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Distance Education: Drawbacks and Pitfalls

Today, the Internet is firmly entered into our lives. Modern education is unthinkable without computers and the Internet. Most of today’s school children and students are actively using the computer and the Internet in their lives and education. Moreover, in modern society, a specialist is needed to study virtually all his life with rapid growth of the information. Previously, a vast majority of people could afford to learn once for all. The stock of knowledge was sufficient for a lifetime. Today, the idea of ‘life-long education’ leads to the need to find new methods of knowledge and learning technologies transfer. Constant use of Internet technologies and e-learning opens up new opportunities for continuous learning and retraining of specialists; the opportunity to get the second education makes learning more accessible. Thus, it becomes obvious that distance education became a significant part of our life, and a person should know all its advantages and disadvantages, making the own choice between different kinds of education. The main advantages of distance education are widely known for people; therefore we are going to discuss the main disadvantages of distance education in the body of this paper. The thesis of this paper is the following: distance education is convenient and inexpensive kind of education, but is limited in practice and live communication.

At the beginning, it is believed that the main disadvantage of distance education is the lack of communication with teachers, as well as with other students. Into the acknowledgement of this fact Motamedi (2001) stated that “in distance education, neither teachers nor students are physically present to clarify, discuss, or provide feedback – there is no face-to-face contact. Yet, distance education continues to be popular because it provides access to education for those who are unable to attend an educational establishment regularly.” The emotional component of education disappears; students do not feel an individual approach during the process of education, etc. The transfer of knowledge becomes impersonal. In such a way, distance education leads students to social isolation, because students can feel the lack of direct communication with their teachers and classmates in many cases. However, such psychological anonymity can be reduced by using modern communication technologies, such as forums, e-mails, chats, video – and online conferences, etc.

The next drawback of distance education is absence of technical opportunities. For a continued access to the source of knowledge, the student should be well equipped technically. At least one must have a laptop and the internet access. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford this. If the person likes to travel and receive education at the same time, then he / she is seriously dependent on the points of Wi-Fi, flash-modems, etc.

The disadvantages of distance education are also the lack of a permanent control over the students; the student does not feel the practical knowledge. In addition, not all courses are suited to distance learning. For example, it is wrong to expect that the distant courses are suitable to such occupations as a doctor or a pilot of an airliner. But at the present time, according to Prümmer (2000), distance learning is increasingly growing in the fields of education. Demand for such distance education has increased particularly since many require advanced training, but do not have enough time for such full-time programs of education.

Discussing the disadvantages of distance education, we can also mention that there exist some problems with students’ authentication while checking knowledge, because traditional education requires full-time exams, while distance education allows students to cheat their tutors. Tait & Mills (2003) mentioned that distance education does not provide quick feedback. In traditional education the student’s performance can be immediately assessed by questions and informal testing, while the distant student must wait for verification of his work and answer from his instructor exactly with distance education. Many distance learners say that it is easy to relax at home, and they loose interest to learning. Taylor (2007) added that “students who are weaker academically may be at a disadvantage in the distance learning environment. Distance learners have to be self-directed and intrinsically motivated”. As a result, distance education requires rigid self-discipline and strong motivation that would help the student to learn independently and without constant supervision.

And, finally, not every employer recognizes distance education, although the vast majority does not mind. Meyer (2002) said that despite the fact that many distance education diplomas are recognized equally with traditional ones, employers prefer applicants with familiar traditional degrees.

Thus, we have observed the main disadvantages of distance education and proved the thesis that in spite of the fact that distance education is convenient and inexpensive kind of education, it is still limited in practice and live communication. To date, various programs of distance education are not well developed still, because distance education is a relatively new trend in education. By itself, this way of education has a number of features, and they should be considered in the preparation of textbooks, but in practice teachers often use the same materials as for full-time study. In addition, if the student cannot exchange the live communication with the teacher and other students on e-mails, online education is unlikely to suit him.

To sum up, the distance education is a quite convenient and useful opportunity to receive knowledge. There is no doubt that it is a big step in the education of the future. But we should not forget the traditional education that will give the student more advanced skills, particularly in obtaining basic education. As a result, we can recommend to choose distance education as a kind of extra education, or if a person has no opportunity to learn in traditional way for some strong reasons.

 

References:

Meyer, K. (2002). Quality in Distance Education: Focus on On-Line Learning. Jossey-Bass.
Motamedi, V. (2001). A Critical Look at the Use of Videoconferencing in United States Distance Education. Education, Vol. 122.
Prümmer, C. V. (2000). Women and Distance Education: Challenges and Opportunities. RoutledgeFalmer.
Tait, A. & Mills, R. (2003). Re-Thinking Learner Support in Distance Education: Change and Continuity in an International Context. RoutledgeFalmer.
Taylor, N. (2007). Education Leaders Perspectives: Pros and Cons of Distance Education in a Small Caribbean Island. Distance Learning, Vol. 4.