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Distance Education connects learners with technology despite distance

Universities and colleges confront the problem of giving better education to students with shrinking budgets. Many universities and colleges are beginning to solve that problem with a program called Distance Education.

AT&T uses this simple definition: Distance Learning is a directed system or a process connecting learners with remote resources. Distance learning can be the primary or supplemental means of learning. The only catch is that Broadband Internet is required; not just any access to the Internet will work for Distance Education.

The defining elements of Distance Education are: 1. The separation of teacher and learner during at least a majority of each instructional process. 2. The use of educational media to unite teacher and learner and carry course content. 3. The provision of two-way communication between teacher, tutor, or educational agency. 4. Separation of teacher and learner in space and/or time. 5. Volitional control of learning by student rather than distance instructor.

Distance Education has grown so rapidly the U.S. Department of Education devoted a small branch of their work force to research it further.

“Within the last several years Distance Education has grown a lot,” Kay Gilcher, project leader of Distance Education and data reporting, of the U.S. Department of Education, said, “particularly the online courses. The Department of Education was asked by congress to conduct a demonstration program to determine if some of the regulations governing student financial aide which currently restricts the amount of students able to take Distance Education should be changed or modified.”

What makes enrollments so high is the wide range of choices from print to the Internet. According to the Department of Education, almost 85 percent of enrollments are women and half of the enrollments are 35 or older. Distance Education allows adults who work to go back and get a college education, and Distance Education also allows stay at home moms to get their college education without ever leaving their homes.

“There are approximately 3,500 higher education systems (colleges or universities), half of which offer Distance Education,” Gilcher said. “We (Department of Education) expect rapid growth in enrollment of Distance Education. The enrollment increases about a third every three years. Enrollments are estimated to be well over two million at this present time.”

While Distance Education sounds great to men and women past the college-age, many high school students prefer the in classroom college choice to Distance Education.

“Distance Education sounds really interesting and helpful to some,” Dana Richardson, ’02, said. “but it’s not really for me. I would rather just go to the class in person.”

Many juniors and seniors exploring their options for college have come across Distance Education. However many of the students who know about Distance Education plan on using Distance Education for a back up plan only.

“It’s nice to have the Distance Education as an option,” Josh Justin, ’03, said. “I am really glad that I heard about it.”

As the time grows nearer for juniors and seniors to make decisions about college many consider Distance Education as an option. Although many upper classmen know about Distance Education very few freshmen know about the advantages and it’s resources.

“I have no idea what Distance Education is,” Douglas DenHartog, ’05, said. Superintendent Tim Wilkins hopes to make Distance Education more widely known to campus students, and also to advance the technology on campus even further in years to come.

“We are going to see radical changes in the way education is delivered to students,” Wilkins said. “Distance Learning is going to play a large part in that change. Fresno Christian will be right on the cutting edge when the timing is right for our school, but timing is the key.”

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