Role of Media and Technology in Distance Education

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Role of Media and Technology in Distance Education

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Distance education was started to revolutionaries the concept of higher education throughout the world and was considered as an attractive mode to democratize higher education. Distance education has emerged to be a popular non-formal channel to provide answer to equity, access, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. The first clear statement on distance education was made in the Report of the Education Commission (1964-66) where it is mentioned, “There must also be a method of taking education to the mill ions who depend upon their own effort to study whenever they have time to do so. We consider that correspondence or home-study courses provide the right answer for these situations.”

The Education Commission further stated, “It is obvious that these universities should not be the only agencies which should organize correspondence courses. Provision of correspondence courses should also be one important function of the extension service of developmental departments of government such as agriculture, industries and health. This should prove to be a valuable method of conveying to the educated and the neo-l iterate al like such knowledge and improved techniques as the departments concerned will to put across.

The recommendation of the Education Commission was incorporated in the National Policy of Education ( 1986) that “……Part time educational and correspondence courses should be developed on a large scale at the university stage. Such facilities should also be developed for secondary school students, for teachers and for agricultural individual and other workers. Education through part time and correspondence courses should be given same status as full time education. Such facilities will bring smooth transition from school to work, promote the cause of education and provide opportunities to a large number of people who have the desires to educate themselves further but cannot do so on a full time basis.”

Moore ( 1972) gives more clear definition of distance education “The family of instructional methods in which the teaching behaviors are executed apart from the learning behaviors … so that communication between the learner and the teacher must be facilitated by print, electronic, popular and mechanical, or other devices.” Thus, the term flexible and open, distance education seems to be more appropriate because it is “arrangement to enable people to learn at the time, place and space which satisfies their circumstances and requirements.”

The concept of ‘Distance Education‘ is not new, and can be traced as far back as the first century. The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christian Churches, teaching them from a distance even from his prison cell. But, organizational use of distance learning methods was first introduced in the 19th century. One of the first universities to deliver distance learning in an organized manner was Pennsylvania State University which established its first distance learning network in 1886.

Today, distance education calls upon an impressive, range of technologies to enable teachers and students who are separated by distance, to communicate with each other either in real time (synchronous) or delayed time (asynchronous). Due to modern communication and technologies, today the educational transactions through distance mode is being utilized by students and teachers engaged in both formal and open system of education. Rai (2000) has defined three types of distance education systems, viz., Institute-centered, Person-centered and Society-based.

(i). Institute – Centered Distance Education  System:  In  this  system there is a predominance of systematic models of education. The institutional mission focuses on the cost-effectiveness and cost-efficiency of the system. Academics become consultants to the institution for material design and development. All other functionaries in the institution are assigned key functions with accountability and individual responsibility.

(ii). Person – Centered Distance Education system: Under this system of distance education, the programmers are more individualized and negotiable as the aim is to serve the individual learner. Individualized learning is personally negotiated and is followed up by tutors/counselors.

(iii). Society Based Distance Education System: In the society based distance education system learning, materials are developed in accordance with the needs of the community. These are used in community situations where the teacher strives to involve the entire community i n the study of the learning materials. The teacher functions as a facilitator to identify learning goals, to evaluate learning materials, etc.

Before discussing the various media and technologies of distance education, appropriate to deliberate upon its objectives in brif the distance education attempts :

  • to provide an opportunity of education to those who had discontinued their formal education due to one reason or other at any age and class. The working persons, economically and otherwise disabled persons or persons residing in remote areas may improve and advance their academic career through distance education;
  • to provide quality education and training to large number of students at lower costs than conventional education system;
  • to make access to higher education;
  • to promote education as a lifelong activity by providing necessary access to the masses, particularly to the disadvantageous groups like those living in rural areas, the employed, women, weaker sections of the society and many others wishing to acquire and upgrade knowledge and skills, at their door steps;
  • to provide a flexible and diversified innovative education system which is open in the methods of learning, pace, place, eligibility criterion as well as in every operation of the program;
  • to promote courses leading to gainful employment, tailored to specific vocational/professional needs, as also being relevant to local needs;

In order to achieve the objectives of distance education and to make the education, meaningful, exciting, interesting level accessible to all, the new technologies need to be linked with the process of learning. The new technologies are not only capable of overcoming the barriers of distance but also able to change the very nature of the instructional process.

