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Distance learning refers to a learning environment in which the instructor and

student are separated by physical distance. Although distance learning dates
back to the early 1800's with correspondence classes, it has evolved with the
development of new media, from print to radio, telephone, television, video,
satellite, computers, and, most recently, the Internet. The different technologies
are still being used depending on the content and learning objectives for the
course, and the users and their capabilities.
The most recent distance technology, the Internet, adds an interactive
component not possible with the other technologies - collaborative
communication over a prolonged period of time. Traditionally, distance
education has been primarily between the instructor and the student, and there
has been little or no opportunity for interaction among students. However, the
Internet changes this because it allows learners to communicate with each
other either through synchronous or asynchronous communication. Students
are able to read and respond to all correspondence, thereby learning from
each other as much as from the instructor. This changes the roles of the
instructor and the student, and the instructor becomes more of a facilitator of
learning and the student becomes more of an active participant in, and more in
control of, the learning process.
Synchronous versus
The aptitude to thrive in distance education is current in students who have the
abovementioned attributes. They must possess time management in order to complete
work in a
timely manner that does not obstruct other commitments. In order to be successful at
assignments, distance learners must be self-motivated so that they are able to work at
their own
pace and be a successful independent learner. If these characteristics are not being
assessed in
earning a degree, then learners must be capable of communicating their needs to the
supporting system that will support them in achieving success.

The online learning process is normally accelerated and requires

on the student's part. Staying up with the class and completing all
work on time
is vital. Once a student gets behind, it is almost impossible to catch up.

Basically, the student needs to want to be there, and needs to want

experience. The instructor may have to contact students personally to
assistance and remind the student of the need to keep up.
Just as many excellent instructors may not be effective online
facilitators, not all
students possess the necessary qualities to perform well online. In your
course, you may want to include reference links to resources and tips
for your
students to use to help them be more successful online learners.
Clearly outline
your expectations and the necessary characteristics of a successful
student so your students can understand if the online environment will
be a
productive learning environment for them. Provide a questionnaire for
prospective students to fill out to assess whether they are good
candidates for
online learning.
Online learning has its rewards for both students and instructors, as well as its challenges
as weve explored in this article. But with a sound strategy for learning, a strategy for
education that is specific to the online environment, students have the opportunity to be
successful online students and life-long learners. I very much like this quote that applies to
both students and instructors, learning is not a spectator sport.

The profile of the online learner population is changing from one that is
older, mostly employed, place bound, goal oriented, and intrinsically
motivated, to one that is diverse, dynamic, tentative, younger, and
responsive to rapid technological changes. This change in profile poses
considerable pedagogical challenges that can be addressed through a
better understanding of the emerging online learner. The emerging
online learner can be described as someone who has a strong academic
self-concept; is competent in the use of online learning technologies,

particularly communication and collaborative technologies;

understands, values, and engages in social interaction and collaborative
learning; possesses strong interpersonal and communication skills; and
is self-directed.
In order to support and promote these characteristics and skills more
effectively, the online course developer, instructor, or teacher should
focus on designing online learning environments that support
exploratory and dialogical learning. Exploratory and dialogical learning
environments engage learners in online learning activities that require
collaboration, communication, social interaction, reflection, evaluation,
and self-directed learning. As the characteristics and skills of the online
learner population continue to emerge across generations and future
technologies, more immersive pedagogical models will develop,
transforming the design of online learning environments.
Conclusion, Recommendations and Summary

Many studies have attempted to ascertain whether distance education differs

from traditional modes of instruction when referring to facilitating student
success. The majority of these studies reported no significant differences
between the distance and traditional modalities. Most important, the design
of such types of research (whether comparative or evaluative) clearly places
emphasis on the importance of the method of delivering instruction and is
consistent with the instructivist (instructor-centered) learning theory. The
research is inconsistent with the constructivist (learner-centered) theory,
which is more concerned with the role of the student in learning than with the
role of the instructor in teaching (Diaz, 2000).

Teaching online courses can be challenging, time consuming, and require

extensive preparation to ensure that things are done well and that students
get feedback within 24 hours of posting their responses. Distance leaning is a
viable alternative for lifelong learning opportunities, including informal
courses, professional development tutorials, and full degree programs. We
must be careful to perform in-depth evaluations and assessments of online
courses regarding ease of access, media attention or exaggerations, the role
and interest of the private sectors, and the major reason for increased

demand by both education and business, as well as the effectiveness of

online learning activities.

Instructional strategies are what really make a difference in how adults learn
online, not technology. Instructional methods should make learning
meaningful and interesting for adult learners. We must not compare
traditional institutions adopting part of their programs, either hybrid or
completely online, with other institution the general objectives of which are
business, profit, and then education. Faculties among traditional institutions
are well educated and have obvious qualifications. The faculties among profitcentered schools are less qualified but still holds qualify degrees. The
authenticity of such programs is questionable, along with the qualifications of
their faculty. In most cases, such programs limit the quality of the educational
system and, as a result, make the college degree less valuable and weaken

A colleague once remarked that anybody could have a college degree, given
enough money. College degrees are for sale. Since it is becoming a way of
making money, we no longer think of the quality of the education system but
of quantities to generate FTEs and revenue. We see people today who look
good on paper with impressive qualifications but who have no knowledge
base. We cannot allow those people to become teachers in the public school
or part of the educational system because they would not have anything to
offer their students.

