With the extended application of information technologies, the conventional education system has crossed the physical boundaries to reach the unreached through virtual education system. In distant mode of education, students get opportunity to education through self-learning methods with the use of technology-mediated techniques. Accumulating a few other available technologies, efforts are being made to promote distance education in remotest regions of the developing countries through institutional collaborations and adaptive use of collaborative learning systems (Rahman, 2000a). Distance education in a networked environment demands extensive use of computerized LAN/WAN, excessive use of bandwidth, expensive use of sophisticated networking equipment, and in a sense, this is becoming a hard-to-achieve target in developing countries. High initial investment cost always demarcates thorough usage of networked hierarchies where the basic backbone infrastructure of IT is in a rudimentary stage. Furthermore, multimedia puts additional pressure on communications systems with types of information flow, bandwidth requirements, development of local and wide area networks with a likely impact on narrowband and broadband ISDN. Developed countries are taking a leading role in spearheading distance education through flexible learning methods, and many renowned universities of the western world are offering highly specialized and demanding distance education courses by using their dedicated high bandwidth computer networks. Many others have accepted a dual mode of education, rather than sticking to the conventional education system. Research indicates that teaching and studying at a distance can be as effective as traditional instruction when the method and technologies used are appropriate to the instructional tasks with intensive learner-to-learner interactions, and instructor-to-learner interactions. Radio, television, and computer technologies, including the Internet and interactive multimedia methods, are major components of the virtual learning methodologies. The goals of distance education, as an alternative to traditional education, have been to offer accredited education programs, to eradicate illiteracy in developing countries, to provide capacity development programs for better economic growth, and to offer curriculum enrichment in the nonformal educational arena. Distance education has experienced dramatic global growth since the early 1980s. It has evolved from early correspondence learning using primarily print-based materials into a global movement using various technologies.
Distance education has been defined as an educational process in which a significant proportion of the teaching is conducted by someone remote in space and/or time from the learner. Open learning, in turn, is an organized educational activity, based on the use of teaching materials, in which constraints on study are minimized in terms either of access, or of time and place, pace, method of study, or any combination of these (UNESCO, 2001).
There is no ideal model of distance education, but several are innovative for very different reasons. Philosophies of an approach to distance education differ (Thach & Murphy, 1994). With the advent of educational technology-based resources (the CD-ROMs, the Internet, the Web page, and so on) flexible learning methodologies are getting popular to a large mass of population who otherwise was missing the opportunity of accessing formal education (Kochmer, 1995). Murphy (1995) reported that, to reframe the quality of teaching and learning at a distance, four types of interaction are necessary. These are learner-content, learner-teacher, learner-learner, and learner-interface. Interaction also represents the connectivity the students feel with their professor, aides, facilitators, and peers (Sherry, 1996). Responsibility for this sort of interaction mainly depends upon the instructor (Barker & Baker, 1995).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Information and Communications Technology: ICT (information and communications technology—or technologies) is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application, encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems, and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning. ICTs are often spoken of in a particular context, such as ICTs in education, health care, or libraries.
MCPC: Multiple Channel Per Carrier. This technology refers to the multiplexing of a number of digital channels (video programmes, audio programmes, and data services) into a common digital bit stream, which is then used to modulate a single carrier that conveys all of the services to the end user.
SCPC: Single Channel Per Carrier. In SCPC systems, each communication signal is individually modulated onto its own carrier which is used to convey that signal to the end user. It is a type of FDM/FTDM (Frequency Division Multiplexing/Frequency Time Division Multiplexing) transmission where each carrier contains only one communications channel.
Developing Countries: Developing countries are those countries in which the average annual income is low, most of the population is usually engaged in agriculture, and the majority live near the subsistence level. In general, developing countries are not highly industrialized, dependent on foreign capital and development aid, whose economies are mostly dependent on agriculture and primary resources, and do not have a strong industrial base. These countries generally have a gross national product below $1,890 per capita (as defined by the World Bank in 1986).
Interactive Multimedia Techniques: Techniques that a multimedia system uses, in which related items of information are connected and can be presented together. Multimedia can arguably be distinguished from traditional motion pictures or movies both by the scale of the production (multimedia is usually smaller and less expensive) and by the possibility of audience interactivity or involvement (in which case, it is usually called interactive multimedia). Interactive elements can include: voice command, mouse manipulation, text entry, touch screen, video capture of the user, or live participation (in live presentations).