Editor’s Note: Distance learning is deeply wrapped in the history of instructional technology. Dr. Towhidi revisits opportunities and technologies that led to adoption of distance learning in advanced and developing countries. It is a chance to step back and gain new perspectives on the changing social needs, state-of-the-art technology, and options for the future of distance education.
Distance Education Technologies
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Two-way audio/one way audio
Two-way audio/two-way video
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Distance education usually has two forms: 1- the learner operates independently and 2- classroom instruction is accompanied by distance learning (California Distance Learning Project (CDLP), 2005). Either way, there is an overlap in terms of both technologies and media. The important elements are technological transmissions and the media applications.
The importance of transmitting instructional materials to distant learner through print, audio and video media, and to deliver messages have always been stressed (Chung, 1991). These technologies and media can be applied in both traditional and modern forms of distance educational systems in higher education in any country. One may define them as follows:
Gagne and Reiser (2001) consider any physical matter including teacher that is capable of conveying instruction is considered as an instructional medium and there is no limit on that. Clark and Mayer (2003) confirm this concept and mention any presenter including the teacher or the specialist could be considered as instructional media.
The reason is teacher like any other medium uses audios/sounds (speeches) and videos/pictures (to show processes) (Kim and Means, 2005).
In distance era, the concept of teacher is changing. In virtual courses many of teaching strategies (six modes of instruction: tutoring, lecture, recitation, discussion, laboratory, homework) are employed, so the methods that both concepts of teacher and students controls, must be expanded (Gagne, 1965; as cited in Mollenda, 1999).
In online teaching the speech or verbal communication is largely replaced by text and the new climate can be a scary place for students and instructors who are not familiar with the environment. So, an online successful teacher has these characteristics: being visible (students need to feel that the instructor is attending to them even though there is no face-to-face classroom), being organized (being well prepared and having well-defined assessment strategies, and assessment activities), being compassionate (letting students to communicate directly), being analytical (engaging in the ongoing discussions of content and concepts of the course), and being a leader-by-example (being a best practice model in teaching).
Textbooks, study guides, study aids, and newspapers are easy to use, inexpensive, portable, and very familiar to the learner. They can easily be distributed to the learner by mail or package-delivery services. Print media is used in correspondence study, programmed instructions, and in modularized instruction (Feasley, 1982; as cited in Gray, 1988).Print is still in use in distance education (Gujjar & Malik, 2007) specifically in developing countries in which the needed technologies in distance education do not exist or their costs are so high they cause the trend of distance education to still be toward usage of print media (Mitchell, Smith, Louw, Tshesane, Petersen-Waughtal, & du Preez, 2007).
In a more traditional form of distance education, textbooks, study guides, or study aids are usually used, along with radio and television. For example, in Pakistan, television is the dominant distance education medium and uses printed textbooks as the complementary source (Siraj, 2008). Bangladesh Open University (BOU) also uses textbooks and study guides, audiocassettes, occasional face to face tutorial as tertiary media, along with radio and television (Islam, Rahman, & Rahman, 2006).
Paxton (1999) based on a research on history textbooks focusing found that role of the authorship in historical texts are underscored and the students are largely influenced by the anonymous, authoritative style of writing. Fox (2009) also did an investigation (45 studies) on the role of reader characteristics in processing and learning from informational text. Findings indicate that low level of ability; experience, knowledge, and interest were associated with local-level processing and effortful construction of a text base. In contrast high levels of ability; experience, knowledge, and interest were associated with more globally directed, more effective, more flexible engagement, and leading to better quality mental representations and greater learning.
Adams (2003) researched the effectiveness of the Physics distance education in Kentucky Community and Technical College System’s Kentucky University (KYVU). The students were not very highly computer literate and the applied media were websites, emails, chatrooms (synchronous), discussion (asynchronous), and printed textbooks with a CD. The findings showed that 78% of the students rated the class excellent and successful completion of the class was 63%.
