the student graded on the quality of the work handed in. There is no reason this cannot be done successfully and more people allowed to have as much education in any field they choose, and at reasonable cost.

Thanks to the computer and the amazing capability we now have to send and receive published documents at the push of a button, there is no longer a need for students to gather at large university campuses to acquire an education.

It is true that the very essence of living in a college environment, among hundreds of students all striving for higher learning, has the potential of creating a richer learning experience. But students gathering in this same environment also are well known for their wild behavior. The drinking parties, panty raids and other exploits linked to college life have been well described by sociologists as a “prolongation of infancy.” While traditional, is it necessary that students pay the cost of having this personal experience as part of their education?

Shifting from the university setting to home computer classes would be a solution to the rising cost of education, not only at the college level but it also might work well at a high school level. Going this route would cut the high cost of building and maintaining large and costly schools and reduce the education staff to a handful of specialists in various fields offering classes with the help of taped lectures, filled with colorful graphics, and text delivered as e-books purchased on line.

Teaching this way also may help refine the education process in America. It is clear that some of the experimentation in education that has been occurring in recent years is not working. Students are graduating from high school unable to perform such simple things as make proper change or spell correctly while sending messages on line.

Learning at home will take personal discipline. For high school students this kind of training will require the cooperation of parents or guardians to make sure the children are sticking to their classes and interacting with their instructors on line. Without parental help it may not work.

In the case of college students, we are dealing with young adults who have a lot to lose if they turn from the lessons. They will be more likely to finish the course once it has been started.

These are not wild ideas flowing from the mind of this writer. Educators in the United States have been seriously examining distance learning as an alternative system of education. They conclude that with contemporary technology, two primary types of computerized education are possible. They are identified as synchronous course and asynchronous courses.

Educators always like to use big words to make what they do sound much more complicated than it really is.

Synchronous distance learning involves an interaction between the teacher and the students, all in different places but at the same time. Thus the participating students must log in to their computer during a set time at least once a week. The training also involves group chats, web seminars, video conferencing and telephone call-ins. This might work well in high school settings because it tends to keep students disciplined. On the negative side, this type of learning requires students to follow scheduled times guidelines for study.

Asynchronous distance learning involves an interaction between the teacher and students in different places and qat times convenient to the students. The pupils are able to complete their work whenever they choose. This type of training relies on message boards, e-mail, pre-recorded video lectures, maps and traditional mail.