Media and Technologies in Distance Education

Media in distance education is a kind of delivery system, which includes all kinds of mechanical devices directed to educational use. These devices are used to communicate knowledge or ideas to a large number of people who are located in far off rural and remote areas. Distance education program can be enriched and made more attractive, effective and satisfying for learning by using a variety of media i n accordance with the content. The facilities that can be provided for these programmes should attempt an exploitation of the potential of the variety of powerful media rendered by modem technology.

Taylor (1997) offers the following classification of the model of distance education and the associated delivery technologies –

First Generation – The Correspondence Model

  • Print material

Second Generation – The Multimedia Model

  • Printed material
  • Audiotape
  • Videotape
  • Computer-based learning (CAI, CM!, CBT, CAL, etc.)
  • Interactive Videodisc and tapes

Third Generation – The Tele Learning Model

  • Audio tele-conferencing
  • Video conferencing
  • Audio graphic communication
  • Broadcast TV/Radio and Audio Tele-conferencing

Fourth Generation-The Flexible Learning Model

  • Interactive Multimedia (IMM)
  • Internet based access to WWW resources
  • Computer mediated communication

A variety of media are used in distance education by the open universities as well as by the institutes of distance learning. They can be basically classified into two groups:

(1) print media and

(2) non-print media.

Print Media

Distance education in its earliest form utilized only the print media, which is still being used in almost all the countries. It is the most popular medium as it is easy to carry, is comparatively cheaper and can be used according to the convenience of the learners. The learners get the self-instructional material at their homes by post. The material is carefully prepared by subject experts in accordance with the needs of the learners, which helps them to learn the subject without any assistance.

The invention and subsequent use of computers in printing have made it easier to include pictures and data with the text. This can be effortlessly stored in the form of digital data displayed on screens and besides this, text can also be printed as ‘hard copy’ on paper. Thus, the self-learning became more easily comprehensible. The print media has many inherent advantages, as given below –

   Intellectual Development: Print is considered by tradition a powerful medium of learning. There is a common assumption that intellectually print is a superior medium as compared to television, which encourages children to be passive, mindless and unimaginative’ (Greenfield, 1984). Print does have major advantages for dealing with logical and rational thinking, which require precious, precise, factual, accuracy and clarity of thought. Print lends itself both to consciously critical analysis and to intellectual-as well as emotional-persuasion, by those who have learned the rules of communicating through print. Print is a medium that facilitates what Piaget calls the ‘formal operational’ stage of intellectual development, which is the manipulation of symbol ic or abstract concepts (Digget, 1970).

    Representational Qualities : Printed text can precisely represent facts, abstract ideas, rules and principles, as well as detailed, lengthy or complex arguments. It is good for narrative text or storytelling, and in the hands of a skilled writer can lend itself to new interpretations and imagination. As the printed material is able to handle abstractions quite well and it can be a very dense medium, i.e. a single book can contain a great deal of ‘coded’ information. Print is still accepted as a stone house of bulk of knowledge.

  • Interaction : All forms of reading require interaction between the reader and the text. Text is not a neutral object; its meaning depends on the interpretation of the reader whether it is a work of great literature or a car mechanic’s manual. Therefore, if the reader has to obtain meaning from a text, there has to be an interaction.
  • User Friendliness : A major advantage of printed material over other technologies is that it is self-sufficient and a learner does not require any additional accessories. It is conveniently portable. In the printed book the indexes, lists, page numbering, chapters and headings are usually well written, due to which information required can be quickly accessed, even by relatively untutored users. Printed material can also be quickly scanned and e-mailed to the learner.

Limitations of the Print Technology

A major weakness of print is that the students who fail to understand the text are often unaware of its causes and at this point an intervention from a tutor is most necessary. Another weakness of print is its difficulty in providing immediate feedback for questions that have a variety of acceptable responses, or which require complex or elaborate responses, or for challenging and ‘discussing’ the appropriateness of students’ responses to questions from the text. One consequence of this is that usually students have to wait for at least I 0 days between submitting an assignment and receiving back the tutor’s comments and for the assignment grade. This ‘turn-round’ time on assignments is a major weakness of this channel of distance education (Rekkedal, I 978).

Non-print Media

The area of non-print media includes the technologies such as radio, television, telephone, videotext , computers, Internet, satellite and so on.

Radio

Radio has been used in education for over 60 years and has become one of the most powerful media of mass communication  in the modern age. It is being increasingly used in advanced countries to overcome the shortage of qualified teachers and suitable books. Radio is accessible to more people than any other single technology; even in developed countries those who do not have access to television have at least one radio set. It is found in almost all house-holds (UNESCO, I 986). Radio has been used in many ways in education and can enrich the farthest comers (Bates, I 984).