A good manufacturer produces good products. We still need good standards,

good reputations, value, and a competitive spirit that would give students a
competitive edge in a global economy. Jennifer Mulrean (2005) asked an
important question: Who would hire an online grad? She offered important
advice for those seeking degrees online: Find out first how the online degree
will measure up against those earned at traditional brick-and-mortar
programs and determine whether it will allow the graduate through the door
of the human resources department. What is most interesting here is that a
survey by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) found, almost
70 percent of corporate supervisors rated the value of a distance degree as
just valuable or more valuable than resident school degrees in the same
field (p. 3).

The results of this study provide clear evidence for evaluation of the
objectives of distance learning education. The evaluation of such adult
learners is important to determine evidence that adults are acquiring
knowledge and to develop methods to analyze their needs and to appraise
solutions to fulfilling them.

Based on the results of this study, it is recommended that evaluation

involving evidence about behavior changes in adult learners be conducted
routinely for valid evidence of the desired behaviors in online adult learners.
Observations online will be useful to determine habits and certain operational
skills. Interviews may shed light on changes taking place in attitudes and
interests. Such interviews, in the form of questionnaires, will give evidence
about interests, attitudes, and behaviors related to distance-learning
Finally, students rate distance learning in various ways. They find it
problematic in the area of curriculum development and agreed that not all
courses are suitable for this mode. In most cases, students have been
deprived of critical educational experiences essential to real learning.
Students indicate some courses could be more time consuming than face-toface classes and they said they end up getting lectures with a reduction in
feedback and personal interaction among colleagues. Most students are not
suited to this type of learning, and some subjects are not taught as
effectively online as others. Many adult graduate students are attracted to
the convenience of distance learning in that it allows them to spend more
time with family and to avoid missing work to attend a traditional course.

More study is needed to verify the use of technology potential in developing

rigorous curriculum for students and attaining the original teaching goals.
Distance learning will not produced the same academic elite as the face-toface mode and would never replace traditional learning; as a result, we have
to be careful that we maintain the academic quality that helps students
remain competitive in global education and in a global economy. More data
need to be accumulated, and there is a definite need to develop strategies
for teaching in distance learning in order to teach effectively. Multiple modes
of delivery will facilitate teaching methods that build students inquiry and
problem-solving skills as well as their content knowledge in every subject.
Although technology is an integral part of distance education, any successful
program must focus primarily on the instructional needs of the students
rather than the technology.

6. Conclusion

The current study offers several implications for practice and research.
First, there is a need for
effective instructional design for online courses. The design should
focus not only on the technological
aspects of the course, but also on the goals, objectives, and
expectations for the learners. Continuing to
explore design models that are most effective for online learning will
also help facilitate this activity.
Second, there is a need to work with learners to assist them in the
development of time management
strategies. Online courses are dynamic on multiple levels: information
is received in a variety of formats
and at different times. When learners are accustomed to learning in
more static, real-time contexts, this
can create significant time management issues. Assisting learners in
establishing strategies for managing
their time may prove to be useful.
Finally, there is a need to work with learners to assist them with
establishing community or feelings of
connection in online contexts. Integrating strategies for community
building into the design of the course
may assist with this effort. Continued research related to community
building strategies in a variety of
contexts is also needed to enable the advancement of best practices in
the dynamic context of the Web.
The growth of the Internet and online learning will continue, and as
indicated in this study, it will
come with challenges. Individuals engaged in an online course may
have different qualities for a
successful online environment or elements that are challenging. Each
experience will be unique to the

individual. As educators and students become more comfortable and

adept at communicating and
learning at a distance, it will remain imperative that the best practices
associated with these learning
environments continue to be explored.

The responses of these successful online students highlight several techniques instructors can use to help
their students develop effective online learning skills. Most important is a student's ability to develop a timemanagement strategy to help manage course requirements as an independent learner.
Students who participated in this study agreed that online discussions with fellow students and the instructor
are central to the learning experience. Instructors can encourage students to develop techniques to make
the most of online discussions, which may add to a student's learning experience and promote success in
the online course. The instructor can also encourage students to apply concepts from the online course, or
as one student described it, "use it or lose it," to develop an ability to retain and synthesize course
The successful online students who participated in this study also agreed on the importance of developing
and asking thoughtful questions as a technique to engage both fellow students and the instructor. As one
student explained, this is a way to "go deeper into the subject" and that "going deeper makes the subject
matter more understandable."
Staying motivated in the class is a challenge for students studying independently. Students who develop a
personal motivation strategy find it a great asset to the online learning experience, one that can keep them
from losing interest or burning out.
Another technique the successful online students in this study agree on is the importance of making a
connection with fellow students. Students who develop a meaningful connection with their fellows can
receive and provide support. The online connections also promote a sense of being a learner among other
No magical formula guarantees success in online learning. One important step for instructors teaching an
online course is to recognize that a different set of student skills may be required for students to get good
grades (indicating that they have achieved the desired understanding of the subject) and to get the most
from an online course. The techniques identified by successful online students can promote a rich learning
experience for other students and provide a foundation for them to develop these skills. Instructors can help
them get there.