Distance learning is a form of education which has been created with the aim of delivering education among those students who are not able to attend regular school due to various reasons. It can also be defined as an education system to create as well as offer access to learning in a situation where the source of education and learner are away from each other because of time and distance. In brief, we can say that distance learning is an ideal way to offer education of equal quality to meet the educational requirement of a learner outside the classroom. This method of education is being adopted by a huge number of universities and institutes around the world.
If the status of distance learning is considered then we will find that though it is not as such very old phenomenon here but there is no doubt to the fact that it has been accepted wholeheartedly here and a great number of students in India are getting themselves enrolled for numerous course via distance learning. Roughly, we can count about 11 universities and about 54 institutions which are offering distance learning programs and the number is still on increase.
Types of Technologies Used in Distance Education
One of the best ways to categorize the different types of distance education is by deciding whether the teacher and learner are present at the same time irrespective of the distance of time and place. In other words, when teaching and learning take place simultaneously, then this situation is termed as a "synchronous" which means ‘at the same time".
On the other hand, when the teacher and learner participate as per convenience of his time, then it is termed as an "asynchronous’ situation which as the situation indicates means "not at the same time".
The term "hybrid course" is often used in distance learning programs. Actually, this term is the blend of both "synchronous" and "asynchronous" which means that it includes distance learning and face to face meeting as well. This situation is organized in a way that the teacher offers certain hours to his disciple where the latter is available at the same time by different means such as email, instant messages, telephone or video calling.
Different Technologies Used in Synchronous Situation
Interactive Television: This method is often offered by the teacher and the student can join some nearest facility and be a part of a group using television as a means of connecting them.
Web Conferencing: Here the learners make use of computers with web cam and microphone attached. In this technology, the teacher and the learner are not only able to see and talk with each other but they can also share documents as well. A good range of proprietary systems make it successful means of studying like Blackboard, WebCT, Adobe Connect and OnSync.
Video Chat: It can be said as a shrink version of Web conferencing as it has fewer features available compared to the former.
Different Technologies Used in Asynchronous Situation
In this situation, the teacher prepares his own time and the students take part in time when the time is suited to them. However, at times one has to be there within a specified time frame. This objective is achieved by using various means such as:
There are certain online learning platforms like Ed2go where students are required to complete the work told and at times they have to perform self-assessment too. The teachers can be available via Ed2go but it is not so via all systems.
Correspondence Courses: This method is in use before the other methods of distance education appeared in India. These courses can be done using email or Fax and also the postal service. But the idea remains same here too which is the work is completed by the student and sent to the teacher for assessment.
Types of Distance Education Courses
Internet conducted course which is based on one’s choice for "synchronous’, "asynchronous’ or "Hybrid"
Broadcast Course: Here television or radio is used as means. Usually television programs are included into curriculum other than educational program which take place when the teacher and student are present face to face. For example: taped demo of the content etc. students are helped by the teachers and the project report are sent to the teachers.
Courses Based on Internet: These types of courses are evolved in the internet environment using various means such as e-books, e-mail chats, asynchronous forums or mailing lists to name few. Moreover, the internet based courses can be easily blended with other distance learning courses mentioned above.
Thus, we can conclude the distance learning courses in the under mentioned basic forms:
- Author's Course in Varying Topics
- Postgraduate Programs as well as Varying Staff Evolvement Programs
- University Course for Campus Students
- University Course meant for the students at the secondary and high school level
- Course in Specialized Fields
- Business Oriented Courses
The Most Eligible Students for Distance Education
Learners in different situations can take advantage of distance learning. Some for these situations include:
- People who find it hard to leave home due to various reasons can be benefitted from distance education. It allows them to get the degree even in their confinement.
- Workers for those it is not possible to attend the local class which is scheduled for a fix time. By distance learning, they can arrange their timings are per their convenience.
- Home schoolers who though are enrolled in a school but who wish to increase their local opportunities by option for educational classes by taking the help of distance education.
- Distance learning is best for would-be students. It means students who live away from an institution offering t he course of their choice or in other words, the course/program they are willing to take is not offered by college or institution near their home.
- Even prisoners might be able to access to studies using different types of distance learning programs.
