|Ministry of Education|
|Minister||Iñigo Méndez de Vigo|
|Primary languages||Spanish alongside co-official languages within respective regions, including Catalan, Basque and Galician|
|System type||Democratic Constitutional Monarchy (check for accuracy)|
Education in Spain is regulated by the Ley General de Educación (LGE, General Law of Education) that expands upon Article 27 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Education is compulsory and free for all children aged between 6 and 16 years and is supported by the national government together with the governments of each of the country's 17 autonomous communities.
In Spain, elementary school and middle school are considered basic education, or EGB (Educación General Básica). However, there is a traditional distinction between the two to avoid mixing children with great differences in age. Thus, most schools divide EGB into Primaria (kindergarten or first grade through fifth grade), which is the Spanish equivalent of elementary school, and Secundaria (sixth grade through eighth grade), the Spanish equivalent of middle school.
After eighth grade, students start el instituto (Spanish for "high school"), which lasts for four years, grouped into two cycles: three years of BUP (Spanish initials for "Unified Baccalaureate") and one year of COU (Spanish initials for "Pre-university year").
Up to secondary level
Once students have finished COU, they can take their University Entrance Exam (Pruebas de Acceso a la Universidad, popularly called Selectividad), which differs greatly from region to region.
Basic education (EGB)
Divided into two stages:
- Primaria (Spanish for "elementary school": kindergarten or first grade through fifth grade)
- Secundaria (Spanish for "middle school": grades six through eight)
In elementary school, children study the following subjects:
- Basic science
- Basic history
- Social studies
- Physical education
In middle school, there are many changes and electives are introduced. Subjects remain more or less the same as those in elementary school, with little variation depending on the region.
Electives in the sixth grade largely depend on the school, and there are not as many as in the seventh or eighth grade, but here are some examples of subjects pupils can choose at some schools:
- A year-long research subject for the whole class which is voted by the students
- Some activities in subjects such as art, social studies ...
- French (some schools)
- Electives in which all pupils in middle school can participate
Electives in the seventh grade are those from the sixth grade, but more options are added, from which you can choose:
- Extra mathematics
- Extra literature
- Cinema (some schools)
- Photo editing (some schools)
- Economy (some schools)
In the eighth grade, you can choose one more elective. The options vary largely between schools, so there is no "common elective" in every middle school.
There are other differences between elementary schools and middle schools:
- The playground is replaced by a courtyard.
- Recess becomes study period (a.k.a. free period), used either to study or to rest from schoolwork
- At some schools, there is a band in which children can partake if they are able to play an instrument.
- At most schools, lockers are introduced.
High school (BUP and COU)
Consists of 4 years, structured as two cycles since the Ley General de Educación (LGE) was brought into effect.
- First Cycle: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year (BUP)
- Second Cycle: 4th year (COU)
These are the subjects and electives for the first two years of BUP. Note: Electives in High School are called EATP (Spanish initials for "Technical and Professional Teachings and Activities").
|First year of BUP (9th grade, freshman year)||Second year of BUP (10th grade, sophomore year)|
|Science (geology, biology, physics or chemistry, depending on the school)||Science (students can sometimes choose which one to study and thus which class to attend)|
|History (often combined with geography)||History (often combined with geography)|
|Spanish Language and Literature, as well as the co-official language, where applicable||Spanish Language and Literature, as well as the co-official language, where applicable|
|Art||Art (depending on the school)|
|Physical Education||Physical Education|
|Social studies||Social studies|
|Music||Classical languages: Latin or Greek (depending on the school)|
|Possible (not certain) electives at some schools are the following: ||Possible (not certain) electives at some schools are the following: |
In the third year of BUP (eleventh grade/junior year), students are offered a choice between two options: literature (option A) and STEM (option B).
The compulsory subjects in the third year of BUP are the following:
- History (often combined with geography)
- French (some schools)
- Physical education
- One or two electives chosen from the E.A.T.P offered (the same ones as in the first and second year)
Option A (literature) in the third year of BUP also includes:
Option B (STEM) in the third year of BUP also includes:
- Physics and chemistry (science I)
- Geology and biology (science II)
Once they are in COU (twelfth grade/senior year), a school year designed for preparation for university, students have four options: STEM, biochemistry, social sciences, or linguistics.
