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The Success of Quality Distance Education*
Open and distance teaching and learning, virtual learning, teaching
on-line via the Internet or the web, distance training, distributed
learning and other various terms used to refer to the variants and dimensions
of distance education, are today indispensable tools for education in
general, professional training and re-training, continuing education
and cultural promotion at different levels, professional areas, subjects
or economic and social sectors. It is not a stretch to say that one
can obtain knowledge and competencies via this modality that has at
least as much quality as one would find using more traditional methods
Institutions, organizations and businesses can, using this modality, offer courses and programs adapted to current demands and to very different sectors, areas, disciplines, environments, levels and learning styles and that are directed at populations that may reside in disperse geographic regions.
Those students who are actively working can pursue their studies at their own work places or homes without the rigid requirements of time and space or learning rates that traditional learning requires. Unlike ordinary on-site training, these students can place themselves at the center of the learning process and become active recipients of their own training.
Along with the advantages of independent learning tailored to the needs of each student, are the ways that learning with a partner, in a group, or with peer tutoring strengthen the social construction of knowledge.
To all the advantages of Internet-based technology, others could be added, but suffice it to say that the future advantages, possibilities and perspectives for distance learning are currently accepted and highly regarded by prestigious research institutions, universities and international programs.
However, studies of our own experiences reaffirm that the greatest problems that this modality and its pedagogy face and that serve to discredit some of its offerings, are those related to the improper use of the design, resources, support and control of the various processes. The search for quality in these processes, the fulfillment of good practices in distance education can be guaranteed to a large degree when the designers, authors of materials, software developers, teachers, tutors, evaluators, technicians, auxiliary personnel, managers, etc., of these courses, programs or institutions, possess the necessary qualifications. That is, the rare instance of failure of these projects, designed for whatever area or sector, can be traced to the belief that technology by itself can guarantee developmental success. No one thinks of piloting a plane (because of the advanced technology that it requires) or being a part of its crew, without having received adequate training. No one, likewise, should “pilot” a distance learning course, program, or institution if they have not been adequately trained in advance.?
Dr. Lorenzo García Aretio
Rector of the UNESCO Chair of Distance Education
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily of the OAS nor of
its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.