- Students who are not able to attend physical schools because of huge expense will also find it cheaper way to get their degree in distance learning.
- There are students who remain in search of just refresher on a specific subject but not complete course.
Reasons to Opt for Distance Education
Almost all students around the world are well-aware of the huge benefits of getting their studies done via distance learning. Some of the prominent benefits of distance learning include:
Study is Not Restricted by Time and Place: Distance learning allows you to study wherever you wish. As we all know, internet is the basic need of today’s education and it is an integral part of distance learning. So, if you have got internet connection then it means that the entire world is your classroom and your education objectives are no more restricted in geographical boundaries. You can study from your home or even office to as per your choice.
No Time Restrictions: Similar to eddy where you wish, you can also study at any time whenever you find it convenient. Due to asynchronous learning, you can make use of your computers at any time of the day and have access to your study material that is in the form of videotaped lectures, research materials, chat rooms etc. it must not be amusing if you are able to get your Masters or even PhDs done via distance learning programs.
Customization of College Degree as Per One’s Specific Needs: No doubt, education is very important but there are a huge number of students who have to juggle with other commitments too. Students who are working to meet these commitments such as caring for others or traveling frequently find it hard or almost impossible to join some local school or college with scheduled time. In addition to this, those who like to learn independently also find distance learning appealing.
Someone-else can pay on Your Behalf: Distance learning programs get more attractive when many employers are ready to pat a certain part or even all of their tuition fees. In this situation which better be termed as win-win situation, on one side employers are able to hire employees with increased knowledge or skill and employees are able to get higher degree without spending with a meager amount or no money at all and also are not required to reduce their working hours.
Getting Degree Faster: Generally, it is possible to obtain degree faster in online course or programs compared to campus counterparts. It is due to the fact that online classes are often take place hurriedly and thus enabling one to finish their classes in less time. Also, if you have transferable credits in your favor from some other institution, you can easily make your course completion time via distance learning even lesser. Obviously, the faster you will have your degree in your hand; the chances will be more to grab a job or salary of your choice.
Allow you to Build New Skills: It is certain that you get your degree via distance learning program; you must have to build certain skills which are needed to meet the requirements of distance learning programs. You are supposed to have a great deal of motivation, responsibility and making best of your time available. So, you get the skills like self-discipline and the ability to learn on your own and these skills thereafter transfer to your work place. In case, your course work is too be submitted through computers, then it will also result in your improved writing skills.
Courses Offered in Distance Education in India
The universities offering distance learning in India is administered by the Distance Education Council of India (DEC). This organization is based in the capital.
The distance learning course offered in India can be divided under the number of disciplines such as Arts, Science and Commerce. Both undergraduates and post graduates can be pursued via distance learning programs in India in addition to numerous diploma courses.
List of Undergraduate course which have been included in distance learning programs in India include:
- Bachelor of Arts (English, History, Psychology, Hindi, Sanskrit and Sociology)
- Bachelor of Commerce
- Bachelor of Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Zoology and Economics)
- Bachelor of Library
- Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.)
- Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)
In addition to these courses, students can also get Advanced Diploma, Diploma, Post Graduate Diploma and Certificate Courses at a number of institutes offering the option of distance learning in Indian States.
Indian States Offering Distance Education Programs/Course
Some of the prominent Indian states which offer distance learning comprise New Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat just to name few. In real, often it is open universities that provide distance learning programs/courses. In addition to open universities in the country, there are other leading state universities which offer distance learning course. Some of these universities comprise University of Delhi, University of Mumbai, Punjab University and Hyderabad University. Other universities also have separate department for distance education in Indian states.
In upshot, it can be said that the trend of getting higher education or degrees is on increase day by day and it is expected to keep on going in future too with much more option available to the learners with more advanced technologies included in it. It is also crystal clear that distance learning is not an option of getting education for those only who cannot afford physical schools or campuses but it is equally famous among urban people too. It is due to the fact that distance learning offers them various opportunities to polish their skills and get higher degrees needed to move on to the higher designations. They can move on to the higher post without leaving their current job and are able to carry on their studies without quitting their jobs. In addition to this, most of the course or programs available in distance learning are related to current industry, so these courses prove highly beneficial with simple method of taking admissions into these courses no matter where you are.