Slavin, Cheung, Groff, and Lake (2009) did an examination on the effectiveness of reading curricula; mixed-method models; computer-assisted instruction; and instructional process programs. Findings indicate that the programs designed to change daily teaching practices have substantially greater research support than those focused on curriculum or technology alone. Also positive achievement effects were found for instructional-process programs, especially for those involving cooperative learning, and for mixed-method programs.
Newspaper is a traditional form of print. Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit in London (1992) introduced newspaper as one of the resource materials for its advertisings and informing capabilities. Using the expression 'open-learning' meant flexible and distance learning in Britain.
Newspaper is a very useful resource for adult education students and for creating an individualized instructional program (Aiex, 1988).
Audio-books, audio-cards, records, audio-cassettes reel-to-reel audiotapes, audio Compact-discs (CDs), telephones, cell phones, audio-texts, and radios are classified under audio media which are described below:
Anadolu University in Turkey, in a project for 300 blind students, is using audio-books in music and drama classes as infrastructure. This has enabled them to study on their own. The courses are provided with the books that are vocalized radio-phonically. The subjects are distinguished from one another by music and the narration is enriched via emphasizing on the important sentences in the topic (Ozgur, & Kiray, 2007).
Audio-card is a traditional medium which was used a lot and may still be used in some distance education systems. It is a magnetic medium which helps the learner listen to words and repeat them at the same time as she/he sees the words in print. The learner can record her/his own voice and play it back for comparisons and corrections. This medium is a very appropriate medium in teaching foreign languages, mathematics, and especially, if accompanied by pictorial materials, it can add to the quality of the instructional messages(Lewis, Harcleroad, & Brown, 1977; & Bezard, & Bourguignon, 1994).
The record is another traditional medium that is primarily used for sound effects (Burrows & Wood, 1982) and music (Holmberg, 1995 & Wikipedia, Foundation, I., 2010). It is a medium used in teaching, too (Parker, 1986). Reid and Day (1942) mention that radio and records were popular classroom media in 1940s.
Cassette is also a traditional medium which became much more dominant than reel-to-reel (Jamison, Suppes, & Wells, 1974; & Kemp & Smellie, 1989). Recording tapes requires no special skills or equipment, and a teacher can easily record her/his instructions or lectures on tape. Combinations of sound and sight lead to greater learning (Davies, 1971) and, along with print and radio media, audio cassettes are used widely (Perraton, 1993).
In Allama Iqbal Open University in Pakistan (Haque & Batool, 1999) and Bangladesh Open University (Karim, Kama,& Islam, 2001), due to the high costs of modern technologies, radio and television programs, along with audiocassettes, are the dominant media. Research findings of Blok, Oostdam, Otter, & Overmatt (2002) and Baker (1971) show the use of computer and audio CDs had little effectiveness. But the literature show that computer and audio disks were initially used for reading materials to minimize the role of the teacher (Atkinson, 1966; as cited in Blok et al., 2002) and the theme was around the individualization of instruction and individual differences (Baker, 1971).
The newer form of audio media is the audio compact disc which is used as an independent source (Barron, Orwig, Ivers, & Lilavois, 2002) or in conjunction with web or online learning (Notar, Restauri, Wilson, Friery, 2002; & Skylar, 2009). In compact-disc, the audio materials are recorded in a digital format and in play-back mode; sound is heard in a crisp and high-fidelity form (Liu & Chang, 2001).
Compact disc read-only memory (CD-ROM) is a 43/4 inch disc which allows storage of vast amounts of audio and video information and reduces the cost of production, distribution, and storage of printed materials (Bateman, 1986). Hitachi Company has developed on an erasable laser disc with a high capacity and a rapid accessibility (Wedemeyer, 1986). Nowadays many students in the language fields use encyclopedias on CD-ROMs (Tochon, 2009).
