Categorized | Education

Going the Distance in Education

Posted on 20 September 2008

Online education offers working professionals the convenience of sharpening their skills and adding to their credentials without ever having to leave the office.

Institutions on the Web offer programs ranging from accredited degrees (Masters of Business Administration, for example) to seminars on marketing techniques. New Media learning challenges traditional classroom instruction by delivering lectures that are videotaped or streamed onto the computer–and allowing participation in the course when it is convenient for the student.

Students may also benefit from useful tools like chat rooms and message boards, which give students and teachers the opportunity to interact by posting assignments and responding to questions.

A Worthy Investment
According to, multimedia training is not only more convenient than classroom training, but studies have shown a 15-25 percent increase in learning achievement with its tools and techniques.

Companies offer business courses in coaching, conflict resolution, leadership and negotiation skills, recruiting, and more. Students apparently learn better with online training because they retain the information longer and more accurately.

When comparing online learning to classroom instruction, claims these findings:

  • Learning gains can be up to 56 percent greater
  • Consistency of learning can be 50-60 percent better
  • Content retention can be 25-50 percent higher

The University of Phoenix Online says that its students are not underachievers by any means.

“In tests of cognitive achievement, online students perform as well as or better than students enrolled in University of Phoenix classroom programs,” says a university spokesperson. With more than 18,000 students currently registered on Phoenix Online (up from 4,700 in 1997), the college is confident that demand for distance learning will continue to increase. “Online attendance will continue to grow as more professionals realize the potential of being a student without having to leave their office,” the spokesperson adds.

Brick and mortar institutions are paying attention to the growing numbers of online enrollees. According to Bob Cohn, executive editor at The Industry Standard, nearly three-quarters of colleges and universities offered online courses last year, up from 48 percent in 1998. More than two million students are expected to enroll in distance learning programs by 2002.

The Standard lists business and social science programs as the most popular distance learning courses on the Web. Recent statistics show 18 percent of online students are enrolled in business, 18 percent in social science, 9 percent in education, 8 percent in computer science, and 7 percent in health science.

Corporate America Trains Online
The United States Distance Learning Association, an organization that promotes the development and application of distance learning for education and training, says corporate America is using distance learning, both internally and externally, for all aspects of training. The most appealing aspect may be the bottom line–if provided correctly, distance learning can save corporations between 10-50 percent of their training budgets.

Brenda Paik Sunoo, former senior editor of the HR magazine Workforce, says distance learning institutions target small- and medium-size companies because training via the Internet is considered cost-effective.

“The benefits of executive learning online are many: reduced expenses, improved efficiency of learning, increased access to knowledge, ability to accurately assess the impact of learning, and the ability to conduct the process of learning on a global scale,” says Sunoo. She adds that distance learning takes a lot of initiative, motivation and self-discipline to make it work. Most of the time, employees will be on their own schedule, studying and producing work at their own pace.

Online instructor Kathy Gilroy, a teacher for UCLA Extension Human Resources courses, says her students maintain productive involvement in her courses through an active interest in their field of study.

“Everyone can relate to the information presented in the courses and add different points of view and experiences to our discussions,” says Gilroy, who owes her own credentials to distance learning. “I became an online instructor after I’d completed a Master’s level program through the University of Phoenix Online.”

Distance learning is proving to be a worthy investment to both employers and students alike. With its availability and effectiveness, good multimedia training can more rapidly and consistently provide workers with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes they need to become more innovative in their working environment.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Boyd says:


    (Note: This presentation applies equally to “on campus” students)

    The most rigorous part of the dissertation includes the

    Methods Section
    Study Design
    Research questions and hypothesis formulation
    Development of instrumentation
    Describing the independent and dependent variables
    Writing the data analysis plan
    Performing a Power Analysis to justify the sample size and writing about it

    Results Section
    Performing the Data Analysis
    Understanding the analysis results
    Reporting the results.
    When you enter this phase of the program, you are nearing the end of the journey. Given the difficulty of this phase, one often wishes they had previewed what was to come.
    Many Ph.D candidates seem to hit a brick wall and feel disarmed when called upon to work on the methods and results section of their dissertation.
    This is the point where many students diligently search for help calling on their advisor, peers, university assistance and even Google.
    This is also the time when the student asks themselves the question” HOW MUCH HELP IS TOO MUCH”.
    Surely no one will deny that having your dissertation written for you is very wrong.

    On the other hand, it is not unusual for doctoral students to get help on specific aspects of their dissertation.(e.g. APA formatting and editing) It also is not unusual for advisors to encourage students to seek outside help.

    If you are a distance learning student it is almost essential you seek outside assistance for the methods and results section of your dissertation. The very nature of distance learning suggest the need for not only outside help but help from someone gifted in explaining highly technical concepts in understandable language by telephone and e-mail.

    Distance learning, and the availability of programs, has increased exponentially over the last few years with some of the most respected institutions (Columbia University, Engineering; Boston University and others) offering a Ph.D in a variety of fields. If you are enrolled in a distance learning program, or considering one, you will be interested in reviewing the reference sites listed at the bottom of this page.

    As stated above, many students hit their dissertation “brick wall” when they encounter the statistics section. Frequently, a student will struggle for months with that section before they seek a consultant to help them. This often leads to additional tuition costs and missed graduation dates.

    If I were to name a single reason why a PhD candidate gets off track in their program it is the statistics and their fear of statistics.

    So, the question is whether or not it is ethical to get help at all. If so, how much help is too much.

    I don’t know if there has ever been a survey of dissertation committee members who were asked this question, however, I know many advisors take the following position when they suggest or approve outside help:

    To a large extent the process is self controlling. If the student relies too much on a consultant, the product may look good, however, the student will be unable to defend his/her dissertation.

    It takes a committed effort on the part of the student and the consultant (resulting in a collaborative/teaching exchange) to have the student responsible for the data and thoroughly understand the statistics. The day the student walks in front of the committee to defend, there should be no question as to his/her understanding of statistics.

    When their defense is successful, the question “was the help too much” is answered.

    If you are a Ph.D candidate and would like additional information, you may wish to review the referenced sites below:


    Reference sites:

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