What are the needs of distance learning?

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Answered by: Kimberly, An Expert in the Distance Learning - General Category
Distance learning happens when a student is separated from the instructor or facilitator in space and time. Gottschalk (n. d.) explained “These types of programs can provide adults with a second chance at a college education, reach those disadvantaged by limited time, distance or physical disability, and update the knowledge base of workers at their places of employment” (Para. 1).



Distance learning cuts cost by saving time and resources and provides flexibility and convenience that many individuals enjoy. These factors are making many businesses utilize distance learning to train personnel, and colleges and universities deliver curriculum via distance learning. However, not everyone can excel at distance learning because each individual is different and possesses varied learning styles and technology preferences.

The four categories that Gottschalk divided the delivery of distance learning programs into are: voice (telephones, audio-conferencing, and shortwave radio), video (slides, film, and video), data (any computer related applications, computer-assisted instruction (CAI)), and print (textbooks, study guides, workbooks, course syllabi, and case studies) (Gottschalk, n. d.).



Even though distance learning started with print and voice, the data or computer related format has become the most favored or cost effective. However, any trainer, educator, or institution will need to determine the needs of the learners before selecting a method. Additionally, the delivery of the learning should consider the learning styles of the learners such as including audio as an option in most delivery to cater to the aural learners. Provide text and graphics for visual learners and simulations for kinesthetic learners.

Not all individuals can adapt to distance learning effectively as it requires discipline, proficiency in the use of technology, and adapting to individual style of learning. Adults may find distance learning beneficial as the father of adult education, Malcolm Knowles, diagnosed that adults have a need to know, are self-directed, possess a wealth of experience, are ready to learn, and are intrinsically motivated (Smith, 2002).

Intrinsic motivation is a key factor in any distance learning program because the learners are not picking up cues from the instructor and peers, hence deriving motivation by themselves (Gottschalk, n. d.). Even though an adult may possess the intrinsic motivation and have a personal need or payoff he or she may have challenges adapting to the many technologies.

However, the children and teenagers lack intrinsic motivation because most often they do not pay for it and they may not know why they need to study something. That is why it is imperative for trainers or parents to motivate the children and teenagers to perform well in distance learning. On the flip side of the coin, most children and teenagers are technology savvy, so they can balance the lack of motivation with the technology know how to make distance learning fruitful.

When designing any distance learning program it will be wise to consider the situation, needs, technology know hows, expected outcomes, and the learning styles of the learners.

References

Gottschalk, T. H. (n. d.). DISTANCE EDUCATION AT A GLANCE. University of Idaho Engineering Outreach. Retrieved from http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/eo/dist1.html

Smith, M. K. (2002). Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy. the encyclopedia of informal education, www.infed.org/thinkers/et-knowl.htm.

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