Thursday, February 19, 2009

From a Distance?

Like me, I believe many of you didn’t enjoy your early school age due to some interesting reasons or perhaps you did. I think I didn’t like the idea of always carrying my table and chair on my head from home, walk like half a mile to school feeling tired already. Truly I have experienced different kinds of educational setting including classrooms, lecture halls, conference halls and virtual classrooms. Among these, the most interesting but challenging for me was the virtual classroom which I think was due to the intensive integration of technology. Living in my home country, Ghana and obtaining a degree from California, USA was not possible some few years back.

As they say, the technology era has brought tremendous change in our life and work. One major change which I think needs to take effect soon is the definition of “School” in most dictionaries including the Collins Dictionary. A school does not need to be only physical structures but could be virtual which even comes with better educational facilities.

I was very glad about my online program but I was also a little hesitant initially because of difficult access to the technologies that comes along with it especially internet. Internet access has always remained limited and expensive with mostly slow connectivity in Ghana. I ended up hopping from internet cafes then landed on a Company’s internet service at night hours when the workers are closed and gone home. The night was also favourable for me because I was 8hours ahead of the University I enrolled, which made me able to interact with my instructors and course mates online when it was midday for them. I did enjoyed living like the nocturnal during that period.

Unlike the traditional classroom setting, the technologies used in delivering distance education are synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous technologies required students to be present online at that same time as the instructor. We used text chat, audio and video chat sessions, to interact. Usually, this medium required arranged time for meeting online. Asynchronous on the other hand is where we access course materials or post to a discussion board at our schedule. Asynchronous was my favourite for the course because I could quickly download and save all my materials on my laptop and get time to look at them at home where there was no internet. But the frustration part on both technologies was slow internet speed.

Distance education has come to stay for good especially in the 21st Century where technology rain is falling all over the world with nonstop innovations. Above all, I think distance learning pros outweigh its cons. There is self-paced learning in distance education. You can quickly browse materials you have already mastered, and concentrate time and effort in areas containing new information and skills, study materials at a personal speed and intensity, without having to wait for slower pace of the traditional classroom.

There is also flexibility to join conversations on the discussion boards at any hour, and to review your course mate comments since the previous visit. Distance learning does not require commuting. This saves money and time that would otherwise be spend on travel back and forth to school. You can schedule learning around other aspects of your personal and professional life. Online classes address physical accessibility issues that some people with limited mobility encounter when taking traditional classes. You don’t have to worry about gaining access to a classroom or sitting on uncomfortable desks. Instead, you can use your comfortable furniture in your home while enjoying free movement and a chance to further your education.

Some of the cons may be lack of social interaction. If the classroom environment is what you love most about learning, you may want to take a step back and reconsider distance learning. You’ll likely get some interaction on chat rooms, discussion boards and through email, but the experience will be quite different than traditional classroom. The format may not be ideal for all learners. In other words, not everyone is an ideal candidate for distance learning. If you know you have problems with motivation, procrastination and needs lots of individual attention from an instructor you may want to think long and hard before enrolling in a distance learning program.

From a distance? Absolutely! Beside educational institutions, a lot of corporate and government institutions are delivering resources and services from distances like health care, training, maintenance and support services. A new age of education for a new generation indeed.

© Harry Tetteh


  1. Harry

    Well stated and thoughtful - as we head further into the 21st century, there will be technological advances that most likely will improve the potentials for all learners. And, as you state so well, it is not for everyone- But based on my experiences with the American school systems, most folks find their own level, so I believe so forms of hybrid with online and meetings will take hold as well

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  3. In this modern days there are so many obstacles that preclude the prosperity of many people especially in the educational field.And scores of these are the Children in the villages in Africa, even the vulnerability touches many in the so called city or highly endowed schools.

    It is in this light that the Government and other institutions must cooperate to bring to our door step our educational rights.

    And very commendable is this new innovation of distance learning that enhances learning and reduces cost.Obviously it has its limitations but i guess its quite better to some challenges we encounter in pursuit of our education.

    Also commendable is the Initiative of the Ghana government on Distance learning(PSI-DL) which shows how important the government sees education of the populace,and how technology is being infused into our educational systems, but that leaves a lot to be desired.

    Lots of thanks to you Harry for throwing more lights on this matter and letting us learn a lot from your experience.