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Education Technology / Distance Learning

Technology in Education and Communications

Distance learning is a method of providing education to students not physically present in the traditional classroom. While the increasing sophistication of Internet applications has brought more attention to the field-this type of education had always existed in some form since the 1700s, when one teacher advertised a course that would reach students on a weekly basis. In the nineteenth century, the University of London had become one of the first universities to offer distance-learning degrees and Columbia University in New York quickly followed suit. Today, Distance e-Learning is a combination of traditional distance education with the modern multimedia interface. The Open University in England uses this method and can offer degrees to people all over Europe. Coursera, on the other hand, also utilizes the same technology to teach courses.

Requirements for setting up a distance learning class include access to a domain, a sign in interface, and a way for students and teachers to communicate with one another. Usually, most sites use e-mail or discussion boards to fulfill this requirement. With this platform, students may ask questions of their instructors and have discussions with other students. Unlike the Open University, however, most of the coursework offered by Coursera does not contribute toward a degree, but the classes are offered free of charge.

Learning Online

There are several advantages and disadvantages that accompany distance learning. Advantages include: no commute, lowered costs, more options for schools, flexibility, and ease of incorporating one's into a work schedule. On the other hand, there is a distinct lack of social interaction-which can bother more extraverted learners. Some employers do not accept online degrees because there is still a stigma against distance learning in more conservative organizations. Furthermore, not all disciplines can be adapted to the distance-learning method. For example, in practical fields like nursing, students have to engage with patients. Last, but not least, distance learning would not be ideal for those who have problems with motivation and procrastination, or someone that requires a lot of individual attention from the instructor.

Since the mid-twentieth century, there has been a push toward more accelerated distance learning at the undergraduate level. Embracing a philosophy that the individual is responsible for his own education, proponents of accelerated learning argue that spending four years on education is a waste of time and effort and that one can leverage technology to achieve the equivalent of a four-year degree in less than one year.

Geostationary satellites are often used for communication purposes, and are often in the same area of the sky when viewed from a particular location from the planet's surface. The average Earth Watch map will cover about 100 square kilometers. They are also used for weather imaging and forecasting, and provide continuous monitoring for intensive data analysis Currently, they are approximately 300 operational satellites. They follow a geostationary earth orbit (GEO) about 22,241 miles above equator following in the direction of the planet's rotation. As with any other technology, there are several advantages and disadvantages. Some advantages include: low communications cost, low maintenance, ideal for monitoring remote locations, data is easily shared among government users. A huge disadvantage, however, is that if a transmission fails, it cannot be repeated at a later time. Moreover, it is only available to federal, state, or local government agencies and they do not provide any acknowledgement of a successful data transmission. Satellites are also used for surveillance and intelligence gathering. A government would be able to monitor if a particular nation is building up an arsenal in order to launch an offensive operation. "When they were first launched in the 1960s, spy satellites were the pride and joy of the U.S. and Soviet militaries. Indeed, many observers credit satellite photos-and their accurate info about bombers, missiles and navies-for calming tensions during the Cold War" (Devitt). Since both the United States and the Soviet Union could see what "the other side" was up to, there was less of a chance for misunderstanding that could escalate the Cold War into a Hot War that could only end in mutually assured destruction.

Understandably, there is a great deal of concern about the emerging surveillance-society of the present and future where governments use unarmed aerial vehicles (drones) to carry out surgical assassination plots. While these drones are normally controlled via satellite, the military can use them to not only carry out operations against foreign enemy combatants-it is possible that it may one day be used against American dissidents. Nevertheless, as with any technology, there are pluses and minuses and the advancements in telecommunications and weather forecasting has been a great boon in aiding intercultural communication and saving lives in the event of a predictable natural disaster such as a normal hurricane or cyclone or a Super Storm like Hurricane Sandy. Satellites can also track levels of industrial pollution in order for policy makers to act on the information provided. In summation, both distance learning and satellites will play much greater roles in society on both the macro and micro levels.


Devitt, T. An Eye in the Sky. The Why Files Online.

Mantyla, K. & Gividen, J.R. Distance Learning: A Step-by-Step Guide for Trainers. Alexandria, VA: ASTD.

Stevens Water Monitoring System. Geosynchronous Orbit Satellites (GEO).

Voeller, B. Accelerated Distance Learning: The New Way to Earn Your College Degree in the Twenty-First Century. Spring Branch, TX: Global Learning Strategies.