The compulsory subjects in COU are:
- French (some schools)
The STEM option also includes:
- Mathematics I
- Two electives from the following:
- Technical drawing
The biochemistry option also includes:
- Two electives from the following:
- Mathematics I
- Technical drawing
The social sciences option also includes:
- Mathematics II
- World History
- Two electives from the following:
- World History of Art
The linguistics option also includes:
- World History
- Two electives from the following:
- World History of Art
- Mathematics II
Provision and Costs
Schools in Spain can be divided into 3 categories:
- State schools (colegios públicos)
- Privately run schools funded by the State (colegios concertados)
- Purely private schools (colegios privados)
According to summary data for the year 2008-2009 from the ministry, state schools educated 67.4%, private but state funded schools 26.0%, and purely private schools 6.6% of pupils the preceding year.
All non-university state education is free in Spain, but parents have to buy all of their children's books and materials. This, nominally at least, also applies to colegios concertados. Many schools are concertados, state funded up to the end of EGB but purely private for the high school years. This drop in the fraction of pupils in educación concertada is matched by increases of approximately equal size in the fraction in both state and purely private education for BUP and COU.
There are private schools for all the range of compulsory education. At them, parents must pay a monthly/termly/yearly fee. Most of these schools are run by religious orders, and include single-sex schools.
Schools supply a list of what is required at the start of each school year and which will include art and craft materials as well as text and exercise books. From 2009, this figure was around £300 and in 2011 was nearer £500; as of 2011, the cost of books averaged 170 euros for preschool and 300 euros for elementary school students. In some regions, the autonomous government is giving tokens to exchange them in book shops for free (due to the economic crisis, this has all but ceased in Valencia), this is being adapted in 2006 in regions, such as Andalusia, where kids from 3 to 10 will get the books for free, on the following years it is expected for all compulsory years. School uniform is not normally worn in state schools but is usually worn in private schools.
Usually, EGB is studied in a colegio and BUP and COU are studied in an instituto de Bachillerato (IB). However, some schools only teach elementary school (K-5) or middle school (6-8). Also, K-12 (and rarely K-10) schools also exist.
Admissions to publicly funded schools
The General Law of Education (1970) defines the principles to be applied in the admission of pupils to publicly funded schools. The details of the implementation of these principles vary from autonomous community to autonomous community.
In Madrid, there is a largely uniform admissions process for state funded schools, both colegios públicos and colegios concertados. Here the main admissions procedures for pupils wishing to join a school in the autumn are carried out in the spring of the year in question.
Parents can choose the school to which they wish to send their child. It is not uncommon that there be insufficient places in a popular school for all the children for whom places are requested. In such cases places are allocated according to rather strictly defined admissions criteria as defined in Annex IX to the order establishing the process.
The royal decree governing the same process in Extremadura includes admissions criteria structured in a very similar way but differing in the number of points allocated, notably for residence near to the school.
An analogous decree for 2007 governing the same process in Andalusia is notably different again in the way it allocates points.
Broadly similar to the English three term system, but with slightly shorter holidays at Christmas (23 December – 8 January) and Easter (one week - 40 days after Ash Wednesday), and longer in the summer (normally from 23 June to 15 September). In 2005, the summer holiday ran from 22 June until 1–15 September, depending on the regions. The English half-term holiday does not exist, but there are frequent odd days and long weekends relating mainly to religious holidays and regional and national holidays. Some school, however, use the two semester system.
Regional or district variations
Usually, elementary school is up to the fifth grade and middle school is grades 6 through 8. Nonetheless, some schools include fifth grade in middle school or do not include kindergarten in elementary school. High school, however, is always four years long and does not change from one region or district to another.
As of January 2015, the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) listed Spain as having 210 international schools. ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and is international in its orientation." This definition is used by publications including The Economist. In 1977 the International Baccalaureate authorized the first school in Spain to teach the Diploma Programme. There are now 86 IB World Schools in Spain, of which 71 deliver an international education but in Spanish.
