Distance Education Can Be Flexible, Collaborative, Engaging
In the last few years, distance learning has really taken off, with virtually endless online learning opportunities for all ages and interests. Distance learning can be as comprehensive as full degree earning courses or as specific as short term online collaborative projects hosted by any number of universities and colleges.
Distance learning is exactly that: Learning provided in a home or classroom from somewhere else, anywhere from across the city to across the world. It can bring science and technology to isolated individuals in remote areas, global learning opportunities to children who are homebound, or who live in inner cities, or it can enhance a regular classroom setting or supplement a home education program.
Online Learning Tools
All you need is a computer and a modem, and if you don’t have those, the library does, and librarians are happy to guide you through the online process. Distance learning is flexible and adaptable, with learning sites accessible at any hour of any day to accommodate individual schedules. All it takes from the student is what learning always requires: interest and enthusiasm, and with the wide selection of subjects and projects available, interest and enthusiasm come naturally.
While many states now have “virtual” schools that provide public education online, there are many other ways to learn online independently.
Distance Learning in All Shapes and Sizes
A first cousin of distance learning is “collaborative learning,” where students at home or in a classroom setting can participate with other students from around the world in a specific project. One of the most popular collaborative learning program providers is Stevens University’s Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) based in New Jersey. CIESE offers a series of completely free, ongoing programs for children of all ages. Their website is full of resources to help teachers, students, and parents make the most of these great projects, and there is plenty of online support to help with technical issues.
Distance Learning on the Net offers an excellent and comprehensive tutorial on distance learning (distance learning about distance learning!). And the Open Courseware Consortium is a collaborative of more than 100 higher education institutions and associated organizations that have come together to provide free and open educational content. No degrees are offered, but the content is freely available to anyone interested.
Bringing the World to You
Every great museum, every great library, every great center of culture and learning can now be accessed from a PC. No matter how you or your children learn, if you want to know more about art or music, if you’re going to learn about film or theatre, or if there’s some aspect of science or technology you want to understand, there are online courses and resources to help guide you through your education. Most are free, and many reasonably priced options can be found.
Online Learning Can Be Engaging and Stimulating
While there has been concern about isolation and kids spending yet even more time in front of a computer, online learning is far more intellectually stimulating and interactive than gaming. Students are actively engaged in learning, and oftentimes coursework necessitates fieldwork, library visits, and, in the case of some online programs, field trips.
So explore the possibilities for yourself or with your children, and enjoy what the world has to offer right at your desktop.