An answer to the criticism that education via television and computer carries no human communication touches is the application of telephone. It brings learner and teacher together and to some extent fills the gap between them. Telephone is specifically a useful tool for disabled home-bound isolated hearing impaired blind and culturally or socially deprived learner (Stephens & Lazarus, 1989). Because of the mobility of the cell-phone or mobile, it has the flexibility in terms of space and its function is similar to telephone except that the telephone is cheaper.
Poling (1994) explains that at Clemenson University through a modem, any learner at home is able to dial her/his telephone to the computer system on campus. Using this system reduces telephone calls. All learners are given an account on university’s main computer and they can be in contact with their professors whenever they wish.
With an electronic blackboard, the sender would send the drawn images or the text and these are converted to audible telephone tones. On the other end of the line, the receiver decoder would convert the signals into presentable screen formats (Schamber, 1988).
Telephone is replaced by cell phone as a newer form of overcoming the lack of direct contact between the teachers and learners but it may not have been adapted universally (Baggaley, 2008). In Asia cell phone is being used widely and educators have suggested the design and logistical principles for its use in educational systems (Librero, Ramos, Ranga, Trinona, & Lambert, 2007).
Audio-text is a kind of technology in which the dissemination of text, particularly electronic word-processing and hypertext with sound and pictures are possible via the computer and telecommunication networks (Levinson, 1989).
Greenberger & Puffer (1989) describe a project using integrated telephone with computerized audio-text responses in which telemedicine is utilized.
Radio is an appropriate medium to present music performances, speeches, and discussions and the learners can record via radio and can develop their skills in their own location. Radio is specifically useful to teach philosophy, literature, history, language, and linguistics (Feasley, 1982; as cited in Gray, 1988). The classic literature show the film, television, taped lectures, and radio were common in instruction (Jamison, Suppes, & Wells, 1974), especially in 1940s students listened to presidential speeches or openings of the congress, symphony concerts, radio courses, social studies, and or news broadcasts (Reid & Day, 1942). The British Open University has used radio to distribute lectures, drama, poetry, reading, and guest presentations (Gray, 1988). The University of Nairobi has used radio with its correspondence program successfully (Perraton, 1993).
Television, satellite, direct broadcast satellite, cable television, closed-circuit television, asynchronous and synchronous, Podcast and vodcast, teleconferencing, microwave, interactive Video, teletext, videotext, computer internet, weblogs (blogs), electronic mail, chatroom, and multimedia are all different applied technologies and media in distance education. In a report from the Task Force on Distance Education and Training in Professional Psychology, The American Psychological Association (2002) mentions the application of varieties of media in distance education are: television and computer in their newest forms (satellite, microwave, cable-television, interactive TV, television, direct broadcast satellite, and computer). In addition to television, film was the common medium in instruction (Jamison, Suppes, & Wells, 1974). Video was also mainly used in therapy teacher education, and in teacher training as self-confrontations in which individuals recorded them and played it back for further studying (Fuller & Manning, 1973).
Television is a complementary learning medium which interacts with learners and influences the structure of mental representations and cognitive processes of the learners (Kozma, 1991). Television courses can be presented in two basic forms: long range transmission (satellite) and short-range transmission (cable) (Eisele & Eisele, 1990). Television transmission is usually a one-way video or a two-way audio interaction by phone. Film, filmstrip, and video are usually applied as the helping-aids in distant teaching, but because of the easier use of video distribution, video itself can record filmstrips and slide images/still pictures as well as moving pictures (Kemp & Smellie, 1989). In the classic literature of application of video in classroom Fuller and Manning (1973) show that teachers almost at every level and every discipline have been using videotapes of themselves.
In the United States, millions of students enroll in television courses produced by colleges and universities, and satellite television networks are utilized to deliver vocational training to employees throughout the world (California Distance Learning Project (CDLP), 2005).
Satellite is an easy, flexible, relatively inexpensive method of transmitting information from one long distance to another (Gross, 1983 & Board of Governors, State University System of Florida, 2008). It can be used to transmit any information, including voice, data, and video, and can meet rapid expansion of telephone, television, teleconferencing, electronic mail, data communication, and others (Wedemeyer, 1986). In satellite transmission a space station is used to relay signals. A large station dish is placed on the ground to send and receive signals to and from satellites (Oakey, 1983).
