The learner has the freedom to schedule his learning and this self-paced learning is suitable for both slow and quick learners. As Shelton & Saltsman make it clear, many students move towards non-traditional methods of interaction and learning due to their desire for flexibility. To quote the researchers’ own words: “online students chose the online medium because it allows them the flexibility to study at convenient hours or in locations far removed from the campus” (Shelton & Saltsmanp 84). Husain, in this respect, argues that “online education can be flexible, accessible and convenient for students; there can often be institutional cost savings and time savings over traditional place-based education; and there are often advantages to the instructor such as ease in updating and revision of courses” (Husain p.
42). For him, online education can make use of the existing infrastructure for course delivery and because the internet is widely available to the learners the teaching-learning process becomes easier. For Shelton & Saltsman the greatest advantage of online education for students is the “anytime anywhere” approach to learning; however, the authors purport that campus administrators very often fail to offer 24 hours support for its distance education learners (Shelton & Saltsmanp 84).
Usually, the administrators argue that the online learners can make use of the normal business hours for their studies and these acts as a great hindrance for the learners to access student services any time they please. Stephen L. Baglione and Michael Nastanski, in their article entitled “The Superiority of Online Discussion: Faculty Perceptions”, examine the theoretical advantages of online discussion groups. The researchers conducted a survey among 122 experienced faculty members to determine the effectiveness of online discussion.
The results of the study proved that as online discussions increase in volume and content, educators need to blend online discussions along with the traditional classroom activities. The researchers warn that educators who fail to do this may “find themselves left behind in the fastest-growing education segment and potentially less effective in the traditional classroom where younger students have come to increasingly rely on interactive/asynchronous communication as a preferred method of communication” (Baglione & Nastanski 139). However, distance education does have its own limitations too.
The disadvantages of distance education include the costly and complex technology involved in the distance learning process; it necessitates advance planning and sacrifices from the part of the instructors as well as the learners; it fails to offer all the necessary courses to the learner and the possibility of immediate feed back is quite minimal in the distance education system; the learner is subjected to social isolation; and finally, distance education is not acknowledged by all employers (Advantage and Disadvantage of Distance Learning).
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