Defining Distance Learning
Distance education is a method of education in which the learner is physically separate from the teacher (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).
For me as an Icelander, distance education has always been a reality. Rural locations of small towns and farms are a fact and people have had to go a long way to have access to education. I remember my grandmother talking about how it was when she was growing up. They would get the teacher to visit their farmhouse during the winter months for a few days at a time and during that time they would get assignments to finish before the teacher would visit again. In a sense maybe not a distance education as we know it today but if we classify it by the words written at the beginning of this post it fits the description as in this case the students were learning separated from the teacher. But since my grandmother was a little girl, living in rural part of Iceland, almost hundred years have passed. Now, in 2013, we have a bit more sophisticated ways of distance education with computers and the Internet playing the lead role.
Technology has evolved over the past decades, pushing distance education from simple correspondence schools to fully fledged universities offering degrees of various levels. At the same time we evolve as human beings, technology has changed and major advancements and breakthroughs been made in the past 30 years, allowing distance education to become what it is today.
I remember my mother taking an english course with the aid of a cassette tape, long before the computer and the internet became public properties. In 1998 I was enrolled in my first online course with computer giant IBM and in 2007 I experienced my first distance education class at a university. All very different but aiming at the same goal – to educate. As distance education has evolved throughout the last 30 years, so has my opinion of it. Now I find distance education is the answer to all my prayers. As an adult with a job, family and commitments – the option to go on to university as a full time student is not a possibility – and the answer is distance education. Now after one year as a Walden student my opinion of distance education has evolved yet again and now I see the possibilities and the freedom that lie in distance education. Now people will be learning on the go. The internet is everywhere and technological advancements continue to happen, making it possible to move distance education into virtual and real-time (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: foundations of distance education. Boston, MA, USA: Pearson.