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The Future of Distance Education

Distance Education is a $7 billion dollar industry with over one million students.  In a study of chief academic officers, over 50% of respondents rated online learning as equal or better than their face to face counterparts.  From online communities and multimedia course content to virtual classrooms, distance education could one day be a key success factor in education.  Funding, institutional politics, and international access to technology will most likely inhibit immediate growth of distance education.  However, the continuing search for more efficient and affordable education will make distance education a major force in the education world.

The Future of Distance Education from OUR Perspectives:

  • Joanna DeMars

As a future science educator, I see the use of distance education in my secondary classroom as somewhat limited but carefully used. I think it is important to teach students how to use technology so they can be better equipped for the workforce that lies ahead of them. There are certain things that I see myself as an educator asking students to do that requires some of the same sorts of distance education concepts that college students may utilize. I think that having students put their homework or assignments online in some sort of dropbox for me may be helpful, as well as helping students to create wikis or websites about topics they learn about in class. In addition, I think it is useful to have students have discussions online or respond to questions I pose in class with each other over the internet. I do, however, seriously value face to face interactions in the secondary setting because there is so much more personalizing and motivating a teacher can do in that atmosphere. 

  • Jonna Gilbert

Distance education is an expanding technology that has many benefits for both students and teachers. I believe that the future of distance education does, however, lie mainly in the hands of the teacher. Depending on the classroom and the needs of the students, the teacher can decide on what specific facet of distance education would be most advantageous for the students. In my English classroom, I can see myself utilizing distance learning to make course material more available to students. For example, it is helpful to post assignments and presentations online so the students always have access to resources. When the students have papers to write, helpful links, model papers and useful tips can be uploaded for them to view at any time during the writing process. In having junior high age students, losing important papers is inevitable; therefore, having "paperless" guides can be extremely beneficial. I also think that this creates communication between the teacher and parents of students: the parents will always know what their children are doing in class. I believe distance learning is most helpful to, and used by, older students in higher levels of education, but introducing this technology to younger students prepares them for their future education.

  • Megan Silvey

Although I would be willing to teach using distance education if I was asked by an administrator, I don't see art as being a subject that will use this technology very often.  As a future art educator I feel like there are only a few subjects that might work with this type of learning.  Art history could obviously be taught using distance education because these classes typically use slide images of art as well as textbooks, articles, and lectures that could all be put online.  The main hinderance would be that students don't always have access to art supplies, especially expensive ones.  Teaching a ceramics, jewelry, metalsmithing, or sculpture class is not really realistic with distance technology because students can't afford kilns to fire clay for example.  There is also a safety concern as many tools and materials for art classes are very dangerous and should only be handled if you have experience and proper training.  I could envision possibly teaching a painting or drawing class via a virtual classroom or at least with video demonstrations.  These subjects require inexpensive materials compared to the previously mentioned classes and are generally less dangerous, but it would still be impossible for students to fully see how I manipulate tools as well as they would in person.  I hopefully plan on using some sort of online software for students to view class materials such as syllabi, handouts, assignments, lecture notes, and their own grades for each assignment.  I also plan on helping students create an online portfolio with pictures and reflections on their work throughout their time in art.  

  •  Elizabeth Fox

As a current student and a future educator I see the future of Distance Education as growing.  Many people are going back to school for either their first degree or a graduate degree.  Many of these people are already busy with families and full time employement and Distance Education provides them a flexibility that traditional classes do not.  I have taken many distance education courses in my studies and have found while I prefer the traditional classroom because it motivates me more. However, the flexibility of a distance education course is also really nice because I am so busy.  As a future educator I feel that using this technology in my elementary classroom could be very interesting if I found a teacher who was interested in doing video conferencing pen-pals in a different country or in a different state.  I've found that these projects are interesting as well as a way to incorporate learning about different cultures or learning our states in the classroom.  I will also probably use an interface such as talked about on the technology page to keep track of grades, assignments, and have a way to communicate these things to the parents of my students.  There are many ways that technology can be used in the classroom such as making podcasts about certain projects or writing a blog about what is going on in the classroom.  Future teachers may not use all aspects of distance education such as online classes but they will use technology and some of the aspects of distance education. 


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