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Russian University of Cooperation, Russia
The paper analyzes modern distance learning: practice of it and using. The author says about brief history of distance learning, contemporary development of it and using of distance education in practice. Also the author presents the most effective and popular distance learning technologies. The author touches the most important problems of distance learning in Russia.
Keywords: distance education, computers and telecommunications technologies, modern distance learning, training program, educational services, e-learning, network methods of service.
It is well known that distance education is education that is fully or partially realized with the help of computers and telecommunications technologies and means. The subject of distance education is removed from the teacher, teaching aids and educational resources. Distance learning is a very broad concept. In general, all forms of educational activities which are carried out without the personal contact of teachers and students are covered under this concept.
Distance learning has its own history. Ability to obtain a higher education at a distance appeared in 1836; just when in the United Kingdom the London University was founded. Students, studying in various educational institutions, were allowed to pass exams which were set by the University. Since 1858 exams in such a form were made available to candidates all over the world. This situation led to the foundation of a number of colleges offering courses by post in accordance with the university program. Prime Minister Harold Wilson took under personal control the project of the Open University – the world's first University of Distance Education. The Queen herself established the Open University, and Speaker of the House of Commons was appointed as the chancellor (rector) of the University. They wanted the University to be both mass and prestige. Everything was made for it.
During the 70s of the 19th century, America took a number of measures for distance learning. For example, in 1873, Anna Eliot Tiknor took as a basis the British program «Society for the Encouragement of Home Study». In 1874 the University of Illinois offered a training program by mail.
In Pennsylvania, in 1891, an independent course was worked out, which became a model for post training programs of different subjects. William Rainey Harper, who is considered in America as "father of mail education", in 1892 established the first university department of distance learning at the Chicago University. At that time he began an experiment with the extracurricular teaching at Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1906 the mail teaching was introduced at the Wisconsin University.
Australiacan be called as one of the progenitors of distance learning. The special geographical position of this country promoted it. In 1911 university-level courses began its work at the university in Brisbane. In 1914, training program of primary education by post was organized for those who lived far from regular schools. Students of Teachers' College in Melbourne held their classes, using post. Soon such a practice was spread to secondary schools and technical schools.
Similar systems for students were used in Canada and New Zealand. In Victoria (British Columbia, Canada), the first congress of the International Council for Education by post was held in 1938.
After the revolution in 1917 in Russia the distance education became to develop. Various courses at various levels were offered. In the former Soviet Union a special "consultative" model of distance education was worked out. The name of such courses meant "education without visual contact" (distance education). By the 60th years of the 20th century in the USSR there had been 11 universities and many part-time faculties in the Russian traditional institutions of higher education. After the Second World War, other countries in Central and Eastern Europe followed by that example.
The British Open University’s foundation influenced the system of distance education in the 1969: distance learning became to appear in a number of countries mainly in Europe and Asia.
In China instead of closed traditional higher educational institutions during the Cultural Revolution in 1979 a national network of radio and television universities were created. Education was organized using satellite broadcasting and television universities in the province.
Distance education provides a full range of skill levels from primary education to higher one and is aimed at people of all ages, from kids to aged people. The circle of subjects is unusually broad: from shorthand or mining to general education. The used methods are not less different; they include correspondence, use of print, radio and television, workshops and open examinations, etc. Distance education system is organized in both developed and developing countries, as in the large countries, as well as in small ones. Problems, social and historical upheaval, caused the appearance of these systems, are different: geographically dispersed or displaced populations, wars and revolutions, industrialization and so on.
In the new millennium as we move towards the information society of humanity distance education will play an increasingly important role, demonstrating its flexibility and variety of forms.
In the modern world where the Internet is growing very fast, "to keep distance," is easy, and today in the global network almost all educational services are demonstrated, ranging from short-term training courses and ending with full programs of higher education.
