Enabling the Role of ICTs in Distance Learning Education Programs


Enabling the role of ICT’s in Distance Learning Education Programs

The need for ICTs in primary education is important as it creates educational opportunities on a wide scale for those students who are unable to afford traditional classroom teaching modules due to cost ineffectiveness, teacher unavailability, and some other factors.

In this respect, the Information Communication Technology plays a much broader role along with education modules such as the distance learning programs and education efforts for students unable to study in universities of their choice, which were earlier not possible. Since the introduction of long distance programs in 1950s, many universities in developing nations provide distance education schemes and provide free courseware content through print media, television, and audio visual contents, specifically for primary and higher education students.

Today, these distance learning programs have now been providing course materials in distance teacher training institutes. Notable examples of some Universities providing distance programs in the world include Mexico’s Telesecundaria, China’s Central Radio and TV University, Indonesia’s Universitas Terbuka, and India’s Indira Gandhi National Open University. However they receive thousands of applications every year and provide millions of educational content to the students, but programs like these disable the abilities of a teacher – student face to face interaction, enabling students with almost no opportunity to interact with the teacher or the fellow students. This low interactive session creates low completion rates of programs or courses thus adversely affecting the growth of distance education schemes.

Notable examples of some Universities providing distance programs in the world include Mexico’s Telesecundaria, China’s Central Radio and TV University, Indonesia’s Universitas Terbuka, and India’s Indira Gandhi National Open University. However they receive thousands of applications every year and provide millions of educational content to the students, but programs like these disable the abilities of a teacher – student face to face interaction, enabling students with almost no opportunity to interact with the teacher or the fellow students. This low interactive session creates low completion rates of programs or courses thus adversely affecting the growth of distance education schemes.

 Internet today provides a more interactive model of distance learning, although it must replace the older methods of communication with the new growing social media platforms like Skype and YouTube. Not along many students were seen rejoicing on the free availability of massive open online courses (MOOCs), in partnership with tier one American universities and some private companies. Such courses involve open and free enrolment, and provide video lectures, along with electronically assessed assignments and online discussion forum where students can ask doubts, clarify or discuss the topic freely. MOOC platforms are equipped with the ability to store large amount of data on student engagement , performance, followed by their analysis and student feedback which will not only help in achieving the student teacher interaction but also will make the courseware better. MOOCs are a recent development that came into the market to assist students in education, although they have received a huge attention along with large capital investment especially in higher education sectors in nations such as United States and Europe, however the similar response in the developing nations is difficult to say. Although a large number of students who enrolled in the beginning were from Asia and South America but, the success of this model will be measured only if it is widely accepted

MOOC platforms are equipped with the ability to store large amount of data on student engagement , performance, followed by their analysis and student feedback which will not only help in achieving the student teacher interaction but also will make the courseware better. MOOCs are a recent development that came into the market to assist students in education, although they have received a huge attention along with large capital investment especially in higher education sectors in nations such as United States and Europe, however the similar response in the developing nations is difficult to say. Although a large number of students who enrolled in the beginning were from Asia and South America but, the success of this model will be measured only if it is widely accepted specially in the developing world, where education costs more than a living for an individual; Many deep rooted questions and unwanted tough challenges will concern the authorities and the students applying, on a long run.

Discussion

There are numerous issues and unanswered questions surrounding the importance and role of ICTs in distance education especially for students of the developing world. The list is very large and exhaustive.

Traditional distance learning education methods Vs ICTs

Many experts will agree the need of Internet technologies to expand reach of education among students is a must, thus there is no doubt that internet technologies are the best suited cost effective mechanism to outreach the educational programs, hence the previous education mechanism will be globally replaced. As discussed above, many universities in Asia and Latin America have large scale distance learning programs which completely rely on radio, print and television. However programs focusing on Internet usage provide greater inactivity, thus creating a sense of dissatisfaction among the students, teachers and globally effecting the distance programs as radio and television are more in developing nations rather than regular internet connectivity.

