Barriers/ Obstacles of Effective Distance Education
Barriers to effective distance education include obstacles such as domestic distractions and unreliable technology, as well as students’ program costs, adequate contact with teachers and support services, and a need for more experience.
Some students attempt to participate in distance education without proper training with the tools needed to be successful in the program. Students must be provided with training opportunities (if needed) on each tool that is used throughout the program. The lack of advanced technology skills can lead to an unsuccessful experience. Schools have a responsibility to adopt a proactive policy for managing technology barriers. Time management skills and self-discipline in distance education is just as important as complete knowledge of the software and tools being used for learning.
The results of a study of Washington state community college students showed that distance learning students tended to drop out more often than their traditional counterparts due to difficulties in language, time management, and study skills.
According to Dr. Pankaj Singh, director of Nims University, “distance learning benefits may outweigh the disadvantages for students in such a technology-driven society; however before indulging into use of educational technology a few more disadvantages should be considered.” He describes that over multiple years, “all of the obstacles have been overcome and the world environment for distance education continues to improve.” Dr. Pankaj Singh also claims there is a debate to distance education stating, due to a lack of direct face-to-face social interaction. However, as more people become used to personal and social interaction online (for example dating, chat rooms, shopping, or blogging), it is becoming easier for learners to both project themselves and socialize with others. This is an obstacle that has dissipated.”
Not all courses required to complete a degree may be offered online. Health care profession programs in particular, require some sort of patient interaction through field work before a student may graduate. Studies have also shown that students pursuing a medical professional graduate degree who are participating in distance education courses, favor face to face communication over professor-mediated chat rooms and/or independent studies. However, this is little correlation between student performance when comparing the previous different distance learning strategies.
There is a theoretical problem about the application of traditional teaching methods to online courses because online courses may have no upper size limit. Daniel Barwick noted that there is no evidence that large class size is always worse or that small class size is always better, although a negative link has been established between certain types of instruction in large classes and learning outcomes; he argued that higher education has not made a sufficient effort to experiment with a variety of instructional methods to determine whether large class size is always negatively correlated with a reduction in learning outcomes. Early proponents of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)s saw them as just the type of experiment that Barwick had pointed out was lacking in higher education, although Barwick himself has never advocated for MOOCs.
There may also be institutional challenges. Distance learning is new enough that it may be a challenge to gain support for these programs in a traditional brick-and-mortar academic learning environment. Furthermore, it may be more difficult for the instructor to organize and plan a distance learning program, especially since many are new programs and their organizational needs are different from a traditional learning program.
Additionally, though distance education offers industrial countries the opportunity to become globally informed, there are still negative sides to it. Hellman states that “These include its cost and capital intensiveness, time constraints and other pressures on instructors, the isolation of students from instructors and their peers, instructors’ enormous difficulty in adequately evaluating students they never meet face-to-face, and drop-out rates far higher than in classroom-based courses.”
A more complex challenge of distance education relates to cultural differences between student and teachers and among students. Distance programmes tend to be more diverse as they could go beyond the geographical borders of regions, countries, and continents, and cross the cultural borders that may exist with respect to race, gender, and religion. That requires a proper understanding and awareness of the norms, differences, preconceptions and potential conflicting issues.
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