Distance Education is the only way to provide for the world(TM)

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Since 1924, when the BBC first introduced its schools broadcasting service, there have been numerous radio-led, basic education projects all over the world (Jamison and McAnany 1978, Young et al. 1991, Kaye and Harry 1982, Mayo 1999). Research shows that the Interactive Radio Instruction was first developed in Nicaragua in 1974. It was soon adopted by the worlds growing population and is now used in over 20 countries. It was initially designed to teach learners directly using highly structured lessons to engage them in learning activities.

Countries with open schools programmes such as Indonesia make very good use of radio through weekly broadcast. Today, radio as a means of audio technology tool has emerged and we can see where even the more developed countries are using them to teach subjects like mathematics. However, Radio in its truest form as a distance learning tool is experiencing a slow but sure death. Out of all the distance learning technologies, audio/voice technologies are the simplest and most inexpensive form of distance learning technology. For example, we can use telephone with a voicemail facility as a distance learning tool.

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Audio-conference can be considered as a complex tool. Below are discussed some of audio technologies that are used in distance learning programs: Voicemail is the simplest and easily available facility to anyone enrolled in distance learning courses. It requires no additional training on the part of student to use it. As normal people for day-to-day work use voicemail, in the same way students and instructors can use it. Students can leave a message to their instructor at any time. Instructors can leave any message or answer to any student’s query on voicemail.

It is the best replacement for electronic mails for those students who don’t have access to Internet. This technology is not used as a primary tool to deliver distance learning contents, but is used as a secondary tool in a course. There are some pros and cons of voicemail usage. Main advantages of voicemail are that it is easily available to anyone and is easily accessible. There are no usage timings of voicemail. Some disadvantages of voicemail are that you have to pay some charges to use this feature and a long message can’t be recorded at one time but these are minimal when measured against the benefits this tool provides.

Another inexpensive audio-based tool used in distance learning programs is audiotapes (cassettes). Whole lectures, discussions, or any type of instruction can be recorded in a cassette and send to the remote student. This type of mode is mostly used in language courses or listening courses. One of the various advantages of using audiotapes for the delivery of distance learning courses is that they are very cheap. Then, almost everybody has access to a cassette player somewhere, maybe at home or at office. At the top, they are very easy to create and use.

Instructors don’t need to record the same thing many times for different students; copies of a cassette can be easily made. On the other hand, disadvantages of using tapes are also there. These are one-way communication tools. Students can’t clear their doubts at the same time while they listen to them. Sometimes, a little disturbance gets recorded with the original content. Nowadays audiotapes are rarely used. They are replaced by CDs. Audio conference Audio conference is the best audio-based technology used in distance learning programmes.

Telephone is used to deliver instructions to students either to an individual student or to group of students using conference call. Speakerphones are used when instructor talks with more than one student. But there are some disadvantages with using speakerphones. Speakerphone provides only simplex communication, i. e. two persons can’t speak at the same time. One has to wait for other to finish his or her talk. But these days with the advancement of technology, the waiting time in speakerphones is reduced to an extent that it appears to be a duplex communication.

In a normal telephone line, only three locations can join a conference call. To connect more than three locations together in a conference call, a telephone bridge is used. A telephone bridge is an electronic unit that can link many telephone lines together. The telephone bridges also balance audio levels. The bridge is of two types. First is call in bridge. A number is provided to all the students and students call to that number from their respective telephones. Other type of bridge is call out bridge. An operator from the university calls every student and connects each student to the conference.

The main advantages of audio conferences are that they are relatively easy to set up and conduct. Students can talk to each other and to their professor at the same time like a real time class system. Disadvantages of using audio conferences are they don’t provide any type of visual content. They are not used for a long time talk, as students may feel bored using this system for a long time. Video technologies enable the students to not only hear but also see their instructor. They provide the visual content of the instructions by the instructor.

The communication using video technology can be either one-way or two-way depending on the type of mode used. For example, videotapes are one-way communication mode and videoconferencing is two-way communication mode. The most used video technologies are discussed below: Videotapes are very common in distance learning programmes. Instructor can record the instructional material in videotape and send to distant students to their respective places. Demonstration of any idea or concept can be shown to students using videotapes. The main advantages of videotapes are as follows:

They are not very expensive.  They are easily available and almost every student can afford to buy a video cassette player.  It is very easy to record anything on videotapes. Disadvantages of videotapes are listed below: They are not interactive.  It is not cheap and fast to send videotapes to students living in far remote places. Whilst citing the pro and cons it noteworthy to mention that these disadvantages are minute when measured in the drive to achieve the EFA target by 2015. Not that this is the only means but by large a measurable and achievable method in the drive towards the target.

Satellite Videoconferencing Satellite videoconferencing is one-way video and two-way audio communication. Satellites are used for this type of conferencing. The school has to setup an uplink transmission system to send audio and video signals. On the other side, a downlink system is required to receive the signals. These systems normally consist of a dish antenna. A telephone bridge is used to establish two-way audio communication. These systems are quite expensive and can’t be used by individual students. Satellite videoconferencing is normally used between two or more schools.

