ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF DISTANCE LEARNING

e-learning

Side view of African American boy watching educational video with netbook while sitting at table with stationery

In the current situation of a pandemic, universities are increasingly forced to turn to remote forms of work. In the context of such a transition, there is a lot of discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of distance learning, and in order to correctly assess the strengths and weaknesses of this form of work, it is necessary to turn to the essence of the concept under discussion.

Currently, there are many definitions of the concept of “distance learning”: “distance learning based on the interaction of teachers and students and implemented using Internet technologies”  ], “the organization of the educational process with the use of information contained in databases and used in the implementation of educational programs, information technologies and technical means that ensure the interaction of participants in the educational process”  “purposeful learning carried out at a distance” [3], etc. In our opinion, despite the objectivity, these definitions do not reveal the essence of the process under consideration – the implementation of contactl

 

ess emotional-physical interaction between the teacher and the student, based on the self-determined nature of the student’s work on the material being studied. In other words, distance learning, on the one hand, does not imply the physical presence of the student in the classroom, and, as a result, the emotional contact between the teacher and students is either very weak or completely absent (in this regard, it should be noted that the centuries-old teaching practice has always been based on on the special relationship between the student and the teacher, and if these relationships were based on mutual respect, emotional enrichment and interest, they bore fruit, otherwise they were ineffective). On the other hand, if traditional teaching assumes that the teacher leads and controls the student through a certain pace of work, chronology and sequence of presentation of the material, visual control of the student’s work in the lesson and in the course of his performance of test tasks, then distance learning provides for a completely different approach: firstly, the student works in an autonomous independent mode, and, as a result, at any time he can slow down the course of an already finished lesson and revise those moments that are incomprehensible to him; secondly, very often the student begins the task from the material that seems to him the easiest, thereby deviating from the correct algorithm for acquiring skills, which, as practice shows, negatively affects the strength of the acquired knowledge; thirdly, the assessment of the student’s work turns out to be relative due to the fact that he can use any help in completing the assignment, from reference materials to the non-independent completion of the test. The listed problems turn out to be only a part of those challenges

The purpose of the study is to consider the features of distance learning and identify its weaknesses and strengths in comparison with traditional methods of work.

 

Research results and their discussion

Recently, among the educational areas developed by universities, a new one has appeared – the training of specialists (economists, managers, etc.) using distance technologies. It is difficult to argue that this direction is gaining great popularity in comparison with the traditionally taught specialties. Nevertheless, if we take into account that one of the main directions of informatization of higher education is the development and widespread distribution of distance learning, this direction may soon become a priority  .

Among the main characteristic features of distance learning, a number of researchers distinguish: flexibility, modularity, economic efficiency [5], specialized quality control of education and the use of information technologies and teaching aids  ; a new role appears for the teacher: he becomes a coordinator rather than a leader of the educational process. It is also necessary to add to this list such characteristics as a certain impersonality of the process, leading to communicative and emotional impoverishment, and the subjectivity of learning, by which we mean a conscious and active attitude to cognition and the definition of oneself as a person in it. Let us consider these characteristics from the standpoint of their positive / negative role in the educational process.

The flexibility of distance learning is based on the ability, on the one hand, to speed up or slow down the course of learning, and on the other, to disrupt the sequence of presentation of the material. Learning in this mode really makes the process of mastering the material easier, since the student always has the opportunity to re-view the material, unlike a traditional lecture, and the multimedia design makes it more memorable, vivid and interesting. However, if a student lacks such qualities as discipline and self-determination  he can move from a deep and consistent study of the material to a faster and more superficial one (for example, omitting certain points in a lecture that seem incomprehensible or, conversely, extremely easy).

Modularity is often understood as “a system consisting of autonomous, self-sufficient and stable elements with simple and consistent structural links between them, with the possibility of restructuring the entire system” as a whole, and the principles of a modular system mean: clarity in defining learning objectives, continuity (use of positive experience work), adaptability (since the unification of all the elements of the module is impossible, a careful “adjustment” of the elements of the module is necessary at all levels of functioning: horizontal and vertical), metatechnology, implying a generalized framework system for the implementation of educational technologies. In distance learning, the assessment of the effectiveness of modular material delivery is ambiguous.