Because of the satellite usage in eleven campuses of Tiffin University, its student population has risen by more than 50 percent between the years 2003 and 2008 (Blumenstyk, 2008).
Direct broadcast satellite is intended to disseminate information directly from the satellite to home receivers, but, at present time, people can receive signals by placing a satellite dish in their backyard or on their specifically designed computers which are utilized as mass storage devices (Meadow, Singleton, & Gordon, 1983).
Pemberton, Fallahkhair, and Masthoff (2005) developed a project in which they showed interactive television(ITV) and direct broadcast have great potentials in teaching second language. They also pointed out that the conjunction of the ITV with cell phone can facilitate the informal language learning.
Cable television is a form of transmitting information in short distances through coaxial cables which disseminate messages in higher fidelity than regular telephone wires. Local television stations, local radio stations, pay cable services, and basic cable services use wire to transmit their signals. The signals are received from broadcast antenna and from satellite by cable facilities and then these signals are placed on buried cables under the ground or strung on telephone poles and passed through houses or a particular neighborhood and then attached to any individual television. People who pay a fee can receive the signals (Gross, 1983).
Cable television has wide application in education. Japan uses it to disseminate instructional materials (Wedemeyer, 1986). One-way video/two-way audio is a system in which television pictures are transmitted to particular sites where people can reply to the broadcasters with a telephone call-in system. Television pictures can also be transmitted in two directions simultaneously through telephone lines so that teachers and students in one place can see and hear teachers and students in other places. This video-conferencing technology increasingly uses the internet and is being used by businesses and university level learners in the California Distance Learning Project (CDLP), (2005).
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) is a kind of cable television in which two short distances are connected by cable. It can be a simple two-room hook up or a multi channel statewide interconnection (Burrows & Wood, 1982).
In closed-circuit-television, a limited number of users have access, and it can specifically be appropriate for educational applications, fires, floods, and security systems (Meadow et al., 1983).
Homes have become classrooms for children and adults and new delivery systems have stimulated the development and use of technological applications for teaching and learning. Foremost among them are wireless devices, such as laptop and handheld computers. Video materials are increasingly being delivered by a variety of distribution systems, such as video streaming on the Web, video conferencing, synchronous teaching and learning by closed circuit broadcasting, and satellite television systems (Ely, 2002).
In asynchronous courses, students have a flexible environment in which self-paced learning is provided by using a variety of tools, such as CD-ROMs, streamed prerecorded audio/video web recordings, and audio podcasts. In synchronous courses, students have online learning environments in which self paced learning is very interactive when using web conferencing products, such as live presentations and live classrooms, Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional, and other features which help the interactivity. A study compared these two ways of distance educations. The results of this analysis suggest that both types of lectures are effective in delivering online instruction, but they also emphasize on the importance of interactivity and increased level of technology skills (Skylar, 2009).
Another study was done on 180 teacher education students (151 females and 29 males) in asynchronous and synchronous ways. Findings showed, regardless of gender, that two-thirds of the participants preferred asynchronous modes over synchronous ones (Lin & Overbaugh, 2009).
Podcast is a form of technology in which audio, video, text, and other media files can be played on a computer or downloaded to MP3 players (Sprague & Pixley, 2008), and it is a popular medium specifically for accessing and assimilating audio information (Copely, 2007).
In a study, the opinions of Aston University students were asked on the (audio) podcasts and the (video) vodcasts and how well they met the requirements and aided learning processes. Overall, students indicated that podcasts and vodcasts were two beneficial resources for learning, particularly when used in conjunction with lecturers' slides and as tools for revisions or assessments (Parson, Reddy, Wood, & Senior, 2009).