Distance learning is not new in Russian universities. Distance education is believed should not only come to help traditional education, but also to change the conception of it significantly. According to Western sociologists, the standard of model of education, in which a person once received a qualification, uses knowledge during his life, can already be considered out of date. Today, the concept of lifelong learning is relevant, and one diploma of higher education is not enough to work in any specialty.
You can be surprised: lifelong learning, combining it with work? That's what makes the modern distance learning technologies are necessary. Advantages of this approach to education are obvious. First of all, it's virtually unlimited opportunities. For example, if in the frame of the traditional educational process a professor can give a lecture to several hundred students, the studying course recorded on video and transmitted over the Internet could be listened by any number of people without difficulties. It means that students can choose the most interesting and competent teachers.
In Russia the development of distance education takes place in the conditions of major changes in the global market of educational services. The main vector of these changes is globalization.
Distance learning, recently adopted as an additional component is getting more independent, well-built system of training, touching almost all countries.
Another aspect of globalization is the strengthening and development of open learning communities, which include both well-known universities, and youth education institutions. In the contrast of traditional education distance learning is a very flexible technologies.
But is everything OK in the system of distance education? In general, the most problems of distance learning in our country are obvious. In Russia, Internet infrastructure is still quite poorly developed, and its modernization, based on each resident is very expensive: on average 5-6 times more expensive than in Western Europe. At the same time most people have low incomes and low computer literacy, which is also an important problem to have mass distance learning programs. Also psychological difficulties appear and interfere with the development of this form of training.
Distance learning has some specific problems. And today they are among the most complex ones. Distance education process has to think about gender, age, psychodynamic, and intelligent features of perception of educational material.
On the way of distance education there are conservative and domestic academic circles. Unfortunately, until now, e-learning is not fully fit into the traditional view of education; it meets resistance from some of the academic communities. Many people are not satisfied with the implementation modern educational technologies in the educational process.
But as for students they readily attached to distance learning, although the main difficulty both in our country and abroad is the problem of motivation. And this is one of the reasons that cannot talk about the substitution of a classical education by remote technology. Distance learning - is an effective tool, but not an alternative to classical education, of course.
Students are attracted to innovative methods that help to learn and make a specialist be more in demand in the professional labor market, allowing them to learn computer programs and self-presentation skills (teleesse), to form the ability to use computer databases, electronic libraries, to combine work and study, to pay for education on their own and so on.
The introduction of new advanced informative technologies into education will change the learning process.
Let’s consider the most effective and popular distance learning technologies. In 2003, the Distance Learning Initiative Group began to work out a standard of interactive distance learning SCORM, which involves extensive use of Internet technologies. Introduction of standards conduces to either a deepening of the requirements for the e-learning or software requirements. Nowadays there is domestic software development, which is widely used both domestic and foreign organizations that provide services for distance learning.
Distance learning is an increasingly important role in the modernization of education. According to the Order of 137 of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation of 06.05.2005 "On the use of distance learning technologies", resulting in learning control with the DLT (distance learning technologies) can be realized face-to-face or remotely. The Russian State Duma is considering a draft of amendment to the law on education related to distance learning.
One of such a technology is an open distance education. Independent interactive student’s work is put as the basis of this technology with special worked out creative training materials. The key role is played by the tutor (teacher-adviser), who is attached to a group of students. Adjuvant components and methods are focused to make training more efficient. This technology is a part of the system of education quality.
The basic technology of distance learning technology is built on the use of Internet technologies. In the frame of distance learning all the means of teaching have been used offered by the Internet users. Television-satellite technology is less used. But one of the poplar technologies is case distance learning one. Case method can be used as correspondence one.
New electronic technologies such as interactive CDs CD-ROM, electronic bulletin boards, multimedia hypertext and others, which are accessible through the Internet with the help of using Mosaic and the WWW interface can provide not only the active involvement of students in the learning process, but also allow you to control the process of education.