- ^Text (in Spanish) of the Ley Orgánica de Educación
- ^ abData and Numbers for the year 2008-2009 p4, retrieved 25 February 2009, Ministry of Education, Social Policy and Sport
- ^Ambrosoli, Carlos (30 August 2011). "¿Cuánto le va a costar la vuelta al cole?"(TV news report (video)) (in Spanish). Canary Islands, Spain: Antena 3 Canarias. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- ^Annexes to Order Establishing Admissions Process., see Annex IX for criteria for allocating places, retrieved 17 May 2009, Department of Education of the Community of Madrid
- ^Decree 42/2007 - Extremadura., see Annex (there is only one) 'Criterios de Prioridad Para La Admisión de Alumnos', retrieved 17 May 2009, Boletin Oficial del Estado - Extremadura
- ^Decrehie -----/2007, of the 20th February - Andalucia., retrieved 23 February 2010
- ^ ab"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
Distance education or distance learning is the education of students who may not always be physically present at a school. Traditionally, this usually involved correspondence courses wherein the student corresponded with the school via post. Today it involves online education. Courses that are conducted (51 percent or more) are either hybrid,blended or 100% distance learning. Massive open online courses (MOOCs), offering large-scale interactive participation and open access through the World Wide Web or other network technologies, are recent developments in distance education. A number of other terms (distributed learning, e-learning, online learning, etc.) are used roughly synonymously with distance education.
One of the earliest attempts was advertised in 1728 in the Boston Gazette for "Caleb Philipps, Teacher of the new method of Short Hand," who sought students who wanted to learn through weekly mailed lessons.
The first distance education course in the modern sense was provided by Sir Isaac Pitman in the 1840s, who taught a system of shorthand by mailing texts transcribed into shorthand on postcards and receiving transcriptions from his students in return for correction. The element of student feedback was a crucial innovation of Pitman's system. This scheme was made possible by the introduction of uniform postage rates across England in 1840.
This early beginning proved extremely successful, and the Phonographic Correspondence Society was founded three years later to establish these courses on a more formal basis. The Society paved the way for the later formation of Sir Isaac Pitman Colleges across the country.
The first correspondence school in the United States was the Society to Encourage Studies at Home, founded in 1873.
University correspondence courses
The University of London was the first university to offer distance learning degrees, establishing its External Programme in 1858. The background to this innovation lay in the fact that the institution (later known as University College London) was non-denominational and, given the intense religious rivalries at the time, there was an outcry against the "godless" university. The issue soon boiled down to which institutions had degree-granting powers and which institutions did not.
The compromise solution that emerged in 1836 was that the sole authority to conduct the examinations leading to degrees would be given to a new officially recognized entity called the "University of London", which would act as examining body for the University of London colleges, originally University College London and King's College London, and award their students University of London degrees. As Sheldon Rothblatt states, "thus arose in nearly archetypal form the famous English distinction between teaching and examining, here embodied in separate institutions." With the state giving examining powers to a separate entity, the groundwork was laid for the creation of a programme within the new university that would both administer examinations and award qualifications to students taking instruction at another institution or pursuing a course of self-directed study.
Referred to as "People's University" by Charles Dickens because it provided access to higher education to students from less affluent backgrounds, the External Programme was chartered by Queen Victoria in 1858, making the University of London the first university to offer distance learning degrees to students. Enrollment increased steadily during the late 19th century, and its example was widely copied elsewhere. This program is now known as the University of London International Programme and includes Postgraduate, Undergraduate and Diploma degrees created by colleges such as the London School of Economics, Royal Holloway and Goldsmiths.
In the United States, William Rainey Harper, first president of the University of Chicago, celebrated the concept of extended education, whereby the research university had satellite colleges in the wider community.
In 1892 he also encouraged correspondence courses to further promote education, an idea that was put into practice by Chicago, Wisconsin, Columbia and several dozen other universities by the 1920s Columbia University. Enrollment in the largest private for-profit school based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the International Correspondence Schools grew explosively in the 1890s. Founded in 1888 to provide training for immigrant coal miners aiming to become state mine inspectors or foremen, it enrolled 2500 new students in 1894 and matriculated 72,000 new students in 1895. By 1906 total enrollments reached 900,000. The growth was due to sending out complete textbooks instead of single lessons, and the use of 1200 aggressive in-person salesmen. There was a stark contrast in pedagogy:
The regular technical school or college aims to educate a man broadly; our aim, on the contrary, is to educate him only along some particular line. The college demands that a student shall have certain educational qualifications to enter it, and that all students study for approximately the same length of time, and when they have finished their courses they are supposed to be qualified to enter any one of a number of branches in some particular profession. We, on the contrary, are aiming to make our courses fit the particular needs of the student who takes them.
