Issues for Distance Learning

Distance learning has been around for much of the last 100 years. Farmers and other rural residents have been taking advantage of correspondence education via mail since the early part of the 20th century. With the advent of the internet and the world wide web, however, the possibilities and the participation have taken a large jump forward. Geographical boundaries and scheduling conflicts are not the obstacles to learning that they have been in the past. This is not to say that distance learning is without any drawbacks.

"Network" learning is a term coined by Prothero (Prothero, 2000 ) denoting the application of internet and web technology to augment a traditional classroom setting. This would include a range of activities such as the use of a class web page to distribute handouts and information or examining web-based investigative cases in class. In contrast, online distance learning is the transmittal of course content and correspondence solely via the internet. In one sense it is simply a new medium by which to conduct correspondence classes, but it also opens up the entire World Wide Web as a resource for class discussions and assignments.

Online resources can be used in either network-classroom or distance learning situations, however distance learning (where the faculty member rarely or never meets students face-to-face) raises a different set of issues. This section highlights some of these considerations by looking at how well online distance learning fulfills different aspects of learning and by examining concerns about academic honesty.