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Role and Importance of Distance Education in the Present Scenario

By Dr. Smita Choudhary smitabrijendra@yahoo.co.in smitachoudhary24@gmail.com

Abstract
Distance education has provided handful of opportunities for working professionals, students and even housewives to achieve their dreams of pursuing higher education. Different people have different perceptions regarding distance education. Distance education was earlier perceived to be similar to correspondence education. But with their good experiences while pursuing higher education in distance education mode, students have now clearly understood the dividing line between distance education and correspondence learning. Distance education and its importance are clearly understood by people living in metropolitan cities. This can be gauged by the number of students pursuing distance education in metropolitan cities. But in small towns and cities there is less awareness regarding distance education. So in small towns and cities efforts have to be made to make people believe that a distance education degree is at par with a regular degree. People in small towns and cities still consider a regular degree superior to distance education degree. Distance learning has provided an excellent platform to students for learning at their own convenience and at their own pace. In this rapidly changing system of learning, if you are working and need a good degree as well as specialized knowledge to enhance your career then Distance Education can be your cup of tea.

Introduction
Importance of distance education lies in the

Vivekananda in this context are very relevant indeed. He said, Education is the manifestation of knowledge already within. He compared a child with a plant. To grow up properly a plant requires suitable atmosphere alike a child. But in our country most of the children are bereft of the desired suitable

importance of education in life. Education is immensely important for every individual for proper grooming and mushrooming. Words of Swamy

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environment. As a corollary, their growing is not impeded but hardly reached the coveted level. The desire of the individual remains mostly unfulfilled. Distance education provides the opportunity to exchange the cultural and regional heritage as persons from different cultural and language areas get admission together into various courses. Since, by and large the candidates join such courses at their matured stage; they exploit this opportunity positively to eliminate the wrong views towards the culture of others, which is an essential aim of modern curriculum of education. Distance education has proved to be a blessing for many aspirants seeking to upgrade their educational qualification for achieving higher education, career enhancement or just for the sake of updation of knowledge. While distance education has by and large benefitted working professionals but now students and even housewives are not far behind. Distance education gives immense satisfaction to students because they feel that they are able to study without having to compromise with their job or family life. Had the concept of distance education not come into existence, lakhs of students who wished to pursue higher education would have been rendered education less. This would have shattered their dreams of achieving education despite facing constraints like full time job, family life, financial limitations and many more.

So, in my opinion distance education is a concept worth getting a lot of importance today and even more in the coming future. The scope of distance education is very bright in the future.

Review of Literature
Background Distance education is also called distance learning, elearning or online learning. Unlike conventional classroom learning, it is not bounded by space and time. In fact, teachers and students are commonly separated by space and time, although they may choose to interact synchronously or meet periodically over the length of the course. Distance learning also needs to use technology. In the early days of distance education, radio and television were the media used to conduct educational activities. Currently, the methods have extended to the internet, email, software, video, tapes, cameras, etc. In comparison, instructors and students may choose to use technology in a conventional classroom teaching but is optional.

Besides fostering common educational practices in conventional classrooms, distance education is

portrayed as possessing more potential and thus more promise in promoting student interactions and enhancing learning outcomes by utilizing advanced computer technology. For example, Bruce et al. (2005)1 suggest the web has the ability to provide student interactions and multiple paths for learning.

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Learners can have greater control over information access, individualized pacing and timing and with more support in the inquiry process. Lebaron and Miller (2005) advocate the vast possibilities offered by effective online design: entry to a global range of resources, 24/7 interaction within a purposeful learning community, convenience of access, and opportunities for reflective dialogue.
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Researchers have long pointed out the importance of student interactions in the teaching and learning process. Vygotsky (1978)7 states collaborative learning is necessary in building ones own cognitive process. Among group members, if they cannot share their knowledge effectively, it can lead to poor learning outcomes (Soller, 2004)8. To test the difference of collaborative learning and individual learning, Ellis et al. (1994) compares the problem-

However, because of the limited opportunities for face-to-face interactions between an instructor and their students, distance education has brought many new challenges to the teaching and learning process. Wang and Newlin (2000)3 point out that little is known about the characteristics of students in distance education courses. As a result, effective curriculum design is hindered by the lack of understanding of the characteristics, attitudes, and needs of the students in these courses (Smith, 1997). At the same time, the faculty needs to develop skills in helping students adjust to the unique features of distance education. However, the lack of adequate training may prevent them from fully participating in the distance education practices (Galusha, 1998) , especially considering that they have to spend twice as much time in preparing and delivering an online course as compared to a traditional course (Willis, 1994) . With all of the challenges facing distance education, studies show that distance learning students desire content and motivational support beyond course materials and are limited in their success without it (Williams, 2006)6.
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solving results between fifth graders who worked with a partner and those who worked alone. The result shows that 75% of the paired students solved the problem with new mathematical rules while only 32% of the students working individually came up with a solution.

