The Internet and Distance Education

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distance education

Online versus traditional education. Which is best? I have seen many debates over this. However, the truth might just surprise you.

First, let’s examine the word “education.” Education is really just an enlightening experience through the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction on a given subject (Education, 2020). It boils down to the transfer of information from someone willing to teach to someone willing to learn. This transfer can happen in many different ways. In fact, you’re doing it right now.

We need to keep in mind that the internet is still relatively new. It only became popular in 1991, which was only in specific segments of the population (Bryant, 2016). Still, we should also keep in mind that the internet is simply a new medium in a long line of mediums that have been utilized for distance education over a great many years. Yeah! Did you know that distance education is not new?

Much like books, newspapers, and hand-written letters, distance education is not new at all. In fact, the University of Chicago provided the first significant correspondence course back in the late 1800s (AECT, 2001). Since that time, utilizing technologies such as radio and television in an education setting, while unique, was not unheard of. Furthermore, as such technologies became more accepted, their use became more common. Today, the internet is merely another step on the educational outreach ladder.

What I find curious is that distance education was frowned upon and struggled to find acceptance among many in academia for many years (AECT, 2001). Thankfully, while books and on-campus learning were once prized, things began to change when technology improved. Today, the internet has made distance education much more accessible… and superior in many ways.

The truth is that many are unaware that more than 75 percent of academic leaders feel that online education is equal or superior to on-campus learning (Busteed, 2019). Similarly, roughly 70% of students claim online instruction is just as good or better than traditional classroom instruction. Of course, this means that those holding onto the idea that distance education is somehow sub-par are a little more than outdated themselves – or perhaps even a little defensive. And to be clear, the most prestigious universities (ones that don’t need the extra money) offer such programs for a reason. Historically speaking, it seems that perhaps distance education, and those who participated, were always a little ahead of their time. In many ways, that time has now come. Welcome to the future.

Blame the internet? I would not say that the internet transformed distance education, but it has undoubtedly made distance education easier and given it the boost it rightfully deserves. Furthermore, it has helped to enlighten many regarding distance education’s power and necessity. The neat part is knowing that more technological advances are on the way. As a result, such changes will likely expose more distance education opportunities. For me, there is no doubt that as the way information can be exchanged changes, so too will the ways in which education is delivered.

Let me be very clear here. Don’t let someone tell you that online equates to fake or sub-par—those suggesting that probably need to head back to the classroom. The truth is that online education is proving to be much better than anyone would have otherwise thought, and the technology is ensuring the integrity of the proof. The data continues to demonstrate this. Elements such as reduced stress, better focus, better engagement, enhanced andragogy, and preparation for the coming economy only further the point and necessity.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like my article titled, “Is Education Worth It?

Resources

AECT. (2001, August 3). This History of Distance Education. Retrieved August 30, 2020, from http://members.aect.org/edtech/ed1/13/13-02.html

Bryant, M. (2016, March 03). 20 years ago today, the World Wide Web was born – TNW Insider. Retrieved August 30, 2020, from https://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/08/06/20-years-ago-today-the-world-wide-web-opened-to-the-public/

Busteed, B. (2019, March 05). Online Education: From Good To Better To Best? Retrieved August 30, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/brandonbusteed/2019/03/05/online-education-from-good-to-better-to-best/

Education. (2020). In Oxford Online Dictionary. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/education 

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