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Distance Learning

Distance Learning

At the present stage of social development various sectors of human society are oriented on the main object of labor – information. This is reflected in the emergence of new concepts such as “national information resources”, “new Information technologies”, “distance learning” etc. In fact, the term “computerized learning” can be interpreted from different perspectives. In a broad sense, this is a current trend of development of specific didactics and teaching methods.

Distance learning experts on strategic issues of education called it the educational system of the 21st century. It plays a crucial role in a society today. The relevance of the topic of distance learning is that the results of a social progress previously concentrated in the technology sector today are concentrated in the information sphere. We live in the era of computing. This stage of development can be characterized as telecommunication era. This is the area of communication, information and knowledge. Based on the fact that the professional knowledge is aging very quickly, there should be a continuous improvement. Distance learning provides an opportunity to create a continuous learning system for masses and the universal exchange of information, regardless of the temporal and spatial zones. In addition, distance education system gives equal opportunities to all people regardless of their social status (pupils, students, the civil and military, the unemployed, etc.) in all areas of any country to realize a human right to education and information reception. This system can most adequately and flexibly respond to the needs of a society and ensure the implementation of a constitutional right to education of every citizen. Based on the above factors, we can conclude that distance learning will become the most effective system of training and continuous maintenance of high qualification level of specialists of the 21st century.

In recent years the problem of distance education receives a lot of attention from the point of pedagogical literature. In the characterization&nbs;of primary sources a scientific approach is indicated (the use of terminology, disclosure, loss, and rationale for guidelines, conciseness and consistency of presentation). However, there is some discrepancy between the authors of publications in different years on various issues.

In fact, distance learning is a new, specific form of training, with several distinctions from the usual forms of full-time learning. Supposedly, it involves different tools, methods and organizational forms of education, various forms of interaction between teachers and students, and students with one another. However, like any form of education and any education system, it has the same component structure: goals, content, practices, organization, all forms and means of instruction. Therefore, Stefanie B. Waschull (2001) from Athens Technical College in her article “Predicting Success of Online Psychology Courses: Self-Discipline and Motivation” explores differences between online education, distance learning and traditional courses. In fact, Stefanie Waschull (2001) proved that there are inconsistencies among some researches’ views. For instance, her research contradicts with the study of Schrum and Hong (2002) who proposed seven characteristics according to which a student may become successful in online training.

Stefanie B. Waschull conducted her online research among students of online psychology courses. The participants varied in age, race and social positions. Therefore, a large scale of students was covered. Taking into account that this questionnaire was voluntary, the figure of 66% is a substantial amount for those who took part. Measure of research estimation referred mainly to grades: the author stressed that grading is a direct representation of student’s achievements throughout a course. Thus, the research had four measures all connected with grading: points for test, assignments, final test and main average score for a course. The questionnaire was aimed at seven characteristics offered by Schruum and Hong (2002) with a prolongation: each point was supported by three-four details to choose. However, it turned out that only one out of seven characteristics played an important role in achieving success by students. Namely, students stressed on the importance of motivation/self-discipline in successful online education. Therefore, other six points did not present any value for those who take part in online trainings.

The main conclusion implies that there are no significant differences between a traditional form of training and online courses due to the fact that both imply the same activities and aims. What is more, it was proved that the success of a student in covering some material using an online course does not depend on technology accessibility. Only self-discipline plays an important role. Therefore, seven characteristics offered by Schrum and Hong (2002) are inconsistent with a present situation which proves that a successful student needs to be motivated. Finally, this research shows that students receive a great variety of different courses with different activities. Thus, since every person is unique, he/she may adjust any course to his/her requirements and possibilities.

This research revealed one burning issue: due to the growing demand, educational institutions may become student mass-oriented, thus, the quality of education may suffer since mass production will neglect the development of materials. What is more, such courses are directly subject oriented. In other words, this implies that little attention is paid to the general development of a specialist.

In conclusion, two weaknesses can be solved by using different approaches. Namely, there should be a strong quantity measurement of courses. Teachers should fairly estimate their possibilities. Thus, the amount of students should be adjusted in such a way that nobody will  remain without attention. Even though online education has little personal contact (teacher-student communication), it should never be abandoned. Furthermore, despite a specialty orientation, different courses should interact with general knowledge skills since every person needs different skills in becoming successful in life.

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