Overnight, COVID-19 paralyzed all aspects of life. The pandemic has seriously impacted education. Many educational systems have turned to distance education to provide students and teachers with a way of communication for learning and teaching.
Moore and Kearsley (2011) define distance education as “the planned teaching and learning activities provided through the use of a communication channel within an institutional organization without any time and place limitations” (p. 2). Distance education not only helps students to learn and work from where they are, it also provides a wide range of academic disciplines not present in local or regional universities.
Its ability to adapt to different circumstances is one of the most critical characteristics of distance education. Any force majeure may compel students to move from their country or prevent them from attending face-to-face classes. However, this will not affect students in universities of distance education. Students can continue educational achievement from anytime and anywhere without interrupting lessons or guidance. Consequently, they do not lose any feature or service provided by the university. Distance education sets a consistent plan that supports students’ knowledge and skills growth all the way to graduation.
Educators also rely on the economic feasibility of distance education. It lowers the costs of education and training for employees or professors spread around the world. Moreover, it significantly reduces other indirect expenses such as printing, travel costs, and accommodation expenses.
Distance learning may be either synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous learning occurs when the teacher and students interact at a determined time but in different places. With synchronous learning, students log in to the educational platform during particular times. Synchronous learning, which may include supported media components such as group chats, webinars, and video conferences, is a good option for students who can control their time or prefer direct interaction with colleagues and professors.
In asynchronous learning the teacher interacts with students at different times and places. Students choose the most appropriate time to complete the required tasks. Asynchronous education is often through educational platforms that are used to provide educational materials and the required tasks. This type suits students who have difficulty scheduling their time or who are self-motivated to learn and do not need direct guidance to complete their assignments.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic entered the United States and threatened the lives of individuals and societies, several schools adopted the idea of transforming education to fully distance learning or to include distance learning as an option. For example, on March 11, 2020, Andrews University students received a message stating that classes will be fully converted to distance education after the spring break for the remainder of the academic year. Because of a well-equipped educational platform the university has called Learning Hub, the shift to distance education for the rest of the academic year did not constitute an obstacle for students, teachers, or even technical officials at the university. Now they are able to resume classes in person, as well as offer distance learning options.
Through the current experience of distance education at universities, there is an opportunity for all critics of distance education to rethink their views towards it. This experience will yield many results on which specialists will build their attitudes and perspectives in the near future.
How can we rethink our views on distance education and use it to our best advantage?
Friedman, J. (2018). Study Says Enrollment in Online Courses Is Rising