Benefits and Beneficiaries of Distance Education


Advantages of Distance Education Distance education is a mode of education that by and large occurs in a different location from teaching. It provides student with one more chance to gain college education. It can be helpful for those who suffer from constraints like limited time, distance or physical disability.

Distance mode of Education also helps to update the knowledge base of working professionals. So for the success of distance

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education, new techniques of course design, new techniques of instruction and fast and latest methods of communication are used. It also requires excellent managerial and

alternative method for people to improve their education without undergoing traditional

classroom learning. Nowadays, more adults are becoming

administrative planning. In this mode students are provided with study material. Even classes are organized almost on a regular basis although it is optional for students to attend these classes. The rapidly growing population is causing a scarcity of infrastructure,

interested to pursue higher education so that they can compete more effectively in the job market. In response to this growing interest in higher education among the adult segment, education providers are creating new courses using new technologies to meet the demand. Many distance learning online courses are developed to meet this increasing need.

financial, and personnel resources. Distance education comes out as a solution to these constraints and helps a large number of students to fulfill their educational dreams. But among the various methods of education this mode has the best chance to control our national education problem through of illiteracy. Getting is

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personalities who are eligible and well equipped of managing their resources. Thats why MBA education has gained popularity in recent years and in the past too in India and abroad as well. The global companies are also investing across the world. These companies have established large offices in different parts of the world no one can manage these offices better than MBAs who have some experience in their respective areas.

economical as compared to regular education and less time consuming as well. Distance Education mode opens the way to make use of latest technology for education. Students can decide their place and time of learning in this mode of education.

Distance Learning - What Are the Benefits of Distance Learning? Besides student segment, distance learning is also gaining popularity among adults who are eager to upgrade themselves for better career opportunities. Distance learning provides an

Distance learning has several benefits that are absent in classroom education. One of the benefits is that a learner can learn at his or her

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own pace. In classroom learning, the faster learners have to wait for the slower learners to catch up with the lesson before the teacher can move on to the next topic. They have to slow down their pace for the benefit of the slower learners. With distance learning, this huge problem can be solved very effectively. Moreover, in classroom learning, a learner has just one chance to learn a lesson. But, with distance learning, the learner can again play a portion of the audio tape or video, or read again the notes for a particular module as many number of times as he would like.

provides a great opportunity for people to acquire higher education for their career advancement. If you are interested in taking up a course to upgrade yourself, you can very well think of a distance learning course.

Who can be benefited from DE?


Distance learning can be highly beneficial to a large range of people which starts from students who want to increase their prospects to adults looking for more job security. Distance learning has programs that cater to the needs of learners of all ages to take courses for fun, personal advancement and degrees, In all distance learning can meet the needs of a diverse population. Perhaps one of the most prominent advantages of distance learning is the flexibility. The programs allow students to learn as per their convenience. For those who are not able to find a balance between their learning goals, full-time job and taking care of a family, distance education is the answer for them. It also helps in savings on the fuel costs and time required to commute to classes. Distance learning also provides job security and career advancement for professionals. With

Class room learning is very rigid in the sense that each lesson of the course is given an emphasis and amount of time that the teacher considers necessary. But in distance education, students have the flexibility to spend the amount of time they choose for each module. Distance learning provides any time -

anywhere access to education. There are no restrictions on their study time and location. Students can easily learn while keeping with their family and work life. They do not need to adjust their family and work commitments to attend fixed class schedules. It also helps in saving travel time and travel costs. They can spend the saved time and money on other areas.

unemployment on the rise and competitiveness for jobs high, having additional training and education can be an added advantage whether looking for a

We can conclude from the above that distance learning has lots of advantages. It

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new job or simply aiming for a promotion. The potential for salary increases with additional training that a distance learning program provides. Distance learning training can help you earn everything from simple certifications to a full MBA. Distance learning programs are generally very flexible and can be completed during free time. Students will be able to continue with their current jobs while working towards their ultimate professional goals, and some students may even be able to get reimbursed from their employers for their distance learning training.

Distance education is suitable for any student who is not able to attend on-campus programs for some or the other reasons and wishes to pursue their further studies.

This mode of education is highly suitable for economically weaker students, busy

professionals and housewives too who can pursue the distance education program for acquiring necessary skills at comparatively lower cost.

