When it comes to the working poor, or working class, it certainly helps to level the playing field. Some (including me) cannot afford to quit working to attend college on campus full time, but would still like to get a college education. For us, being able to take courses online or at night in a local virtual classroom, is a godsend that allows us to achieve our dreams of a degree AND still be able to provide for our families.
Yes, I believe it does. The primary concern (at least for me) with distance learning is whether or not the school offering the program is accredited and the student will receive professional advancement for the work, time, and money invested in his or her education.
Provided the school is accredited, the student is able to pay, and the student gives the schoolwork the proper attention and time needed to succeed, all students should be able to succeed equally through distance learning. It goes without saying, however, that the student should choose an institution which teaches in his/her native language or at least be fluent in the teaching language to be successful as well.
I would say that it has the potential to level the playing field of global inequality, but we need to remember that vast swathes of the world's population remain unconnected to the net and also are not able to access materials and information in their own language. Clearly, distance learning has helped greatly in developed countries, but I would argue that this has only served to heighten the disparity between developed and less developed countries. I have studied myself a course through distance learning and I found it to be a great experience, however, at the same time I was only able to do that because I spoke English, had money to pay for the course and had good internet access. These three factors are not shared by the world's population.
The availability of government funding does at least something to level the playing field so distance learning is more available to underprivileged in various countries. While the number and variety of distance learning programs are growing, they are also increasing in fundability eligibility, which increases accessibility for the less that well off members of the world community. I myself am pursuing an M.A. of English Linguistics through a Distance Learning pathway through an English university and have not yet set foot on English shores. All tolled, distance learning does provide greater opportunity and--more importantly--the great success of distance learning is opening ever more doors for ever more expanding accessibillity and opportunity for those currently outside its reach.
Here in NZ we have many students who use the Correspondence School for education. For many who live in rural areas this means thay they can stil study a range of subject and use various methods to do do. Online teaching is very much in its infancy: the courses use DVD, CD, bookwork and phone and e-mail contact. The Correspondence School also allows students to study subjects not offered bu their school. I teach in a rural area, and we have no languages or music teachers. Being able to use distance learning means that the students are some way to being equal to their peers in the cities.
The courses offered are often only as good as the teacher providing the material and student support - which is of course the same for face-to face teaching.
I think that distance learning means that more peope can access learning, but equality of opportunity in education - like other facets of human existence - is not yet within our grasp.
It has potential to offer equal opportunities, although I am of the opinion that the online experience is often no substitute for live instructor-student interaction, which tends to be more dynamic in nature. As a teacher myself, I'm probably biased. While I have had some positive online experiences with classes, it wasn't the same, and I found I was not as motivated.
The great benefit of online education is that geography is no longer a barrier, and one can avoid the costs typically associated with having to live where the university is. It also opens up opportunities to those who work full time, to stay at home moms or dads, and to people who simply learn better at their own pace and in their home environment.
So, in short, I would say it offers good opportunities, but not necessarily equal ones.
Along with considering the learning style of the student, the structure and presentation mode of the material to be learned also needs to be considered when evaluating the potential value of a distance learning experience. Some subject areas are more suited than others for distance learning (which frequently means computer-based instruction). In the same way, some methods of presenting, reinforcing, practicing, and applying knowledge can be easily adapted to the requirements of the distance learning structure, while other programs and techniques have more difficulty transferring to this mode of instruction.
Potential distance learners need to carefully assess the program they are considering to determine if it matches their learning preferences and if it presents worthwhile learning experiences to meet their needs. Unfortunately, this requires a certain access to technology (which requires some financial commitment in most cases, as noted above) and some degree of prior knowledge or awareness about learning style and curriculum presentation methodology. When these conditions can be met, distance learning can be a viable and valuable option. When these conditions are unmet, it can lead to frustration, wasted time and expense, and disillusionment.
I would certainly agree in that it does! I went through a distance learning program for my Masters. Through the program you are required to attend four to five residencies where you take classes in the traditional format, and also get the chance to network with people.
As I completed all my residencies, I met people from all around the world who also were attending this program. They all seemed very satisfied and the support and friendships that grew out of that wonderful program made me a much better professional with loads of experiences to talk about later on.
Distance learning only provides equal opportunities if it is equally available to all people. I would argue that distance learning actually helps people in rich countries (and, to some extent, rich people in poor countries) get further ahead.
The reason for this is that many poor countries (and poor people) lack the resources to take advantage of distance learning opportunities. They may lack the computers needed or their country may not have good internet access. Another problem is that there may not be many distance learning opportunities available in their native language.
In these ways, it seems likely that distance learning makes it easier for people in rich countries to get educated without really doing much to enhance opportunities for people in poorer countries.
Distance learning is not just about information technology. Older technologies can be involved-Radio, TV, Mail etc.
I agree that it is not resource free, however there is also no travel and it is not time restricted. Like all good teaching it depends on the teacher ( in this case the system) but it also depends on the learner. In fact you dont need 'teachers' to learn and in a lot of case, teachers are the root of negative education experiences. Why do kids run into primary school and have to be coerced into secondary schools.
The big issue with distance learning that is oft ignored is the type of learner you are. You need motivation, an enquiring mind, tenacity, organisation etc.
Omit any of these and your on he way down. You also need time and space in which to learn, plus a supportive environment. No matter how well motivated you are if you cannot get the right environment and support you are doomed.
In essence I agree it more than likely favours the better off.