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Science and technology has had a lasting impact on improving the face of education. It has aided what we call distance learning and online education which is now available everywhere where there is internet access. It has gradually become a major source of learning for many people. Apart from improving access to education, the advancement of technology has also created the possibility of personal or group interactions. People can obtain an education without travelling far from their homes or places of work. The internet has allowed people to get degrees in the same way they would have attended school physically. For those who are already working, distance learning can make their graduation possible while they still do their jobs. According to Merriam (2007), online education seems to be a better alternative for those who do not wish to go back to the schooling environment. There are many people who wish to enhance their qualifications for their particular jobs without disrupting their work schedules. Distance education comes in very handy. The best thing about it is that it is very flexible, since you choose a convenient time for yourself. As a matter of fact, online education has made it easy for people to fulfill their education ambitions with much ease. They can manage their responsibilities anytime anywhere.
Distance education has got many advantages. First and foremost, it is appropriate for people who have a busy schedule. They get to receive personal attention and can study at their own pace. One significant basis of distance education, also known as e-learning, dictates that teaching can take off even if the teacher and the student are physically separated. Most of the e-learning uses a two-way audio-visual media to aid the learning activity. The teacher in this scenario becomes the facilitator, while the student takes the rest of the work by participating fully. As such, distant learning requires a lot of joint effort between the teacher and the student. Distance learning offers instructional interaction to its student in the same way that it is offered physically on campus. Another advantage of distance learning is that improved accessibility to electronic technology has made it easier for older students to resume learning. In addition, e-learning students do study at their own pleasure. They go on with their personal life such as working, travelling and taking care of their family responsibilities without making any significant changes in their lifestyles. Nevertheless, motivation in distance learners plays a greater role in determining the rate of completion of their studies. There also exist a number of factors which help to determine the barriers which are present in the field of distance learning. They include: previous level of education, level of experience, personal factors and academic information. Generally, the characters of students and their life circumstances impact significantly on their participation (Moore, 2005).
There are also a number of barriers that are encountered by e-learning students. These include: learning costs and motivators, teacher contact and feedback, lack of experience, segregation, and training among others. These barriers may bring about several problems to the e-learning students such as disruption of their family life, lack of support from their respective employers, supposed irrelevance of their studies and heavy financial costs to cater for their studies. These factors and many others increase the rate of school drop-outs. The students also tend to lag behind in self evaluation due to lack of physical contact with their lecturers (Merriam, 2007).
Another disadvantage of distance learning is that it increases the gap between those who have and those who do not have in the society. If the institutions of learning want to give equal education opportunities to everyone, then they need to look into the special needs of their students, such as their financial capabilities. Technology use means an increase in the cost of education. Both the institutions and the students have to incur extra costs which mean that it locks out low income earners. For instance, if it involves the use of internet, then the student must have a computer, a modem and the appropriate software. According to Moore, 2005, developed countries like the U.S may have succeeded in implementing distance learning, but the underdeveloped countries have insufficient telecommunications facilities which mean that they have to use print or radio delivery methods. In addition, students who do not have computers and modems in their homes usually experience problems in their communication with the university lecturers. Those who live in the remote areas do not enjoy this program to the fullest due to its high cost and lack of the relevant hardware and software. In addition, some people fear that the internet degrades the quality of teacher-student interrelationship.
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