Traditional teaching is built vertically, taking into account the sequential presentation of material from simple to complex, including, using the example of a foreign language, the joint implementation of activities such as speaking, reading, writing, listening, etc. As a rule, during the lesson, the transitions between different types of foreign language activities are invisible in the general flow of language practice. With distance learning, modules are either mastered by students independently, or there is a certain time period in their development. And if, for example, in the case of teaching reading and writing, such a gap in time is justified, then the division into modules (for example, reading and speaking) slows down the pace of mastering the material and affects the quality of the learning outcome. At the same time, it should be noted that if, within the framework of a separate subject, the modular system turns out to be ineffective,

The business case for distance learning does sound attractive, but it is relative. If we proceed from the principle of the Lancaster system, when one teacher managed a class of 100 people thanks to his assistants, then distance learning is the best option (a large number of people can work in remote mode at the same time), but in this regard, it should be noted that the more students listed in the class, the lower the quality of the teacher’s check of their work.

Quality control of education differs significantly between traditional and distance learning. In particular, the traditional test of knowledge includes testing, independent and control work, in which the student does not use reference materials [6]. Remote knowledge testing also involves the above list of works, but under conditions of self-control, which is reflected in the bias of the results obtained (the student can do the work independently or using reference books).

The most important advantage of distance learning is, in our opinion, the use of information technology and teaching aids. The main distance educational technologies are considered to be Internet technology, case and telecommunication technologies [9]. Case technology is implemented with the help of teaching materials, including a full range of components: from textbooks and measuring materials to audio and video recordings and computer programs; Internet technology presupposes the interactive use of information: from searching for information on the global network to exchanging it between users; telecommunication technologies give universities the opportunity to invite narrow specialists to give lectures and conduct seminars in the framework of global international cooperation. It is important to have a database of educational, methodological and reference materials,

Information technologies make it possible to significantly diversify the educational process, introducing elements of play, competition and color into it. With a correctly chosen teaching strategy, information technologies can be effectively used to create superficial interest, and it is the teacher’s task to turn the generated interest into a deeper, academic approach to the subject being studied. The advantages of the information approach are, firstly, remote access to any information resources: from the largest international libraries (including libraries of the world’s leading universities) to inviting high-level online specialists to give lectures, and secondly, the ability to unite students in the educational process from different regions and countries.

It should be noted that the role of the teacher changes in distance learning. If we consider the level of implementation of the educational program, then with the traditional approach it performs informational, organizational, evaluative, control and corrective functions. With distance learning, the set of functions performed is different. The organizational function changes to a coordinating one, which is due to the fact that the teacher, instead of an active participant in the educational process, becomes passive, mediated. Its influence is limited to the selection of teaching materials and forms of their presentation, and the learning process itself becomes the student’s area of ​​responsibility. The information function becomes organizational and informational, since the teacher becomes not a source of information,

With the traditional approach to teaching, the control, evaluation and correctional functions, sometimes combined in one, are necessary for the teacher primarily to create effective incentives, thanks to which the learning process will develop, the intended changes will begin to occur in it. However, within the framework of distance learning, even such unchanging classical functions of the teacher are unnecessary. Control over the course of learning turns into self-control: the student is forced to control the entire course of his learning himself, moving from the role of an object to the role of a subject of learning. The evaluation function often becomes programmable (for example, in the case of testing, the computer program itself calculates the number of points scored), and the correction function turns out to be of little demand due to the loss of the first two functions: control and evaluation.

With the transition to self-control, learning becomes subjective. The subjectivity of learning is based primarily on the fact that the individual becomes an autonomous and independent subject of the educational process and bears independent responsibility for the quality and breadth of the knowledge acquired. Subjectivity consists in a conscious and active attitude to the world and defining oneself as a person in it [10]. Such training assumes that the student performs three functions at once: organizer, executor and controller, i.e. he himself chooses the pace, sequence and direction of work; carries out deliberate educational activities for the assimilation of the material; controls quality and monitors the results of its work. This approach requires the trainee to have such personal qualities as self-determination and self-reflection. The concept of “self-reflection”, that came to pedagogy from philosophy, and then psychology as an explanatory principle for the development of self-awareness and psyche in general   is considered by us as a process and the result of recording by the participants of the pedagogical process the state of their development, self-development and related reasons. By self-determination, we mean an activity free from external (imposed from the outside) and internal (physical and characterological prerequisites and other stable structures of the psyche) conditions and based on the idea of ​​a changing personality in a changing world, which reveals complex mechanisms of adaptation to existing conditions, readiness for their transformation and the ability to independently determine development strategies [7].

One of the serious disadvantages of distance learning should be considered the impersonality of the educational process: contacts “teacher – student”, “student – student” during distance learning are broken, which leads to a significant decrease in the communicative component of this process. This state of affairs cannot but affect such aspects of learning as exchange of information, interest in learning, and control over the quality of knowledge. It is obvious that in the absence of real communication, a person, being social by nature, experiences negative emotions and stress that do not contribute to the desire to learn. The emotional component, which plays a key role in the emergence of a positive interest in learning, is also excluded from the learning process.

