Distance learning opportunities used to exist through what was called correspondence courses, which were conducted over the mail, on the radio or on television. Today, the internet is the primary method of presenting a course in miracles materials. Online education affords students who little time or money, or who live in remote areas, to attend classes. Almost any curriculum can be pursued online. Students can seek programs that result in certification, advanced technical skills, associates degrees, bachelors degrees, graduate degrees and even doctorates. Even continuing education classes for licensed professionals and high school equivalence courses can be completed through virtual classrooms.
Online education is usually web-based with a specific web site designated for the course. Supplemental materials, such as software, may also be part of certain online courses. Students visit the course web site to complete the posted assignments and take tests. Instructors and students communicate through email and chat rooms. Sometimes virtual lectures and discussions are part of online coursework. Students can attend virtual classrooms to complete their education and some colleges even have virtual graduation ceremonies.
Many different students from all over the world participate in distance learning online education opportunities. Some students work and attend classes online during their free time. Other students live in remote areas where local colleges do not exist. Still other students choose to combine online courses with traditional classes for what is known as a blended learning experience. Student who pursue distance education do not fit a particular mold, but should possess the following qualities:
Validity of Distance Learning Online Education: Research from the Sloan Consortium states that online learning is comparable to education obtained in a traditional setting, based upon a poll of academic leaders. Academic leader James Sherwood, Ph.D. and dean of University Extension, the continuing education branch of The University of California at Berkley states that, “Coming out of World War II and getting into the 60’s and 70’s there was a kind of stigma associated with distance education. That has certainly changed.” Because of technological advances and online resources, distance education has improved and offers an equivalent opportunity to traditional education.
Faculty Perspective of Distance Learning Online Education. Dr. Michael Otaigbe of Strayer University in Virginia has taught courses both in person and online at the same college. His opinion is that online classes generate an unexpected level of motivation, saying, “Online, I have the freedom to require contributions. Every week, my students have to submit essays and participate in group discussions. I get a better sense of the learning process.” He also finds that online students come from all over the world and have unique contributions that benefit the other students.
Online Education Distance Learning Association in the US. Several distance learning associations exist within the United States that offer additional information about taking classes online for prospective students.
The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA). The USDLA is a non-profit association that promotes the development and application of online distance learning for education and training purposes. The USDLA encourages distance learning for grades K-12, college and higher education, corporate training, continuing education, government training and military training. Further, the USDLA supported the implementation of the Snowe-Rockefeller Amendment to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, as well as other legislation in 1997 that was introduced by Kennedy and Snowe.