One school provides the distance learning courses and other schools provide classroom facilities for their students for these courses. The main advantage of satellite videoconferencing system is that students can interact with their instructor. The disadvantage of using this system is that it is very expensive for most of the schools. Television Conferencing Microwave transmissions are used in short-range areas. Communication is possible in the range of 15 to 21 miles. This system can be used to transmit video signals. Federal Communications Commission designates a particular frequency for the use of microwave conferencing.

Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS) stations are used for this type of communication. The advantage of television conferencing over satellite conferencing is that the equipment used in this system is not expensive. But the major disadvantage of this system is that video signals can be transmitted to the areas in the range of around 20 miles. Also there are limited numbers of channels that are available for use and almost all of them are currently in use. Cable and Broadcast Television There has been some criticism over the use of this tool in distance learning as in the case below:

The overall impression is that the use of television can be expensive and that it contributes little (and in some cases nothing) to student achievement. Television often arouses strong opposition on the part of teachers and sometimes resistance on the part of students. There is a striking lack of success in upgrading television use from an experimental phase to a permanent of national education. (Anzalone 1987;39, cited in Mayo 1990:288) In in-schools programmes there is normally contact with cable broadcast companies. A lecture on a topic is broadcasted on cable TV and can be watched at a fixed time.

Normally, students make a recording of the lecture and watch at later time. The drawbacks of using this type of technology for distance learning programs are that this system requires setting up of a channel and broadcasting studio that is very costly. Another thing is that it is not interactive. I am not sure I am in total support of this tool but nevertheless it can be used to an extent. Video conferencing Desktop videoconferencing requires a computer along with a web camera and a microphone at each site. Computers are normally connected to each other by LAN or MAN. For faster connections, ISDN may be used.

A computer from one site can transmit audio and video signals to other sites. Desktop videoconferencing is an example of two-way video and audio communications. A videoconferencing board must be installed at each computer to compress and decompress the audio and video signals. Having an advantage of being less expensive, Desktop videoconferencing system has few limitations. The normal video transmission rate is around 15 frames per second as compared to normal 25 frames per second rate making the video looking slower. Then slower connections between computers can distort the video and audio signal resulting in loss of video quality.

I had the opportunity to use this programme when participating in a cross curricular mathematics and art video conference whilst working in a London based school. I believe that this would be costly for some lesser developed countries. However, in our drive to achieve our target by 2015 I believe that more developed countries could sponsor the lesser developed ones and use this to aid in fostering education through interactive communication. Print Material Earlier when distance learning programs started, print material was used to deliver course contents.

Instructions by instructions in the printed format were sent to students using ordinary mail system and students used to reply via same postal method. We have seen a great technological development; even then print technology is widely used to deliver course contents today. For some distance learning programs, print material may be the primary mode of providing course material to students, but for others, it may be the supplemental. As a primary mode, textbooks or printed lecture notes can be sent to students for study. Project ACESSO is a worker basic education training project that was formed in the 1970 to improve worker effectiveness.

It is funded by a Brazilian state- owned Oil Company. The company relies on locally recruited labour, many of whom have received poor quality formal education. As a means of improving workers effectiveness the company instigated print-led distance education vocational training programmes, which included basic education at primary and secondary level (Oliveira 1988). When print material is used as a supplement to other type of primary technologies, then it is normally used to provide study manuals of other complex technologies. This supplemental print material can be either send by a regular mail or by fax.

Advantages of print materials include high portability, comfortableness, cost-effectiveness, and easily availably. Some of its disadvantages include lack of interaction, lack of audio or video concepts, and postal delays. Conclusion Whether or not Distance learning can be considered successful and worth the investment will largely depend on the values and goals of the various counties and their education provisions. For example, if a country’s focus is on revenue generation or saving money, some distant learning tools may not be a good choice, since a large number of distance learning programs are not and cannot be cost recoverable.

They may though be more cost-effective, in terms of learning outcomes for the same pound spent. Closer scrutiny will lead us to see that in order for a distance learning programme to be successful, benefits and limitations to the countries educational focus and to the student should be appropriately balanced. It is important not only to focus on the costs of developing and delivering a distance learning program, but also to focus on potential performance and value added benefits to both the institution and more importantly to the student in order to achieve Education for All globally by 2015.

Bibliography Anazalone, S. (ed. ) (1995a) Multichannel Learning: Connecting All to Edcation, Washington, DC: Education Development Center. DFID (1999) Learning Opportunities for All: A Policy Framework for Education, London: Department for International Development. Jamison, D. and McAnany, E. (1978) Radio for Education and Development, London: Sage. Kaye, A. and Harry, K. (eds) (1982) Using the Media for Adult Basic Education, London: Croom Helm. Mayo, J. (1990) ‘Unmet challenges:

Educational broadcasting in the third world’, in D. Chapman and C. Carrier (eds) Improving Educational Quality, New York: Greenwood Press. Oliveira, J.(1988) Project ACESSO: An Application of Distance Learning for Professional Training, Washington, DC: Economic Development Institute of the World Bank. Perraton, H. (2000) Open and Distance Learning in the Developing world, London:

Routledge. Yates, C. and Bradley, J. (2000) Review of Open and Distance Learning Research in Primary and Adult Basic Education, Cambridge: International Research Foundation for Open Learning. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Teaching section.


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