Teleconferencing is an integration of computer with telecommunication systems in which private companies, corporations, or organizations take the advantages of meeting together through electronic equipments. Teleconferencing is used in its two forms: video conferencing and computer conferencing. In video conferencing, meetings, discussions, and distant classes are held across the country or around the world by using a microphone, television camera, and television equipment. Satellite dishes and time are rented, too (Meadow et al., 1983). Teleconferencing is a form of group-based distance education in which some argue it creates the essence of traditional classroom (Bernard, et al., 2006).
After correspondence courses and audio-conferencing computer based training for individualized instruction, computer conference (Kear, 2001) or electronic forum is the newest form of delivering instructional materials in distance education (Patriarcheas & Xenos, 2009). There is a kind of e-mail which provides electronic mail, search (organizing factors/branching), file transfer, and editorial services. The interchange of messages among scattered users/learners on a particular topic takes place via computer networks (Romiszewski & Haas, 1989).
Microwave transmission is a wireless form of transmission which is very similar to satellite distribution, but it has some limitations in which signals are sent from one microwave dish to another via line-of-sight. And an earth dish is placed on a high tower to avoid obstructions against received and sent signals (Gross, 1983).
A study was done in Boise State University in Idaho, the U.S.A. to explore the delivery methods. Data showed that the distance courses, enrollments, and credits were more than doubled between the years 1995 and 2000. The delivery methods included telecourses (public television with a limited number of live class meetings), the Knowledge Network (live broadcast to limited distribution sites and homes through wireless or wired cables by microwave), the Higher Education Network (broadcasts through the statewide analog microwave system), the Internet, radio, videoconferencing, and videotape (Belcheir & Atkinson, 2000).
The optical video disc is an ideal instrument for instructional and reference purposes (Meadow et al., 1983) and combinations of microcomputer and/or cable television provide an interactive visual teaching system in which user/learner has an interaction from home to the broadcasting station. What makes the video displays interactive is the possibility for the learner to address the locations within a computer program, to find needed information to respond to the learner’s questions (Eisele & Eisele, 1990).
Interactive videoconferencing (IVC) consists of live, synchronous audio and video communication through a computer or digital phone network among sites in different physical locations. It provides increased learning opportunities, enhanced student motivation, and a two-way instructor-student communication (Dal Bello, Knowlton, & Chaffin, 2007).
The computer as it is known today was developed in the 1940s. As a result of technological developments over the past years, computers have entered people’s lives including film and television (Towhidi, 1986). Computer was introduced to the field of education in 1970s and its first applications were programming and later became the tutor or an aid to teachers (Fouts, 2000).
Computer technology is a suitable tool to present repetitive, drill-type exercises in mathematics or language learning, to create simulations in chemistry and biology laboratories, a source of advice on career decisions, to find relationship between learner’s achievement, aptitude, interests, and success in the various fields; and to use the computer itself (to learn applies soft wares (Leffrancois, 1999). Teletex, videotext, e-mail, audiotex, teleconferencing, videodiscs, optical technologies, and interactive video are all applications of computer technology and are considered as an integrated importable of telecommunication technologies. Now, most of the educational systems have great tendencies to use multi-media systems with a mixture of audio and video (Malhotra & Erickson, 1994).
Teletex and videotex are two systems of transmitting electronic messages of text and graphic materials. There are two types of transmissions: one-way and two-way delivery systems (Wedemayer, 1986).
One-way delivery is known as teletex which is also called broadcast videotext. In this kind of delivery text and graphics are transmitted over the unused portion of television signals. It is a useful service as an encyclopedia, bibliographic search tool, and bulletin board (Gayeskie, 1989). Two-way delivery of text and graphics is known as videotext/videotext, view data, and interactive videotext (Wedemeyer, 1986) in which the message is sent over telephone lines (Gayeski, 1989).
Electronic book or open textbook is an open educational resource (OER) in which printed form is digitized and is available to all distant learners. It is usually supplied by the publisher, along with the printed text (Lo & Dale, 2009; & Matkin, 2009).
