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Distance education: the way of the future

By Danica Patey and Greg Patey
Roncalli Central High
Port Saunders, Newfoundland

In many schools across Canada, students are taking advantage of a technology known as distance education.

"It is just learning over the Internet really," says Owen Penney, a student at Roncalli in Port Saunders.

Owen Penney describes
distance education at
view clip

A teacher is teaching the students from a different location. His or her voice is carried through the phone lines and is receive by the students through a voice box. The students can then respond back to the teacher by talking into a microphone.

"It's just like a regular class," says Penney, "except the teacher is in a different school."

At Roncalli, there are only two students and one teacher involved in distance education this year. Owen Penney and Joseph Lowe are both taking Physics 3204 through this method and Connie Powell is teaching chemistry online.

 They have class ten times in a 14-day cycle, five online classes and five offline classes, which provide the students with time to do homework and to work on questions and assignments. The online classes occur in a room off the science lab, where students have access to all the required equipment.

 These students are very lucky to have distance education available, since it is the only way the class could be taken this year since few students wanted or required this course. Penney suggests it would be beneficial for him to take this course as well as it would provide a challenge for him.

Some advantages of taking distance education would be that students would get the courses they need or want even if there is no teacher at their school to teach it. That allows students to fulfil university requirements for the given courses.

Distance education in action at Roncalli. view clip

There are some disadvantages of distance education. For example, it may be more difficult to learn without the one-on-one contact with a teacher. Also, the problem with limited class time pops up. Students have to do lab activities on their own and have to work on assignments on their own. Everything is more independent.

"Distance Learning is a challenge for both the students and teacher. The student has to be constantly reading ahead and keeping up with assignments," says teacher Connie Powell.

"They have to be independent workers, which I feel, better prepares them for the demand of a university education."

Distance education will prove to be the teaching of the future with new technology and faster speeds. And in the future, the number of teachers may be limited because of distance education. This will be the way of the future.


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