Education was a high priority in the Progressive Era, as American high schools and colleges expanded greatly. For men who were older or were too busy with family responsibilities, night schools were opened, such as the YMCA school in Boston that became Northeastern University. Outside the big cities, private correspondence schools offered a flexible, narrowly focused solution. Large corporations systematized their training programs for new employees. The National Association of Corporation Schools grew from 37 in 1913 to 146 in 1920. Starting in the 1880s, private schools opened across the country which offered specialized technical training to anyone who enrolled, not just the employees of one company. Starting in Milwaukee in 1907, public schools began opening free vocational programs.
Only a third of the American population lived in cities of 100,000 or more population In 1920; to reach the rest, correspondence techniques had to be adopted. Australia, with its vast distances, was especially active; the University of Queensland established its Department of Correspondence Studies in 1911. In South Africa, the University of South Africa, formerly an examining and certification body, started to present distance education tuition in 1946. The International Conference for Correspondence Education held its first meeting in 1938. The goal was to provide individualized education for students, at low cost, by using a pedagogy of testing, recording, classification, and differentiation.
The Open University in the United Kingdom was founded by the-then Labour government led by Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, based on the vision of Michael Young. Planning commenced in 1965 under the Minister of State for Education, Jennie Lee, who established a model for the Open University (OU) as one of widening access to the highest standards of scholarship in higher education, and set up a planning committee consisting of university vice-chancellors, educationalists and television broadcasters, chaired by Sir Peter Venables. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Assistant Director of Engineering at the time, James Redmond, had obtained most of his qualifications at night school, and his natural enthusiasm for the project did much to overcome the technical difficulties of using television to broadcast teaching programmes.
The Open University revolutionised the scope of the correspondence program and helped to create a respectable learning alternative to the traditional form of education. It has been at the forefront of developing new technologies to improve the distance learning service as well as undertaking research in other disciplines. Walter Perry was appointed the OU's first vice-chancellor in January 1969, and its foundation secretary was Anastasios Christodoulou. The election of the new Conservative government under the leadership of Edward Heath, in 1970; led to budget cuts under Chancellor of the ExchequerIain Macleod (who had earlier called the idea of an Open University "blithering nonsense"). However, the OU accepted its first 25,000 students in 1971, adopting a radical open admissions policy. At the time, the total student population of conventional universities in the United Kingdom was around 130,000.
Athabasca University, Canada's Open University, was created in 1970 and followed a similar, though independently developed, pattern. The Open University inspired the creation of Spain's National University of Distance Education (1972) and Germany's FernUniversität in Hagen (1974). There are now many similar institutions around the world, often with the name "Open University" (in English or in the local language).
Most open universities use distance education technologies as delivery methods, though some require attendance at local study centres or at regional "summer schools". Some open universities have grown to become mega-universities, a term coined to denote institutions with more than 100,000 students.
Although the expansion of the Internet blurs the boundaries, distance education technologies are divided into two modes of delivery: synchronous learning and asynchronous learning.
In synchronous learning, all participants are "present" at the same time. In this regard, it resembles traditional classroom teaching methods despite the participants being located remotely. It requires a timetable to be organized. Web conferencing, videoconferencing, educational television, instructional television are examples of synchronous technology, as are direct-broadcast satellite (DBS), internet radio, live streaming, telephone, and web-based VoIP. Web conferencing software helps to facilitate meetings in distance learning courses and usually contain additional interaction tools such as text chat, polls, hand raising, emoticons etc. These tools also support asynchronous participation by students being able to listen to recordings of synchronous sessions. Immersive environments (notably SecondLife) have also been used to enhance participant presence in distance education courses. Another form of synchronous learning that has been entering the classroom over the last couple of years is the use of robot proxies including those that allow sick students to attend classes.