An important aspect of a distance education system is having computer networks, multimedia, search engines, electronic libraries, specifically in medical universities (Rokni, 2005 and Tang, 2009).
Adult basic education in distance learning is changing significantly from a low tech video based instructional system to the interactive internet. Distance education utilizes computer conferencing on the World Wide Web or internet in which teachers and students are able to present text, pictures, audio, and video. File sharing and communications tools like e-mail, chats, and audio and video conferencing are integral to the Internet model. At this time, the British Open University offers a master’s degree in the field of “Distance Education” to anyone in the world who has access to the internet. The American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC), the Distance Education Clearinghouse Web sites, and many other sites which can be found on routine internet searches, introduce colleges and universities that offer distant degrees (California Distance Learning Project (CDLP), 2005).
World-Wide-Web is complemented by e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, internet phones, video-conferencing, net meeting, weblogs (blogs), and many other systems of communication(Perrin, 2006). Students usually use the webs mainly as an information resource and learning support (Kuiper, Volman, & Terwel, 2005). Blogs are designed for directed and orchestrated activities. Learner focused tools and their companions (such as multimedia podcast and videocast) allow low cost or free personalized publishing and retrieval of content created by anyone. It is easy to use, customized in terms of look and feel, content, target audience, and hyperlinked to other contents on the internet (Cameron & Anderson, 2006).
Web-based multimedia involves more than one modality, or delivery media presentation, and/ or presentation mode (Mandernach, 2009). Many universities provide the video content of some lectures to extend their classes beyond the campus (Marchionini, 2008).
In computer conferences, the conference space or blog space can be used to present all kinds of writings, such as reports, reviews, debates, stories for instructor, or peer comments. Distance education systems utilize weblogs which empower and motivate teachers and make learners reflective and connected practitioners in new knowledge environments (Farmer & Bartlett-Bragg, 2005; as cited Cameron & Anderson, 2006). Blogs are designed for directed and orchestrated activities. Learner focused tools and their companions (such as multimedia podcast and videocast) allow low cost or free personalized publishing and retrieval of content created by anyone. It is easy to use, customized in terms of look and feel, content, target audience, and hyperlinked to other contents on the internet (Cameron & Anderson, 2006).
Electronic mail is a form of teletex and is a general name for electronic transmission of message in which the message is digitally transmitted (Meadow et al., 1983).
Poling (1994) explains that e-mail can be effective as a teaching tool for the following issues: “answering directed questions of students, counseling, giving class assignments, making general class announcements, giving occasional quizzes, establishing direct communication with a particular student; posting grades, giving helpful hints about homework or upcoming quizzes, introducing texts, and out ruling excuses for missing class”.
Students’ advising, registration questions, scheduling, questions on instructional materials, and personal matters can be done through e-mails (El Mansour, 2006). The National Center for Education Statistics (Parsad & Lewis, 2008), in their statistics for the 2006-2007 years, showed that distance education postsecondary degree granting institutions used e-mail as a technology or medium for instructional deliveries. E-mail is a medium by which students can send messages and questions to their instructors or their fellow classmates (Edvardsson & Oskarsson, 2008). Vooice mail is also an effective tool in learner/instructor conferences and parent/teacher communications (Yoakam, 2001).
Both Web and Chatrooms can function as supporting technologies to compensate for the relative lack of physical space where the teacher and the class members usually come together to discuss courses of distance learning (Knebel, 2001). Twomey (2002) suggests an open chatroom to be used as one of the virtual teacher training center elements, along with other components within the instructional site (components like: extensive list of resources, tools for students' self-evaluation, teacher's evaluation of students, online grade books, and places for announcements). Chatrooms could be used for foreign language learning (Fabos & Young, 1999).
