Distance and Information Education:
Computer network technology support services for distance learning programs
The role of computers on the Internet of Distance Education
The consideration given to computer network technologies services for distance learning programs is a focus on the creation and delivery of online lesson contents and materials through the internet or World Wide Web (WWW) services.
The basic requirement for learners to participate in the educational process of online learning is a computer that is connected to the Internet.
Microcomputers through the Internet and the World Wide Web are redefining the current age of distance learning and virtual reality and the rise of the Internet allowed schools, colleges, and higher education to use the flexibility of elearning.
The educational relevance of the computer network technologies in remote education
The educational relevance of computer network technologies is growing gradually and it is believed to eventually become a toast for future education. The Internet and the World Wide Web is probably leading other modes of distance learning in overcoming the obstacles of time and space in education.
Courseware tools is a common repository of digital course materials and a learning management system support in internet-based remote learning for storing educational contents on the World Wide Web (WWW) Server and connecting learners in the education program.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and knowledge-based systems may be next in turn in the new era of distance education transformation through the internet. Before the advent of microcomputers, distance education was delivered through electronic media (such as audiotape and videotape; DVD and CD-ROMs; radio and television (TV) broadcasting; and satellite transmission) and one-dimensional non-electronic media such as printed materials and correspondence (mail).
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Forms of Internet-based Distance Learning
A student can typically have distance education through the Internet through the following forms:
The Website (World Wide Web – WWW)
The online learning content can be published on the website of providing educational institutions for students individually or as a group to quickly and conveniently assess. Features of WWW include administration of access, linking of hypermedia and multimedia contents, content publication, reproduction, and interactivity.
Web-based distance learning promotes the study of informatics., and the use of online databases, library catalogs, protocol (or gopher), and websites to acquire information and pursue research-related studies. Informatics relates to the study of the transformation of information. Gopher is a communications protocol designed for document management in Internet Protocol (IP) networks.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is the internet- or intranet-facilitated synchronous communication through written messages in real-time. Computer-based Training (CBT) and Web-based Training (WBT) for learners can be facilitated by the Intranets or corporate websites protected from outside.
It offers live interactive conferencing using Multiuser Object Oriented (MOO) systems connecting virtual learners at the same time. Through Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which is capable of connecting students with mostly equal knowledge online, enables the recapture of missed content and the objectivity of students’ assessment and evaluation.
Email is a feature of the Internet service used for easy sending and receiving messages online. Internet-enhanced email in distance education encourages the participation of learners who are socially-inactive since the communication is private. It also promotes self-paced study as the student has a sufficient amount of time for reading, reflecting on the message and responding to the message. Learning materials, assignments (both given and sent in), messages, and feedback can be delivered through email.
E-mail is the simplest form of asynchronous interactivity in distance learning and it mostly used as an add-on with the other forms of communication when providing learning contents.
Interactive tutorial on the Internet
A student taking part in a distance learning program can have interactive tutorials with other students and a tutor facilitating learning on the Web.
Online tutorials and learning materials
Learners can download tutorials and learning materials through the Internet services with their connected computer devices. The lesson contents of the downloaded tutorials and course materials from the web can be accessed or studied at the learner’s convenient time and place.
Online interactive forum (electronic discussion group)
Students or learners can engage in an open discussion as members of a group or forum to discuss a special topic or topics of interest or matters of concern. Advice, notices, debates on issues, questions are asked and answers provided on a discussion forum or group.
These forms of Internet-based distance learning can feature the use of a notice board by the instructor to issue communiqués to students. Students can through the online discussion forum transfer files of learning materials and have correspondence learning.
Use of mailing lists
Mailing lists provide internet services very similar to the use of email as a form of asynchronous interaction. Mailing lists also enables the dividing, organizing, and adaptation of learners into different smaller groups which have more characteristic features in common for easy communication in the course of distance education.
Mobile learning through the Internet
Mobile learning through the Internet is becoming increasingly popular in schools and workplaces and content-creation and information and communication technologies (ICTs) are readily available and obviously creating a conducive online learning environment.
Learners use mobile devices to assess the Internet and social network technology services in both education services and corporate businesses.
Despite this advancement in educational technology, a lot of work on how instructional design and teaching methods, instructional approaches and concepts can be applied to deliver learning content via mobile devices is still needed to be done.
Benefits of Internet-based Distance Education
Internet-based distance education offers some advantages better than its computer-based counterpart. Some of the benefits are as follows:
- Internet-based distance learning offers flexibility in time and space.
- The learning content-creation and development time for web-based remote learning can be faster than those of CD-ROMs and audiovisuals. Its development and operating costs are less than those of satellite broadcasting. The learning contents can be upgraded and archived in a simpler manner than the videos.
- As support for self-directed learning, videoconferencing in web-based remote learning requires a certain level of motivation, self-discipline, and accountability of a learner.
- The obscurity of internet-based communication in remote learning give students who are shy to speak up in face-to-face in-person situations a voice and to allow learner contributions to be judged on their own performance devoid of any noticeable cultural indicators.
- Internet-based real-time lectures or tutorials or discussions in a virtual learning environment enhance the much-needed interactivity between instructors and learners and among learners.
- Web-based distance education has the capability to reach a global audience equally.
Disadvantages of Internet-based Distance Learning
Despite the benefits internet-based distance learning offers in the technology of education, several disadvantages abound.
- Firstly, internet access is a global distance learning technology problem especially for people who are in rural areas.
- One of the disadvantages is passivity associated with web-based distance education although promotes active virtual learning.
- Lack of face-to-face social interaction (that is social isolation) characterized by nonverbal clues that hamper communication can be discouraging to many students.
- Another disadvantage is attributed to limited bandwidth (limit to the capacity of the communications links) can pose a serious challenge to the delivery of sound, video, and graphics in web-based remote education.
- Again, learners need certain personal, technical, and computer skills in order to cope with internet-based distance learning.
- It is less-structured than traditional in-person classroom learning in a school, requiring learners’ discretion sometimes.
- Information overload is also a challenge. A student may have to assess the volume of emails to read, think through, and give respond to can be overpowering. The creation of databases and websites demands information management skills.
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