Some universities have been starting to use robot proxies to enable more engaging synchronous hybrid classes where both remote and in person students can be present and interact using telerobotics devices such as the Kubi Telepresence robot stand that looks around and the Double Robot that roams around. With these telepresence robots, the remote students have a seat at the table or desk instead of being on a screen on the wall.
In asynchronous learning, participants access course materials flexibly on their own schedules. Students are not required to be together at the same time. Mail correspondence, which is the oldest form of distance education, is an asynchronous delivery technology, as are message board forums, e-mail, video and audio recordings, print materials, voicemail, and fax.
The two methods can be combined. Many courses offered by both open universities and an increasing number of campus based institutions use periodic sessions of residential or day teaching to supplement the sessions delivered at a distance. This type of mixed distance and campus based education has recently come to be called "blended learning" or less often "hybrid learning". Many open universities uses a blend of technologies and a blend of learning modalities (face-to-face, distance, and hybrid) all under the rubric of "distance learning".
Distance learning can also use interactive radio instruction (IRI), interactive audio instruction (IAI), online virtual worlds, digital games, webinars, and webcasts, all of which are referred to as e-Learning.
Radio and television
The rapid spread of film in the 1920s and radio in the 1930s led to proposals to use it for distance education. By 1938, at least 200 city school systems, 25 state boards of education, and many colleges and universities broadcast educational programs for the public schools. One line of thought was to use radio as a master teacher.
Experts in given fields broadcast lessons for pupils within the many schoolrooms of the public school system, asking questions, suggesting readings, making assignments, and conducting tests. This mechanizes education and leaves the local teacher only the tasks of preparing for the broadcast and keeping order in the classroom.
A typical setup came in Kentucky in 1948 when John Wilkinson Taylor, president of the University of Louisville, teamed up with NBC to use radio as a medium for distance education, The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission endorsed the project and predicted that the "college-by-radio" would put "American education 25 years ahead". The University was owned by the city, and local residents would pay the low tuition rates, receive their study materials in the mail, and listen by radio to live classroom discussions that were held on campus.
Charles Wedemeyer of the University of Wisconsin–Madison also promoted new methods. From 1964 to 1968, the Carnegie Foundation funded Wedemeyer's Articulated Instructional Media Project (AIM) which brought in a variety of communications technologies aimed at providing learning to an off-campus population. The radio courses faded away in the 1950s. Many efforts to use television along the same lines proved unsuccessful, despite heavy funding by the Ford Foundation.
From 1970 to 1972 the Coordinating Commission for Higher Education in California funded Project Outreach to study the potential of telecourses. The study included the University of California, California State University and the community colleges. This study led to coordinated instructional systems legislation allowing the use of public funds for non-classroom instruction and paved the way for the emergence of telecourses as the precursor to the online courses and programs of today. The Coast Community Colleges, The Dallas County Community College District, and Miami Dade Community College led the way. The Adult Learning Service of PBS came into being and the “wrapped” series, and individually produced telecourse for credit became a significant part of the history of distance education and online learning.
Main article: Virtual education
The widespread use of computers and the internet have made distance learning easier and faster, and today virtual schools and virtual universities deliver full curricula online. The capacity of Internet to support voice, video, text and immersion teaching methods made earlier distinct forms of telephone, videoconferencing, radio, television, and text based education somewhat redundant. However, many of the techniques developed and lessons learned with earlier media are used in Internet delivery.
The first completely online courses for graduate credit were offered by Connected Education, starting in the Fall of 1985, leading to the MA in Media Studies from The New School. The first new and fully online university was founded in 1994 as the Open University of Catalonia, headquartered in Barcelona, Spain. In 1999 Jones International University was launched as the first fully online university accredited by a regional accrediting association in the US.
Between 2000 and 2008, enrollment in distance education courses increased rapidly in almost every country in both developed and developing countries. Many private, public, non-profit and for-profit institutions worldwide now offer distance education courses from the most basic instruction through to the highest levels of degree and doctoral programs. New York University, for example, offers online degrees in engineering and management-related fields through NYU Tandon Online. Levels of accreditation vary: widely respected universities such as Stanford University and Harvard now deliver online courses—but other online schools receive little outside oversight, and some are actually fraudulent, i.e., diploma mills. In the US, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) specializes in the accreditation of distance education institutions.