In India, radio broadcasts in different languages and regional dialects, covers 95% of the population of rural and remote areas. It is a very powerful medium of education in local language and thus works as an alternative to school and qualified good teachers. It has been extensively used for educational purposes in school broadcasting, informal general education, social action programming and adult basic education/literacy.

  • Advantages of Radio : One of the greatest advantages of radio is that it is an easy pad familiar technology for most people. No special skills are required to operate a radio set, and even people with low levels of literacy can learn from radio. In addition to the printed materials lessons can be planned-and rotten for broadcast form through All India Radio, which may supplemental reinforce instruction imparted through the printed material. Programs can be produced and transmitted to a large number of people very quickly, within negligible time gap. Radio can be used to link contemporary national/international incidents and political events as they occur.
  • Limitations of Radio: One of the main weaknesses of radio is difficulty of two-way communication between the teacher and learners. However, phone-in-radio programs provide an opportunity for interactivity between students and the teacher, but the level of interactivity and participation rates are often low (Bates et.al; 1981 ) perhaps because of expensive telephone rates. Walia (200 I ) in his study on interactive radio counseling revealed that queries from respondents individually or through study centers are although low 28.62% (in which 77.74% mailed letters and 22.26% telephone calls) but to begin with, it is not bad. It is very interesting that more queries are mailed from rural students (53.3%) than urban ones (46.7%). On the contrary, urban students have greater access to telephone mode (83.2%) in comparison to their rural counterparts (16.8%). sex-wise analysis revealed that male participation was significantly higher (through letters 64% and telephonic mode 83.2%) as compared to female participants (through letters 36% and telephonic mode 16.8%) in interactive-radio conferencing/counseling (IRC).

However, through Gyan Vani, IGNOU has started to provide the interaction facility. The success of the programmed necessitates the following measures

  • More awareness should be developed among students about Interactive-Radio Conferencing/Counseling (IRC).
  • Study centers should have STD telephone facility and telephone call should be toll free.
  • The IRC should be organized weekly or twice a week. It will help i n creating interest and motivation among learners to participate actively in IRC.
  • Recorded IRC cassettes should be prepared and made available to the students individually or through the study centres.

Another major weakness of radio is its ephemerality. Many distance education students find it difficult to be available at a fixed time on a regular basis.

Television

The television (TV) is found to be a more effective medium than radio for spread ing education at a distance because the presentation through TV is rich I n content, powerful in retention and expression. Increasingly, TV is becoming cost effective as well as user friendly. Also easier access to transmission and distribution facilities e.g. satellite and cable channel, videodiscs and video conferencing, have encouraged many institutions and organizations to use TV for teaching.

Instructional television (ITV) can be a more effective delivery system in distance learning through Narrow Cast Broadcasting. In ‘Narrow Cast Broadcasting ‘, ITV is more likely to be distributed through Instructional Television Fixed Services (ITFS), Satellite, Cable, Videocassette or Videodisc, than through the national terrestrial broadcast T.V. network. The reason being that it is difficult for individual institutions or students of different regions having different medium of instruction to get access to limited national terrestrial broadcast channels that is targeted for relatively small number of viewers according to their need and convenience.

Instructional television may be either passive or interactive. Passive-ITV typically involves pre-produced programmers, which are distributed by videocassette or by video-based technologies such as broadcast, cable or satellite. In  contrast, interactive-ITV provides opportunities for viewer interaction , either with a live instructor or a participating student site. For example, two-way video conferencing enables people at different locations to have two way video communications i.e. at each site participants can see and hear people at all the other sites connected. At the same time, cameras at remote sites allow the teacher to view all participating students. ITV can also be available in other forms :-

Video  Cassette

TV material can be recorded on and replayed from electro-magnetic tape. VCR can record and playback, enabling both ‘time-shift’ recording and playback from broadcast TV and also replays of pre-recorded educational programmers. Videocassettes can be copied and distributed by mail. Videocassettes store image in a linear passion and it takes up some time to locate the right segment.

Videodisc

It operates differently from videocassette. Optical videodiscs work by a laser beam ‘reading’ and detecting tiny bits below the surface of the plastic coating. A single frame can be stored in one rotation of the disc. Furthermore, images can be accessed randomly, rather than linearly within a very short time because its frame has its own digital code number, allowing any single frame to be accessed immediately and a much more advantage is that a single frame can be held steady as long as desired. Picture quality is also better in videodisc than in videocassette or broadcasts.

