ECT 300 EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY: What do we mean by distance education in the context of teaching?



9a i). Define the term “distance education”

9.3 Introduction and definition of distance education

Distance education has existed for more than a century. There are many definitions of distance education as there are experts in distance education. Operationally we can look at distance education as “The teaching and learning process in which a significant proportion of the teaching is conducted by someone who is removed in space and/or time from the learner. Moore (1973) defines it as those teaching methods in which, because of physical separation of learners and teachers, the interactive, as well as the proactive phases of teaching, are conducted through print mechanical or electronic devices. Otto Peters (1983) sees it as a method of imparting knowledge, skills and attitudes which is rationalized by the application of division of labor and organizational principles, as well as by the extensive use of media especially for the purposes of high quality teaching materials thus making it possible to instruct great numbers of students at the same time. He also sees it as an impersonal mechanical and electronic process in which an artificially created message replaces educational communication. Borje Holmberg (1989) says that it covers various forms of study at all levels which are not under the continuous immediate supervision of tutors present with their students in lecture rooms but which benefit from the planning, guidance, and tuition of an institution.”

From the definitions it is clear that the following concepts apply to distance education:

  • It takes place at a distance
  • There is separation between the tutors and the learners
  • There’s a lack of face to face interaction
  • The teaching is done through media and communication technologies
  • It is open, under the control of the learner in terms of what to learn, when to learn, how to learn and where to learn.

In a nutshell distance education therefore, means any system of teaching and learning in which the students are at a distance from their teachers for most of their time they are studying. It should include some face to face study, has some form of feedback and reinforcement preferably through contact between students and teachers or between students and fellow students. It can be concerned with elementary education, university education, informal education, occupational education or professional.


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