In the United States in 2011, it was found that a third of all the students enrolled in postsecondary education had taken an accredited online course in a postsecondary institution. Even though growth rates are slowing, enrollment for online courses has been seen to increase with the advance in technology. The majority of public and private colleges now offer full academic programs online. These include, but are not limited to, training programs in the mental health,occupational therapy,family therapy,art therapy,physical therapy, and rehabilitation counseling fields. Even engineering courses that require the manipulation and control of machines and robots that are technically more challenging to learn remotely are subject to distance learning through the internet.
Distance education has a long history, but its popularity and use has grown exponentially as more advanced technology has become available. By 2008, online learning programs were available in the United States in 44 states at the K-12 level.
Internet forums, online discussion group and online learning community can contribute to an efficacious distance education experience. Research shows that socialization plays an important role in some forms of distance education.
E-courses are also a viable option for distance learning. There are many available that cover a broad range of topics.
Paced and self paced models
Distance education can be delivered in a paced format similar to traditional campus based models in which learners commence and complete a course at the same time. Paced delivery is currently the most common mode of distance education delivery. Alternatively, some institutions offer self-paced programs that allow for continuous enrollment and the length of time to complete the course is set by the learner's time, skill and commitment levels. Paced courses may be offered in either synchronus mode, but self-paced courses are almost always offered asynchronously. Each delivery model offers both advantages and disadvantages for students, teachers and institutions.
Kaplan and Haenlein classify distance education into four groups along the dimensions Time dependency and Number of participants: 1) MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses): Open-access online course (i.e., without specific participation restrictions) that allows for unlimited (massive) participation; 2) SPOCs (Small Private Online Courses): Online course that only offers a limited number of places and therefore requires some form of formal enrollment; 3) SMOCs (Synchronous Massive Online Courses): Open-access online course that allows for unlimited participation but requires students to be "present" at the same time (synchronously); 4) SSOCs (Synchronous Private Online Courses): Online course that only offers a limited number of places and requires students to be "present" at the same time (synchronously).
Paced models are a familiar mode as they are used almost exclusively in campus based schools. Institutes that offer both distance and campus programs usually use paced models as teacher workload, student semester planning, tuition deadlines, exam schedules and other administrative details can be synchronized with campus delivery. Student familiarity and the pressure of deadlines encourages students to readily adapt to and usually succeed in paced models. However, student freedom is sacrificed as a common pace is often too fast for some students and too slow for others. In addition life events, professional or family responsibilities can interfere with a students capability to complete tasks to an external schedule. Finally, paced models allows students to readily form communities of inquiry and to engage in collaborative work.
Self-paced courses maximize student freedom, as not only can students commence studies on any date, but they can complete a course in as little time as a few weeks or up to a year or longer. Students often enroll in self-paced study when they are under pressure to complete programs, have not been able to complete a scheduled course, need additional courses or have pressure which precludes regular study for any length of time. The self-paced nature of the programming, though is an unfamiliar model for many students and can lead to excessive procrastination resulting in course incompletion. Assessment of learning can also be challenging as exams can be written on any day, making it possible for students to share examination questions with resulting loss of academic integrity. Finally, it is extremely challenging to organize collaborative work activities, though some schools are developing cooperative models based upon networked and connectivist pedagogies, for use in self-paced programs.
Distance learning can expand access to education and training for both general populace and businesses since its flexible scheduling structure lessens the effects of the many time-constraints imposed by personal responsibilities and commitments. Devolving some activities off-site alleviates institutional capacity constraints arising from the traditional demand on institutional buildings and infrastructure. Furthermore, there is the potential for increased access to more experts in the field and to other students from diverse geographical, social, cultural, economic, and experiential backgrounds. As the population at large becomes more involved in lifelong learning beyond the normal schooling age, institutions can benefit financially, and adult learning business courses may be particularly lucrative. Distance education programs can act as a catalyst for institutional innovation and are at least as effective as face-to-face learning programs, especially if the instructor is knowledgeable and skilled.
