Archive | June, 2015

Distance Education: Creates Demand and Supply

11 Jun

Historical Development of Distance Education

Distance Education has been operated by technologies from the ancient times up to the present.  As what had been narrated from the stories in the Holy Bible, pharaohs, the ruling leaders of certain kingdom or empire, were sending their orders, letters and information to leaders of another kingdom or empire through trusted messenger.  The messenger carried the readily rolled documents and handed it directly to the ruling pharaohs or leaders of the other kingdom or empire.  The said message was very important to protect their own territories against invaders.

When postal services were available in most countries, the correspondence schools had been rampant.  Learners, regardless of age, sex and socio-economic status, tried to avail distance education through correspondence courses.  During those years, print media had been a great tool for the success of correspondence school.  Teachers of the correspondence school were sending course modules to the distant learners.  The learners read the learning materials.  Then, they answered the set of questions that had been asked and sent it back to the teachers in charge for checking, evaluation and assessment.

Demand creates its own supply

The given scenarios above clearly figure out the theory that demand creates its own supply.  The first scenario suggests that there was a need for pharaohs to send messages to the friendly allies as well as there was a need for leaders from the other kingdom to receive such warning messages or reminders for them to prepare their combat men and own people in case of troubles or big fights.  The second scenario suggests that people learn to go with informal education without face-to-face interactions such as correspondence course due to various reasons. For them, taking up correspondence courses through postal services was cost-effectively without leaving their present job.  Certified graduates of correspondence courses may be get instant job promotion due to learning skills acquired during their distant studies. When people got promoted into a new job position, they tend to receive higher salaries and good compensation in return which may support or sustain their family needs or their own personal needs.

Distance Education had been evolved as years passed by.  After the success of print media, broadcast media followed through the use of radio programs and T.V. programs.  The ‘talk’ programs in the radio developed awareness to the listening public in all fields of study.  The people need information medically on how to cure and prevent illnesses.  They learn ‘what to do’ in agricultural and economic practices, business enterprise, family and legal matters.  People who are watching educational T.V. programs also learn various things.  They learn ‘how to do’ things due to live demonstration on T.V. of methods and procedures needed for a particular product or process.

Upon the successful invention of the computer technologies such as hardware and software, the Distance Education promoters and advocates designed learning programs through audio tapes and video tapes.  They were sending audio tapes and video tapes to learners in remote places as supplement learning materials of the printed course modules. The cassette tape, Betamax, VHS, CD, VCD, LD and BD had evolved and grew rapidly. The evolution of these learning materials influenced the Distance Education at stake

Learners in all levels of education showed great demands on their learning.  Spending too much time in a public library browsing plenty of books for a particular topic needs patience and perseverance.  Instead of writing too long, learners tend to photocopy the pages of the book which spends much money and cuts off their daily school allowance.  Thus, the learners shift to go to the nearest internet café or computer for rent just to answer their school assignments.  When the internet technology has been introduced to school libraries, private and public schools up to college and universities have utilized the benefits of using the internet.  Learners started to avail those free or paid internet services just to cope up with their urgent assignments and serious studies.

The demands of the learners to information technologies open to schools, colleges and universities to offer courses online.  The courses that they offer respond to the needs and demands not only of the student-learners but also the working professionals and skilled individuals that need professional trainings for employment or job promotion.  The learner’s demands create more courses and more open universities that can serve the whole community as well.  Online students learn how to text, chat, email, participate in the forum, submit assignment online and study synchronously and asynchronously.  Thus, the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and next generations of Distance Education had been built up and developed for lifelong and life-wide learning.