Based on the analysis of the positive and negative aspects of distance learning, we note that during training during the lockdown period, we observed the following:

 1) students, as a rule, ignored the lecture material laid out, preferring to immediately carry out practical work (which affected the quality);

 2) the work was completed faster if the students had the opportunity to ask questions to the teacher directly;

 3) distance assessment of knowledge turned out to be biased due to the lack of control over the progress of the work by the teacher;

 4) some students were not technically ready to work remotely;

 5) the lack of emotional contact with the teacher affected the desire of students to do the proposed work; 6) an important factor was the lack of self-determination and self-reflection among students (students were not ready to assess their progress in knowledge and set new educational goals). From these observations.

 it follows that the main areas of work to optimize distance learning should be the following:

 1) the predominance of video lectures in the presentation of training material (which will partially avoid the impersonality of the training process);

 2) maximum accessibility and simplicity of presentation;

 3) the ability to ask a question and discuss unclear points in the lecture with the teacher;

 4) with modular building of the material, maintaining the closest possible relationship between autonomous modules (both vertically and horizontally);

 5) inclusion of the parameter of self-reflection in the control over the quality of mastering the material

 6) supplementing distance learning with full-time delivery of material at the final stage of training; 

7) the inclusion of communicative tasks in the distance learning program along with constant extra-curricular communication (via chat, skype, etc.), which allows you to preserve the emotional and communicative components in the learning process;

 8) inclusion in the educational process of teaching time management and the organization of a technical and psychological help service (the goals of the latter will be emotional relief and preparation of the student for a new style of work). The emphasis on the above areas of optimization, in our opinion, will smooth out the negative and make the best use of the positive aspects in the organization of distance learning.

 

Conclusion

Currently, the society has faced the urgent problem of organizing contactless learning. The causes of this problem are far beyond the educational system, but it is education that has to deal with them. In this regard, a difficult moment arises in assessing the new remote style of work: the use of new forms and methods of work, their pros and cons, the results of work and their correction. The lack of distance learning experience in the teaching community and the lack of experimental data have a significant impact on the conduct of this assessment. As the analysis shows, one and the same assessed parameter carries a certain ambiguity, since it is rather difficult to unambiguously attribute it to the advantages or disadvantages of distance learning. In particular, speaking of such a positive aspect of distance learning as flexibility (the ability to autonomously adjust the pace, sequence and control over the presentation of the material), it can be noted that it also carries such hidden negative aspects as slower progress in knowledge, the impossibility of quick correction of incorrectly learned material, lack of full control over the performance of work by students, etc. As the main conclusion from the analysis, it should be noted that any of the characteristics of distance learning can have both pluses and minuses, and the task of the organizer of distance work is to take these parties into account when choosing the forms and content of educational material, monitoring its assimilation and correcting the learning process. if necessary. consistency and control over the presentation of the material), you can see that it also carries such hidden negative aspects as slower progress in knowledge, the impossibility of quick correction of incorrectly learned material, lack of full control over the performance of the student’s work, etc. As the main conclusion from the analysis, it should be noted that any of the characteristics of distance learning can have both pluses and minuses, and the task of the organizer of distance work is to take these parties into account when choosing the forms and content of educational material, monitoring its assimilation and correcting the learning process. if necessary. consistency and control over the presentation of the material), you can see that it also carries such hidden negative aspects as slower progress in knowledge, the impossibility of quick correction of incorrectly learned material, lack of full control over the performance of the student’s work, etc. As the main conclusion from the analysis, it should be noted that any of the characteristics of distance learning can have both pluses and minuses, and the task of the organizer of distance work is to take these parties into account when choosing the forms and content of educational material, monitoring its assimilation and correcting the learning process. if necessary. impossibility of quick correction of incorrectly learned material, lack of full control over the performance of the student’s work, etc. As the main conclusion from the analysis, it should be noted that any of the characteristics of distance learning can have both pluses and minuses, and the task of the organizer of distance work is to take these parties into account when choosing the forms and content of educational material, monitoring its assimilation and correcting the learning process. if necessary. impossibility of quick correction of incorrectly learned material, lack of full control over the performance of the student’s work, etc. As the main conclusion from the analysis, it should be noted that any of the characteristics of distance learning can have both pluses and minuses, and the task of the organizer of distance work is to take these parties into account when choosing the forms and content of educational material, monitoring its assimilation and correcting the learning process. if necessary.

 

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