Distance education can also provide a broader method of communication within the realm of education. With the many tools and programs that technological advancements have to offer, communication appears to increase in distance education amongst students and their professors, as well as students and their classmates. The distance educational increase in communication, particularly communication amongst students and their classmates, is an improvement that has been made to provide distance education students with as many of the opportunities as possible as they would receive in in-person education. The improvement being made in distance education is growing in tandem with the constant technological advancements. Present-day online communication allows students to associate with accredited schools and programs throughout the world that are out of reach for in-person learning. By having the opportunity to be involved in global institutions via distance education, a diverse array of thought is presented to students through communication with their classmates. This is beneficial because students have the opportunity to "combine new opinions with their own, and develop a solid foundation for learning". It has been shown through research that "as learners become aware of the variations in interpretation and construction of meaning among a range of people [they] construct an individual meaning", which can help students become knowledgeable of a wide array of viewpoints in education. To increase the likelihood that students will build effective ties with one another during the course, instructors should use similar assignments for students across different locations to overcome the influence of co-location on relationship building.
The high cost of education affects students in higher education, to which distance education may be an alternative in order to provide some relief. Distance education has been a more cost-effective form of learning, and can sometimes save students a significant amount of money as opposed to traditional education. Distance education may be able to help to save students a considerable amount financially by removing the cost of transportation. In addition, distance education may be able to save students from the economic burden of high-priced course textbooks. Many textbooks are now available as electronic textbooks, known as e-textbooks, which can offer digital textbooks for a reduced price in comparison to traditional textbooks. Also, the increasing improvements in technology have resulted in many school libraries having a partnership with digital publishers that offer course materials for free, which can help students significantly with educational costs.
Within the class, students are able to learn in ways that traditional classrooms would not be able to provide. It is able to promote good learning experiences and therefore, allow students to obtain higher satisfaction with their online learning. For example, students can review their lessons more than once according to their need. Students can then manipulate the coursework to fit their learning by focusing more on their weaker topics while breezing through concepts that they already have or can easily grasp. When course design and the learning environment are at their optimal conditions, distance education can lead students to higher satisfaction with their learning experiences. Studies have shown that high satisfaction correlates to increased learning. For those in a healthcare or mental health distance learning program, online-based interactions have the potential to foster deeper reflections and discussions of client issues as well as a quicker response to client issues, since supervision happens on a regular basis and is not limited to a weekly supervision meeting. This also may contribute to the students feeling a greater sense of support, since they have ongoing and regular access to their instructors and other students.
Distance learning may enable students who are unable to attend a traditional school setting, due to disability or illness such as decreased mobility and immune system suppression, to get a good education. Children who are sick or are unable to attend classes are able to attend them in "person" through the use of robot proxies. This helps the students have experiences of the classroom and social interaction that they are unable to receive at home or the hospital, while still keeping them in a safe learning environment. Over the last few years[when?] more students are entering safely back into the classroom thanks to the help of robots. An article from the New York Times, "A Swiveling Proxy Will Even Wear a Tutu", explains the positive impact of virtual learning in the classroom, and another that explains how even a simple, stationary telepresence robot can help. Distance education may provide equal access regardless of socioeconomic status or income, area of residence, gender, race, age, or cost per student. Applying universal design strategies to distance learning courses as they are being developed (rather than instituting accommodations for specific students on an as-needed basis) can increase the accessibility of such courses to students with a range of abilities, disabilities, learning styles, and native languages. Distance education graduates, who would never have been associated with the school under a traditional system, may donate money to the school.
Distance learning may also offer a final opportunity for adolescents that are no longer permitted in the general education population due to behavior disorders. Instead of these students having no other academic opportunities, they may continue their education from their homes and earn their diplomas, offering them another chance to be an integral part of society.
Barriers to effective distance education include obstacles such as domestic distractions and unreliable technology, as well as students' program costs, adequate contact with teachers and support services, and a need for more experience.
Some students attempt to participate in distance education without proper training with the tools needed to be successful in the program. Students must be provided with training opportunities (if needed) on each tool that is used throughout the program. The lack of advanced technology skills can lead to an unsuccessful experience. Schools have a responsibility to adopt a proactive policy for managing technology barriers.