Videodisc can store 50,000 separate image or still frame color pictures arid in one second 25 to 30 frames may be played to achieve a full video motion, depending whether the equipment is on PAL or NTSC television standard. Though, huge qualities of text in the form of digital data and sounds on several different audio tracks can also be stored in the videodisc, but the TV pictures can be stored in analogue form.

A more advantage of videodisc over videocassette is that videocassette distribution can be transferred straight over to videodisc without further editing and exploiting the control characteristics of videodisc. However, the cost of videodisc player is similar to that of videocassette recorder but as compared to VCR the popularity of VCD is very low.

Instructional Television

Instructional Television has both advantages and limitations. These are enumerated below –

Advantages

  • The medium is familiar to most of the people. It can also be used effectively as a motivational tool;
  • In ITV motion and visuals can be combined in a single format. Thus, complex or abstract concepts can be illustrated very easily through visual simulation;
  • Through ITV virtual classroom or virtual laboratory can be developed in any environment/place;
  • It is very effective for introducing, summarizing and reviewing the concepts;
  • Through recorded ITV tapes, time and space can be managed by the learner as per convenience and can be used many times;
  • It can be used to record special events, experiments, species, places, people, buildings, etc. which are crucial to the units of the content, but may be likely to disappear, die or be destroyed in the near future;
  • ITV is found very effective to illustrate and explain the following :

(i). principles involving dynamic change or movement;

(ii). abstract principles through the use of specially constructed physical models;

(iii). principle involving two-three, or n-dimensional space;

(iv). use or effects of tools or equipment;

(v). application of basic principles in the real world, where visualization of the application in its total environment is necessary to understand how the principles have been applied and the difficulties encountered;

(vi). decision-making processes by dramatization or by simulation or role-playing.

Limitations

  • Course material are instructional ly pre-designed, therefore, there is no possibility of modification and revision for individual variation.
  • Video production is time consuming and can be done by those having expertise. It requires relatively sophisticated production facilities and equipments.
  • Most pre recorded ITV courses use a mass media approach to instruction aimed at the average student. As a result, they can be ineffective in serving students with special needs.
  • When using passive ITV, without having any interaction with students, its instructional effectiveness becomes limited.
  • Unless professionally prod used, ITV programmers often look amateurish.

Computers

Since 1 990s, educators have witnessed the rapid development of computer networks, dramatic improvements in the processing power of personal computers and striking advances in magnetic storage technology. These developments have made the computer a dynamic force i n distance education, providing a new and interactive self-paced and individualized means of overcoming time and distance to reach learners. The major classification of computer applications for distance education falls into four broad categories :

  • Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) : According to Splitegerber ( 1979), “A teaching process directly involving the computer i n the presentation of instructional material in an interactive mode to provide and control the individualized learning environment for each individual students. CAI uses the computer as a self-contained teaching machine to present discrete lessons to achieve specific but limited educational objectives. There are several CAI modes, including: drill and practice, tutorials, simulations, demonstration, games and problem solving.
  • Computer Managed Instruction (CM/) : “The systematic control of instruction by the computer. It is characterized by testing, diagnosis, learning prescriptions and through record keeping” is known as computer managed instruction” (Burke 1982). Whereas Labium (1982) has defined . CMI as “all applications of the computer that aid the instructor in instructional management without actually doing the teaching”.CMI uses the computer’s branching, storage and retrieval capabilities to organize instruction and track student records and progress. The instruction need not be delivered via computer, although often CAI (the instructional component) is combined with CMI. The CMJ includes tracking and placement; grading; display and analysis; scheduling and various information management tasks.
  • Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) : The key element of CMC is the integration of the desktop computer with the pubic telephone network. Such services require a local micro computer or terminal, communication software package for each local computer, a separate box or integrated chip called modem which converts computer data into a suitable form for transmission via the telephone system, and a connection between a modem and a standard telephone line. Modems can operate at different speeds, depending on volume of data to be transmitted.

In most cases, user has an ‘address’ (i.e. a telephone number) that connects him/her to a host computer which provides a range of, services (via software packages) e.g. electronic mail and computer conferencing facilities. Thus, an educational institution can establish an internal network’ of users, using a Local Area Network (LAN) and learners and teachers remote from any campus can also be connected to the institutions network via public telephone system, thus creating an institutional Wide Area Network (WAN). An institution host computer can also provide ‘gateways’ or access to other external networks, such as the internet and thus, an individual can access other networks and their services directly.

