The Evolution of Distance Learning
Edward F. Spodick
Hong Kong University of Science & Technology Library
Presented August, 1995 - links updated 31 January, 1996
Keywords: distance education, distance learning, computer networking,
- Introduction / What is Distance Education?
- Who Needs / Uses Distance Education
- Changing Needs / Roles of Providers
- Tools Available for Distance Education
- The Internet - Changes in Tools and Toolmaking
- Problems and Challenges Of Distance Education
- Appendix - Related Readings
While distance learning is far from new, recent years have seen an explosion
in the mechanisms and tools available for its implementation and support. Distance learning
has successfully integrated new communication technologies several times in the past:
previously, distance learning providers were faced with the choices of sending their staff
to the learner, shipping them increasing quantities of study and research materials, or
investing heavily in audio and video broadcast technologies. Broadcast capabilities
especially helped to revolutionize the scope and capability of distance learning programs -
but at a tremendous financial cost, and with a number of restrictions on the learner.
More recent advances in computer networking technologies showed great promise for distance
learning. Computer-based instruction programs could be rapidly revised and disseminated and
users were given more freedom of time and location for their studies. With the exponential
expansion of network access world-wide, coupled with the development of cross-platform
standardized tools for multi-media and hypertext access, complex distance learning programs
are able to reach farther and wider than ever before. In addition, more instructor-student
interaction and feedback can be incorporated into the program materials.
Protocols like the hypertext environment of the World-Wide Web and network-capable
videoconferencing using Cu-SeeMe herald the increasing availability and utility of
network-based learning. Coupled with the drastically reduced costs for both transmission
and delivery (compared to satellite transmission facilities and base stations) and the
increasing pervasiveness of globally-capable computer network connections, distance
learning has the potential for explosive growth and acceptance.
1. Introduction / What is Distance Education?
- last revised 5 March, 1996
- this page is maintained by Ed Spodick
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