The integration of sound, movement, image and text creates a new unusually rich learning environment in its possibilities, which will increase the degree of students’ involvement in the learning process. Interactive features and delivery systems used in the distance educational programs allow establishing and even stimulating feedback, providing a dialogue and an ongoing support, which is not possible in the most traditional systems of education.
Popular technology is students’ sending to the educational contents (electronic and paper books, video lecture courses, video seminars, etc.) through a system of "university Teleport - satellite - satellite of the student - the TV." This technology is interactive: real-time students are tested knowledge, consult with teachers, etc.
The main components of distance learning technologies on which the effectiveness of training depends are:
1. Structure of the distance course. The selection of educational material for different systems of delivery knowledge, its organization and structuring are determined by the didactic course.
2. Means of delivery of training courses. Currently, there are many different means of delivering educational material: e-mail, phone, fax, Internet, newsgroup, bulletin board, satellite educational systems, interactive TV, radio, and CD-ROM and audio - video.
3. Means and methods of interaction between teacher and students. Distance learning technologies involve a lot of feedback (mail, phone, fax, electronic mail, interactive television, teleconferencing, a means of negotiations in real time (IRC) and instant communication) and ways of communication (synchronous and asynchronous) of teacher and students.
4. Methods of assessing students' knowledge. To check the level of learning either operative (integrated into the learning material and controlled by the teacher) or delayed control of knowledge (test control, term paper, essay, written exams, and thesis) are used.
5. The level of teachers’ training. Teachers, engaged in the educational process, using a variety of distance learning technologies (teachers - technology or tutors), work at a distance, or contact with the students.
To build distance learning system is necessary to build e-learning process, which would provide the necessity of organization and training services. Modern distance education system provides: centralized automated management training; rapid and effective placement of learning content to learners; platform to solve key problems in the frame of planning, to hold and to manage all over training activities within the organization; support for modern standards in the field of distance learning technologies; personalization of learning content and the possibility of repeated use; a wide range of organization of interaction between all participants in the learning process.
Let’s consider also the main components, approaches, methodologies which are used in distance learning.
To increase the effectiveness of training in distance learning technologies complex of techniques and approaches to education are used: using the most active learning techniques that allow to use time of the student economical, such as group discussions, business games, training sessions, "brainstorming", work with interactive learning materials, etc.; educational approach - assistance in the manifestation of the unique abilities of the student; and the systemic using adults’ peculiarity; development of students’ creative abilities; developing approach – to teach not only to know but also to think and to use knowledge, to raise students’ intellectual level; omnitude of the courses presentations and application of methods to adapt content to specific circumstances.
The most effective is marketing approach which is maximize convenience and education understandable for students, a systematic, optimization of students’ spends and time, standardization of learning technologies, the system of the level of quality, module training programs, students’ choice of courses, the combination of individual training with economies of scale through the use of network methods of service, assistance in purchasing by a student not only knowledge and skills, but also many other things which are necessary for the success of the manager.
As we know correspondence and face-to-face teaching methods include: independent work with training materials, written works - an independent active learning involving a work situation, ongoing control and correction of teaching, tutorials (seminars) - an active group learning, getting feedback, correction of training and motivation of students, exchange experience and establishing business ties, Sunday schools - an active group and intergroup study in the regime of "immersion"; correction of the knowledge, students’ motivation, self-help groups, written exam.
In Russian University of Cooperation distance education is being tested and used as a part of traditional education. We have a lot of questions but at the same time we try to answer and solve them. It’s a very important and interesting process.
Thus, distance education is: wide geography: an opportunity to get a quality education in every region of any country all over the world; efficiency: a quick update of training materials gives an opportunity to use the most current information, which appears on the market; continuity, individual approach to each student: a personal program can be worked out.
At present to interact with students through information and communication networks is a perspective. Distance learning allows to reduce spends of teaching, to train more people, to improve quality of education through the use of modern technologies, to create the united educational environment.