CMC describes computer applications that facilitate communication. CMC constitutes of different services e.g., electronic mail, computer conferencing and electronic bulletin boards, databases and off-line editing.

  • Computer-Based Multimedia (CBMM) : HyperCard, hypermedia and a still developing generation of powerful, sophisticated and flexible computing tools have gained the attention of distance educators in recent years. The goal of computer-based multimedia is to integrate various voices, video and other computer technologies into a single easily accessible delivery system.

Advantages of Computer as Instructional Medium

  • Computers can facilitate self-paced and individualized learning: In the CAI mode, for example, computer individualizes learning, and gives immediate reinforcement and feedback;
  • Computers are a multimedia tool: With integrated graphite, print, audio and video capabilities, computers can effectively link various technologies. Interactive video and CD-ROM technologies can be incorporated into computer-based instruction units, lessons and learning environments;
  • Computers are interactive: Microcomputer system incorporating various software packages are extremely flexible and maximize learner control;
  • Computer technology is rapidly advancing; innovations are constantly emerging while its cost is continuously decreasing;
  • Computers increase access to local, regional and national networks, link resources and individuals, wherever they might be, in fact, many institutions are now offering complete-undergraduate and postgraduate programmers relying almost exclusively on computer­ based resources.

Limitations of Computers as Instructional Medium

Although individual computers are relatively inexpensive as to the computer hardware and software market is becoming more and more competitive day by day. But it is still costly to develop the instructional networks and purchase the system software to run them. Another barrier is the widespread computer illiteracy, which still exists, even though computers have been in use in India since the 1960’s. For the success of computer technology in distance education, students must be highly motivated and proficient in computer operation before they can successfully work in a computer-based distance-learning environment.

Internet

With the revolutionary developments in information and communication technology in the last decade, perhaps more than any other distance media, the internet and web helps to overcome the barriers of time, space and individual inaction in teaching and learning. There are several educational benefits of internet. The internet is a global network. The original purpose of the internet was a faster open communication and exchange of data among scholars and educators. It is actually big collection of communication protocol called TCP/I P (Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol ). The advantage of internet is that it is widely open and the intonation available is rich in both volume and variety. The whole internet is nothing more than satellites, communication media/devices, cables, computers and software. Al l these computers are connected to each other i n a complicated pattern. In most places these connections are via fiber optic cables or telephone lines (which have been bought or leased from telephone or communication companies) or via Y-sets. The internet is the largest, most powerful computer network in the world, which comprises of millions of computers with Internet addresses that are used by millions of people of various places and countries. Day by day more and more colleges, universities, schools, companies and individuals are being connected to the internet either through affiliations with regional non-profit networks or by subscribing to information services provided by for-profit companies. It has opened more possibilities for distance educators to overcome time and distance to reach students. Distance learning (DL) on the internet usually takes place i n one of the following forms.

(i) Downloading of course material and tutorials

(ii) Interactive-tutorial on the web

  • Electronic Mail (e-mail) : E-mail is the most commonly used application on the I internet. Like Postal mail, e-mail is used to exchange messages or other information with people. Instead of being delivered by the postal service to a postal address, e-mail is delivered by Internet software through a computer network to a computer address.
  • Intranet : An intranet is an internal company-wide network that uses the internet standards of HTML/HTTP and TCP/I P communications protocol along with a web-browser to support business applications and provide departmental, interdepartmental and company wide communication facility/services. An intranet uses a web-server, but unlike an internet-based. web, an intranet web server is only connected to a company’s local area network. Intranets are co-operate websites protected from outside access and can be used to train the employees of a Limited region.
  • Bulletin Boards /Newsgroups: A number of on-line bulletin boards and journals have been created for open learning and distance education. Bulletin boards/Newsgroups allow a speaker’s notes to be shared in real time with viewers over a wide area. This tool makes the dialogue among researchers, educators and students more interactive and more effective, enhancing the collaborative research and learning process. Two common public bulletin boards on the Internet are USENET and LJSTSERV.

in distance education, e-mail can be used for delivery of course materials, sending in assignments, getting/giving feedback, etc. USENET is a collection of thousands of topically, organised newsgroups, covering everything from supercomputer design to bungee card jumping and ranging in distribution from the whole world to single institutions. LJSTSERV also provides discussion forums on a variety of topics broken out by topic or area of special interest.