Many people choose this learning mode of study just because it provides high degree of flexibility and freedom. Some opt for these

Distance learning is a boon to those living in small or remote communities. With few local options for education, it can be very difficult to find schools that offer the programs and degrees you want with the professional faculties. Distance learning solves this

types of learning courses because they are working full-time and could not afford to lose their jobs. They are in such a situation that they need their income for their own as well as their family's expenses, and leaving their jobs would bring about financial problems. They have to find a way to make a fine balance between learning, family and job demands.

problem and allows students anywhere in the world to choose from a wide range of educational facilities.

Some people take up distance learning courses because they live far away from the place of education and attending classes is

Distance learning program provides most benefits to students who work well

independently and who are strongly motivated to succeed in their goals. As students are not in a classroom and will not be closely monitored by the instructor, reading, projects and other assignments must be completed in a timely fashion.

inconvenient. For some, this problem arises because the program they want to study is not offered by a nearby school and they have to choose a school far away from their residence. Some people find attending classes difficult due to their family commitments. These people may have elders or kids at home to

Why Distance education is Suitable?


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look after and are not able to attend classes. Distance learning is an excellent solution to their problem. Studying through distance learning can enable them to look after their family while they can continue with their study.

2. The study centres play a crucial role in the success of a distance education programme. The centre should be responsible enough to update students from time to time and give their best services to students. It is the quality of service that separates a good learning centre from the ones that are not so good. The centres should organize Personal Contact Programmes for students where individual attention is provided to each and every student. 3. Academic counselors are the pillars on which lie the success of any educational institution

Distance learning is also a solution for people who are keen to do a certain course but feel shy in joining a class. Hence, they choose to do distance learning courses because these courses do not require them to attend classes.

Essentials of Distance Education


1. Printed course material is the backbone of distance education. It must be prepared and compiled by excellent academicians. It should be updated from time to time and new matter should be included at regular intervals of time. The language should be as easy and simple as possible as students prefer easy language. The course contents should essentially be presented in the form of charts graphs and tables so that the students can understand the contents even without a guide. The printing mistakes in study material must especially be taken care of. The study material should be free from printing errors as far as possible. The learning material should be so comprehensive that the student need not refer to other books to understand the subject.

whether providing education in regular mode or distance mode. This is more so important in distance learning where students tend to skip classes. The Academic counselors should be knowledgeable, skilled and talented. This will boost the students confidence level, helps in their overall grooming and will to a great extent help in improving the results of examinations. 4. The study centres must have a library that provides access to latest management books and journals.

Conclusions
1. Quality of study material has to be improved from time to time. New statistics should replace old statistics.

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2. There should be frequent interaction with students so that they do not get out of touch. 3. The administrative queries of the students should be handled and solved very fast so that they remain satisfied. 4. There should be a deep focus on case studies as they help to gain practical knowledge and that is all that matters when it comes to professional life. 5. The focus should not just be on achieving the degree but subject knowledge is of utmost importance 6. The examination system should be very fair. There should be no malpractices so that the students can better concentrate on their study. 7. However a new welcome trend has emerged with the advancement of technology. Top most distance education institutions like SMU DE are using premium technology like EduNxt and setting up state-of-the-art technology. Thanks to programs like that concepts like elearning and virtual classrooms are gaining acceptability across the country. So Distance Education will no more be a poor cousin of Regular Campus. It will stand by regular campus with great pride.

References

Bruce, B., Dowd, H., Eastburn, D., & DArcy, C. (2005). Plants, pathogens, and people: Extending the classroom to the web. Teachers college record, 107, 8, 1730-1753.
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Lebaron, J., & Miller, D. (2005). The potential of jigsaw role playing to promote the social construction of knowledge in an online graduate education course. Teachers college record, 107, 8, 1652-1674.
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Wang, A. & Newlin, M. (2000). Characteristics of students who enroll and succeed in psychology webbased classes. Journal of educational psychology, 92,1, 137-143.
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Galusha, J. (1998). Barriers to learning in distance education. Retrieved September 20th., 2006, from http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/ERIC/bibs/disted.htm
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Willis, B. (1994). Distance education: Strategies and tools. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology.
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Williams, P. (2006). On-demand tutoring in distance education: Intrinsically-motivated, scalable interpersonal interaction to improve achievement, completion, and satisfaction. Dissertation abstracts international section A: Humanities and social sciences, 66, 11-A, 3933.
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Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA.
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Soller, A. (2004). Understanding knowledge-sharing breakdowns: a meeting of the quantitative and qualitative minds. Journal of computer assisted learning, 20, 212-223.

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