There are different yet similar definitions for multimedia. Doolittle (2002; as cited in Mandernach, 2009) defines it as presentation of instruction that involves more than one delivery media, presentation mode, and/or sensory modality. Schwartz & Beichner (1999), as cited in Mandernach (2009), mention that multimedia is multiple forms of media presentation. Mayer (2001) refers to multimedia as combination of sound, picture, text, and etc together; teacher, board, film, and etc together; and any computerized software that would combine of audio, video stuff. Maddux, Johnson, & Willis (2001), as cited in Mandernach (2009), say multimedia is a text along with at least one of the followings: audio or sophisticated sound, music, video, photographs, 3-D graphics, animation, or high-resolution graphics. The common thing among these definitions is this issue that all multimedia definitions include, but are not limited to, a text in combination with graphics, audio, music, video, and/or animation.
Although some Asian countries may use traditional media in their distance education systems but there are many Asian countries that are using multimedia successfully (Reddi & Mishra, 2005). Ellis (2004) developed a model to test the effectiveness of multimedia in learning on private college students attending one of three classes. The results show that multimedia is an effective tool in learning. Neo and Neo (2009) also did a research on Malaysian students' perceptions designing a multimedia constructivist-based project. The findings show the multimedia is an effective tool in teaching, learning, critical thinking, and acquiring communication skills.
Arroyo, Beck, Beal, Wing, & Woolf, 2001; Arroyo, Beck, Woolf, Beal, & Schultz, 2000; as cited in Aleven,Stahl, Schworm, Fischer, and Wallace (2003) did a study on the effect of level of interactivity of hints on a multimedia interactive learning environment (ILE). The findings show gender has a role in learning in multimedia social context. The boys benefited more from the shorter and less interactive hints and their self-confidence declined when they worked with the more highly interactive version but the level of interactivity did not affect girls' self-confidence and they did better when supported by more interactive help.
Distance education system has been used in both advanced and developing countries but in regard to the degree of advancement, countries benefit the system and the technology associated with it. The statistics show the more advanced the country is, the better chances it has for improvement (Sharma, 2003).
Developing countries have severe educational problems which postpone their improvement and keep them behind. These problems are: high population growth, disparities between urban and rural areas, lack of enough teachers (specially the skilled ones), school graduated unemployment, high illiteracy rates, high school dropout rates, and heavy reliance on foreign aid and personnel (Wells, 1976; de Moura Castro, 2004; & Gueye, 2007). Lack of resources, tight budget and high costs of developing distance education structures are many of the other problems which developing countries are facing (Tsang, 1988). So, any country which decides to imply the system of distance education should consider its strengths and facilities to utilize the needed media and methods.
Distance education is a kind of education in which teacher and learner are separated and instructional materials are carried through telecommunication systems. Many universities across the world have used this system of learning and have had successful experiences with it. While using distance education, there are limitations, strengths, and affecting variables that should be considered in advance.
In distance education teaching and dissemination of instructional material to the learner, appropriate media should be chosen. Print media (textbooks, study guides, study aids, and newspapers), audio media (Audio-books, audio-cards, records, audio-cassettes and reel-to-reel audiotapes, audio compact-discs (CDs), telephones, cell phones, audio-texts, radios), and video media (Televisions, satellites, direct broadcast satellites, cable televisions, closed-circuit televisions, asynchronous and synchronous Podcasts and vodcasts, teleconferencing, microwaves, interactive Videos, teletx, videotext, computer internets, weblogs (blogs), electronic mails, chatrooms, and multimedia) are used to convey messages to achieve specific educational objectives.
Advanced countries have more opportunities for improvement than developing countries. Underdeveloped countries have some problems in utilizing a distance education system because they are handicapped with over population growth, remote and separated rural areas, lack of enough unskilled teachers, excessive school dropouts, high illiteracy rates, and not enough resources.
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Afsaneh Towhidi Ph.D.is Assistant Professor at Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Iran. She completed her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Communication at the University of Kansas and his Ph.D in Educational Psychology from the Allameh Tabatabayee University in Tehran. She has an extensive list of publications and presentations. Her book “New Models of Producing and Evaluating Instructional Media; Application of Psychology of Learning and Psychology of Art, was published in 2010.