By Patrick Pacalo
What is distance education? Today, distance education centers on obtaining degrees online. Many brick and mortar schools have started offering both online and hybrid programs. Then there are the all distance-ed programs. The hybrid programs combine traditional in-person classroom learning with distance learning in order to reduce the in-person course load in areas like Social Science and Humanities. A hybrid program is necessary in areas such as hard sciences.
I am a state licensed substitute teacher and I teach part time for the Austintown Local School District. I had a conversation about online education with one of the regular faculty at Austintown Middle School. I found myself saying, almost involuntarily, that there is no reason to set foot inside a classroom after high school. Maybe that is out on the edge of higher educational theory, but I don’t believe it to be too far from the truth.
There are constant scandals and violence in traditional campus communities, not to mention the problem of finding a parking spot. Online and hybrid programs do have issues, but they are less problematic than traditional brick and mortar 4-year and graduate programs. Take the example of the near monopoly of the campus book store. In online programs the books are usually provided, or the student can shop competing sources on the Internet, or at brick and mortar book stores. Most of these non-traditional programs have regional accreditation or other accreditation equivalent to the traditional schools.
There are many types of distance ed. One can do independent reading and take tests on line. There is asynchronous time delayed interaction, then there is synchronous real time interaction. Are you out of the running if you get a distance-ed degree? In a graduate program I am taking now at American Military University (AMU) online graduates are regularly awarded top echelon federal fellowships. The list of corporations and government agencies that employ graduates from non-traditional distance schools is a long one. Distance education is not without its problems, but I think we will gradually see the dust gathering on traditional four-year brick-and-mortar academe. Perhaps traditional academe will go the route of old style shopping mall book and record stores — they will subside in the wake of technology.
Patrick Pacalo teaches Political Science on-line for Trumbull Business College. He is an instructor for the YSU Metro College in Boardman. Pacalo is a veteran and an author or co-author of six books. He has traditional and distance degrees in a variety of subjects from accredited institutions up to a doctoral degree in history from Lacrosse University.