The results of a study of Washington state community college students showed that distance learning students tended to drop out more often than their traditional counterparts due to difficulties in language, time management, and study skills.
According to Dr. Pankaj Singhm, director of Nims University, "distance learning benefits may outweigh the disadvantages for students in such a technology-driven society; however before indulging into use of educational technology a few more disadvantages should be considered." He describes that over multiple years, "all of the obstacles have been overcome and the world environment for distance education continues to improve." Dr. Pankaj Singhm also claims there is a debate to distance education stating, "due to a lack of direct face-to-face social interaction. However, as more people become used to personal and social interaction online (for example dating, chat rooms, shopping, or blogging), it is becoming easier for learners to both project themselves and socialize with others. This is an obstacle that has dissipated."
Not all courses required to complete a degree may be offered online. Health care profession programs in particular, require some sort of patient interaction through field work before a student may graduate. Studies have also shown that students pursuing a medical professional graduate degree who are participating in distance education courses, favor face to face communication over professor-mediated chat rooms and/or independent studies. However, this is little correlation between student performance when comparing the previous different distance learning strategies.
There is a theoretical problem about the application of traditional teaching methods to online courses because online courses may have no upper size limit. Daniel Barwick noted that there is no evidence that large class size is always worse or that small class size is always better, although a negative link has been established between certain types of instruction in large classes and learning outcomes; he argued that higher education has not made a sufficient effort to experiment with a variety of instructional methods to determine whether large class size is always negatively correlated with a reduction in learning outcomes. Early proponents of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)s saw them as just the type of experiment that Barwick had pointed out was lacking in higher education, although Barwick himself has never advocated for MOOCs.
There may also be institutional challenges. Distance learning is new enough that it may be a challenge to gain support for these programs in a traditional brick-and-mortar academic learning environment. Furthermore, it may be more difficult for the instructor to organize and plan a distance learning program, especially since many are new programs and their organizational needs are different from a traditional learning program.
Another benefit of distance education is one for developing countries. Judith Adler Hellman states, "In the face of the pressure on these countries to join the global information economy, distance education appears to provide the opportunity to train more people better and at lower cost."
Even though there are advantages in advancing industrial countries, there are still negative sides to distance education. Hellman states, "These include its cost and capital intensiveness, time constraints and other pressures on instructors, the isolation of students from instructors and their peers, instructors’ enormous difficulty in adequately evaluating students they never meet face-to-face, and drop-out rates far higher than in classroom-based courses."
A more complex challenge of distance education relates to cultural differences between student and teachers and among students. Distance programmes tend to be more diverse as they could go beyond the geographical borders of regions, countries, and continents, and cross the cultural borders that may exist with respect to race, gender, and religion. That requires a proper understanding and awareness of the norms, differences, preconceptions and potential conflicting issues.
The modern use of electronic educational technology (also called e-learning) facilitates distance learning and independent learning by the extensive use of information and communications technology (ICT), replacing traditional content delivery by postal correspondence. Instruction can be synchronous and asynchronous online communication in an interactive learning environment or virtual communities, in lieu of a physical classroom. "The focus is shifted to the education transaction in the form of virtual community of learners sustainable across time."
One of the most significant issues encountered in the mainstream correspondence model of distance education is transactional distance, which results from the lack of appropriate communication between learner and teacher. This gap has been observed to become wider if there is no communication between the learner and teacher and has direct implications over the learning process and future endeavors in distance education. Distance education providers began to introduce various strategies, techniques, and procedures to increase the amount of interaction between learner and teacher. These measures e.g. more frequent face-to-face tutorials, increased use of information and communication technologies including teleconferencing and the Internet, were designed to close the gap in transactional distance.
Main article: Online credentials for learning
Online credentials for learning are digital credentials that are offered in place of traditional paper credentials for a skill or educational achievement. Directly linked to the accelerated development of internet communication technologies, the development of digital badges, electronic passports and massive open online courses (MOOCs) have a very direct bearing on our understanding of learning, recognition and levels as they pose a direct challenge to the status quo. It is useful to distinguish between three forms of online credentials: Test-based credentials, online badges, and online certificates.
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