  • World Wide Web (WWW) : The WWW is a system that links information stored anywhere on the Internet i n a mesh of hyperlinks. These hyperlinks enable an educator or a student equipped with a suitable browser to navigate through a distributed information resource by simply following pointers from one hypermedia document to another. The WWW provides internet users uniform and convenient means of accessing a wide variety of resources (pictures, text, data, sound, video) available on the internet. The central organizing feature of the WWW is the “home page”. Every organization and even every individual user of the WWW can create a home page that contains whatever information   they  want  to    The  hypertext capabilities of the WWW facilitate linking of information within our home page and with all other home pages on the WWW.
  • Informatics: It is used for on-time databases, library catalogue, etc. to acquire latest information’s.

Instructional Possibilities of the Internet

Some instructional possibilities of the Internet include:

  • using e-mail for one to one correspondence : Feedback from the instructor can be received more quickly than messages sent by post mail. Students can read messages at their convenience and easily store them for later reference.
  • Establishing a classroom bulletin board : Distant students often work in isolation without the assistance and support of fellow students. Setting up a class bulletin board can encourage student-to-student interaction. With a class computer-conference, individual students can post their comments or questions to the class and every other individual is free to respond. The conference can also be used to post all modifications to the class schedule or curriculum, assignments/tests and their answers.
  • Engaging students in dialogue with other students: Faculty and researchers by encouraging them to join bulletin board on topic related to the class.
  • Developing a classroom home page : The home page can cover information about the class including the syllabus, exercises, literature, references and the instructor’s biography. The instructor can also provide links to information on the WWW that would be useful to students in the class. Other links could access library catalogues or each student’s individual home page.

Limitations oj internet

The following strategies are intended to make distance learning more effective as suggested by  A.W. Bates-1995:

  • Understand the technology’s strengths and weaknesses;
  • Provide technical training and orientation;
  • Plan for technical failures and ensure access to technical support.
  • Foster learning-to-learn, self-directed learning, and critical reflection skills;
  • Develop information management skills to assist learners in selection and critical assessment;
  • Mi x modes – e.g., combine e-mail discussion with audio/video methods to enhance the social aspect;
  • Structure learner-centered activities for both independent and group work that foster interaction.

Technological Developments and Future of Education

The rapid growth of JCT will be so common that these will be readily available to learners. This is being discussed through the;

  • integration of television, telecommunications and computers, through digital and compression techniques;
  • reduced costs  and  more  flexible  uses/applications  of telecommunications, through developments such as ISDN/fibre­ optics/cellular radio;
  • miniaturization (tiny cameras, microphones, small, high-resolution display screens);
  • increased portability, through use of radio communications and miniaturization;
  • increased processing power, through new microchip development and advanced software techniques;
  • more powerful and user-friendly command and software tools, making it much easier for users to create and communicate their own materials;
  • The technology development will result in a single, integrated entertainment-communications-learning ‘box’ with the majority. A wide range of applications will be accessed through this multi­ purpose box, including ‘on-demand’ films, television programmers, music, home shopping, banking and financial services, and education and training;
  • Applications of multi media will continue to be important, a much more significant development will be the application of high-speed multimedia networks for educational purposes.

In brief, application of information and communication technologies (JCT) has lead to remarkable changes, improvements, growth in delivery and transmission of education and proved that ICT has immense and unlimited potential to impart uniform and high quality education using a wide range of media (can be synchronous/asynchronous) text, audio, television, computer and technologies-print, radio, television (ITV, Cable, Satellite, ITF), audio/ video cassettes, CD-ROMS, Audio/Video conferencing, Computer-aided learning (CAI, CMI, CMC, CBM), e-mail based conferences, etc. With proper use and judicious exploitation of these sophisticated technologies, the goal of equity and quality education can be ensured. Today it has become a reality that at anytime, anywhere, anyone can get the educational opportunities according to his/her own pace and interest and enhance their life-coping skills.

Although, media and technologies have extraordinary and marvelous potential to provide facilities for teaching and learning through distance education, yet, the personal contact between student and teacher cannot be ignored.

 To compensate the weaknesses of instructional material and lacuna of emotional relationship (i.e. help and encouragement) between these two essential components of educational process-teacher and taught, personal contact programmers (PCP) can be organized. These can be structured in two ways –

(i) Offering direct contact: The telephone between individuals; or by one individual on behalf of a group

(ii) Offering periodical contact: Semester/Course-end meeting, seminars/ workshops, vacations/summer schools, tutorials, group discussions, counseling, etc.

Filipczak (1996) also agrees that mere access to data does not automatically expand student’s knowledge; the availability of information does not intrinsically create a framework of ideas. Therefore, skill facilitation through teachers is essential for effective use of distance education methods by the learners.

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