Supply creates its own demand

When the wireless phone was introduced in the country in the early decade of 80’s, beep pagers increased in number wherein you have to look for a public telephone or pay phone once you received a beep sound from your pager around your waistline.  The said message tells the receiver to respond immediately to the caller.  Within that decade also when huge Smart mobile phones were introduced.  It was actually a line telephone but cordless that has monthly bill.  This huge mobile gadget got attract several families at home of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).  The minimum fixed rate of two thousand pesos excluding international calls was not a big deal for overseas workers who were earning much abroad.  The Smart Communications produced more units for their local markets. As one of the pioneers of the mobile communications in the country, they sold cellular phones competing with other companies like Nokia, Erickson and Motorola.  Along the business ventures, the Smart Company sold sim cards to market their mobile business and compete with other companies like Globe and Sun. With the introduction of this mobile technologies, people learn to buy these gadgets even at high cost for a unit.

The continuous supply of mobile technologies locally and abroad create demands for computer technicians for technical assistance and trouble-shooting purposes.  The production of internet-ready mobile devices such as smart phones, tablet, netbook and laptop that were displayed in the shopping malls attract learners and other stakeholders to have one or more devices.

The various software applications installed in each smart phone increase buyers of touch-screen mobile devices. The Distance Education (DE) institution provides opportunities for learners to use the beneficial software applications in their online learning.  For instance, they should learn how to convert files into readable documents.  There are software applications that can convert video files into audio files only.  The technical side of the DE institution designed interactive software programs which facilitate teaching and learning.  Thus, a well-designed course has been developed for online learners.

The supply of great computer programs in the information markets create more demands on what particular courses will be appropriately and timely be offered by the DE institutions.  It can also create what particular DE curriculum will be planned, implemented, evaluated and assessed.  If the said curriculum had been proven effective for employment and business, it creates social stigma or influence peers to enroll in this particular course of study in order to land on a job or business ventures that fits and qualifies them.  This is one valid reason for the implementation of the K to 12 Curriculum of the Department of Education in the Philippines.

Framing up the Distance Learning today

Distance learning or Online learning faces challenges today for various reasons.  First, distance learning is quite different from a classroom setting of learning.  Online learners do everything online and offline as well. They do their tasks independently anytime, anywhere.  This method of learning supports the theory of Jean Piaget about learning by doing wherein the online students learn through actual experience. This method of learning also supports the theory of B.F. Skinner about constant repetition of certain situation or constant practice makes the task perfect wherein students did particular task and continuously and repeatedly doing the same task until they attain it completely and correctly.  Thus, lifelong learning gets in.

Since no face to face interaction with the teacher in the distance education setting of learning, feelings and emotions of the learners are hardly to detect by the online teacher unless they tell it directly to the teacher what they really feel.  Second, the teacher may subjectively evaluate and assess learners based on their outputs.  He may not assure if these outputs be truly authentic enough as their own or work outputs of somebody else. Third, distance education may or may not provide equal opportunities to all in terms of lifelong learning and life wide learning is concerned.  The DE may provide equal opportunity for those people living in the remote places; for those working professionals that aim for job promotion or gain skills and competencies; for those people who cannot attend classes in a regular classroom for whatever reasons.  On the other hand, the DE may not provide equal opportunity for those people who do not have any computer gadgets; for those who have computer gadgets but lack of skills in computer operation; for those who have computer gadgets and computer skills but no internet access; for those people with internet access but lack financial resources to sustain its online connectivity for lifelong and life wide learning.  Fourth, distance learning allows open learning resources which hardly determine the real, correct, accurate, precise, acceptable, reliable and valid information in the world-wide web.   Certain websites welcome everybody to edit the content or information within the website.  Finally, distance learning should be equipped with highly qualified online teacher; well-designed learning materials; appropriate means of teaching and learning experience; cost-effective and learner-centered approach. Distance learning also applies other learning theories such as constructivism, realism, essentialism, existentialism, pragmatism, naturalism, and constructionism.  These learning theories are observed in formal and informal settings of learning.

In the Philippines, Distance Education reaches its potential expansion locally and abroad.  There is an increasing number of colleges and universities in the country that open its doors for Distance Education.  Other big universities agreed upon; collectively and collaboratively developed a consortium for the establishment and implementation of online course programs.  Their vision and mission is to attain high quality, accessible and affordable education in the country.  Literate citizens, equipped with values and competencies, help to build the nation’s economy.

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