The future of education in the new millenium
What is DL?
Why do we need DL?
Who needs DL?
How effective is DL?
Factors affecting expansion of DL
Conclusion / Summary
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Factors affecting expansion of DL

The technological requirements for starting an effective, interactive distance learning program often require large capital outlays that exceed the initial costs for conventional institutions. Media costs (i.e., telephone, satellite, broadcast, software, etc.) increases a DL institution's fixed costs. Although DL research indicates that the long-term cost is less than that of a campus-based education, the decision to pursue traditional versus DL based projects is often determined by the institution's initial available capital. Furthermore, studies indicate that the economies of scale touted by DL proponents favors an open school or university with a large student base. Starting a program "from scratch" requires absorption of additional average costs until the student body is large enough to result in a reduction below the average cost per student at a traditional institution. The special and varying needs of DL also requires additional expenditures in faculty training. Finally, student study facilities may still be required for the financially disadvantaged students.

Although the technology exists to have nearly face-to-face interactions, the costs of such technology may still be beyond the reach of many institutions. The selection of appropriate communication technology must be weighed against their costs and availability. Unfortunately, less costly media forms often lack the ability to provide the interaction, immediate feedback, and reinforcement desired. Of course, the passing of time continues to bring a reduction in the cost of high end interactive technology.

Programmed Learning
Many educators express concern over the predisposition of many DL programs toward programmed or multiple choice methods of learning. These concerns are of particular significance, especially where younger students are involved. The ability to remotely develop the personalities, analytical and interactive skills of children is in question, often leading to a failure to incorporate DL programs. However, many educators believe that DL can be an effective enhancement to conventional-based teaching methods, even at the elementary level. These DL proponents agree that it paves the way for the use of technology that may be encountered by these same students at higher education levels.

NCES Report
In the report on Distance Education by the National Center for Education Statistics, 1,500 U.S. higher education institutions were asked what factors were keeping them from starting or expanding their distance education course offerings. Program development costs (43 percent), limited technological infrastructure to support distance education (31 percent), and equipment failures and costs of maintaining equipment (23 percent) were among the major factors most frequently cited. (National Center for Education Statistics, 1997: 39)

Clearly, the implementation of DL programs is not without its difficulties. However, the future demands that will be imposed on our education system require that we make long-term decisions and set long-term goals for incorporating DL into our teaching methodology.