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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Essay on Distance Learning

There was a time when the Socratic Method of education was held in high esteem by those in the academic institutions.  This is the method used by Socrates which is described as a lively and meaningful exchange of ideas between the professor and his students.  There is not an act of “teaching” in the traditional sense since in this method the professor only helps the students give birth to knowledge.  It emphasizes that learning is not a one-way process wherein the teachers tell their students what to study and learn.  Rather, it is a two-way process of dialogue and discussion to encourage the students to think critically and creatively. 

The rapid advancement in the field of technology has resulted in changes in our society – one of them is in the field of education.  With the creation of virtual classroom, students and professors can now meet even if they are hundreds of miles apart.  This type of education is known as distance learning.  It is a type of instruction in which the student and the instructor are separated by physical distance.  (Henry O’Lawrence 1) It is the kind of education that utilizes technology as a medium of teaching and learning.  Because of the advantages of distance learning, such as lower costs and flexibility of time, we have seen a sudden influx of online educational institutions offering distance learning to students. 

James Barczcs’ position on this issue is that distance learning does not fulfill the true purpose of education.  I take a qualified view on this matter.  Distance learning does not necessarily defeat the purpose of education.  In some aspects, it offers unique advantages that are not available in traditional educational institutions.  In some level, it may in fact promote education. 

For elementary, high school and even college education, distance learning as a means to finish one subject or course will definitely defeat the true purpose of education.  In the student’s formative years until the time the student goes to college, the student needs to be supervised by his professors.  Supervision is necessary in order to develop discipline among students in terms of following a strict schedule of classes.   Supervision is also important as it seeks to develop or improve a person’s study habit, communication skills, critical thinking skills and ability to interact with fellow students.  The teacher must be able to personally observe and evaluate his students not only in terms of his academic skills but also his behavioral attitudes and personality for the purpose of determining the student’s strengths and weaknesses as a person and devise strategies to develop his strengths and improve his weaknesses.  When college students attend online classes they are deprived of the wonderful opportunity to interact with his classmates and to accomplish doing projects and activities as a team.  The professors do not also have the opportunity to determine whether they have learned or improved as a person.  Interaction, which is vital in a professor-student relationship is lacking in distance learning.

However, for graduate students taking their MBA or PhD degree distance learning education will truly fulfill the purpose of education on their part.   One reason is that these students no longer need direct supervision from their professors.  Being professionals themselves, their progress and development as students need not be monitored by their professors.  Provided that the entire program of their MBA or PhD degree is presented to them and the reading materials given to them beforehand, they can be left alone to finish their readings and accomplish their tasks.     

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