Many under developing nations such as nations in the sub-Saharan Africa, lack the well developed distance learning infrastructure, hence investment in ICT is considered as a “risk taking” playing field which many Information Communication companies avoid to enter. Internet access is scarcely available in the region, especially the students seeking education in poorest areas, receives courseware in any available format, which brings challenge to this issue. Thus expanding the educational content should be addressed comprehensively through various support mechanisms.  As it is just not a technical resolution, it is moreover affecting the people of some poorest nations socially and economically, where cost of education is higher than cost of living. Hence a word of caution, the online educational education technologies provides easy access but also creates a new challenge in the development.

As the national education systems in some of the developing nations unable to invest in ICTs and educational mechanisms, students who have the access to internet technologies use this globalized internet access mediums in courses designed by universities, private companies, and NGOs. Now, students irrespective of their counterparts studying in top notch universities like Stanford and MIT, can now access the courseware from anywhere in the world, online. Although a question arises, whether the students living in the third world nations understand the way of teachings by the professors from the west. Cultural specific learning process and diverse needs of students from the developing world will create difficulty in understanding the not-so-specifically-designed courseware. It is not necessarily true that students from the South Asian nations such as Philippines and Sri Lanka, with poor primary and higher education

Although a question arises, whether the students living in the third world nations understand the way of teachings by the professors from the west. Cultural specific learning process and diverse needs of students from the developing world will create difficulty in understanding the not-so-specifically-designed courseware. It is not necessarily true that students from the South Asian nations such as Philippines and Sri Lanka, with poor primary and higher education methodologies will understand the courseware designed by teachers with excellent know hows from Harvard or Cambridge.

Hence, I believe that United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development should look into the circumstances of students specifically in the Asian and African regions. Thus, the use of ICTs should be taken practically into account before designing any courseware, and how these technologies can provide a comprehensive and interactive education programs for the students benefitting them in making their future secure, is important.

Use of ICTs in Primary, Secondary and Higher education

 Distance education irrespective to technology needs, receives massive enrolment especially in secondary and higher education, where students have the basic know how of primary skills and have become self efficient and capable of online learning. The distance learning programs are also widely available in specialized disciplines like science and engineering, where teachers are inadequate in supply in international, national and regional capacity. However most investment in distance education has been recorded in the higher level, the growing demand of MOOCs being an apt example.

Hence the need for large scale, cost effective expansion of educational opportunity in primary as well as secondary education gives distance education programs the ability to create variant dynamic learning methods and promotes e-learning means. With the modernization in technology new means such as education tablets, provides the students even younger and illiterate, to join this virtual classroom. Although some NGOs have experimented this process by distributing hand held educational devices to children, research pointed that ICT enabled learning at both primary and secondary level was most effective in a blended or hybrid approach where teachers were trained to overcome the traditional classroom model . However the need for education for underprivileged children in nations like Philippines and Sudan will empower the development in educational methodologies which will one day reduce the traditional training methods.

Although some NGOs have experimented this process by distributing hand held educational devices to children, research pointed that ICT enabled learning at both primary and secondary level was most effective in a blended or hybrid approach where teachers were trained to overcome the traditional classroom model . However the need for education for underprivileged children in nations like Philippines and Sudan will empower the development in educational methodologies which will one day reduce the traditional training methods.

Although some NGOs have experimented this process by distributing hand held educational devices to children, research pointed that ICT enabled learning at both primary and secondary level was most effective in a blended or hybrid approach where teachers were trained to overcome the traditional classroom model . However the need for education for underprivileged children in nations like Philippines and Sudan will empower the development in educational methodologies which will one day reduce the traditional training methods.

Hence, I believe that the United Nations Commission Science, Technology and Development will consider the use of ICTs in educational programs and will one day overcome the challenges faced in primary, secondary, and higher education in the developing world.

Using the Model: Blended Vs Standalone....Continued on the next page.





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