by Mike Findlay
NEW YORK, NY – With the global economy on the road to recovery, priorities are finally beginning to shift back to their pre-recession state: namely, a focus on higher education over the worry of financial burden. However, specialists report that the face of education has changed in recent years, stepping out of the classroom and into apartments, cyber cafés, and even onto the road; many men and women eager to continue their educations have finally found a way to balance school, work and daily life thanks to new trends in distance learning.
While the video conferencing has suffered its fair share of bugs in recent years, the technology has definitely proven its worth to the educational community by offering greater opportunities to students all over the world.
These days, all distance learning really requires is a computer—or even a tablet or smartphone—with a steady connection to the Internet, and a little time to devote to the process. Email made the process of communicating with professional guidance from a distance easier, but new options like video conferencing can bring a classroom wherever there’s a student with Wi-Fi. Most video conferencing platforms, such as Bluejeans and other popular online meeting services were designed with business communication in mind. However, when universities first realized how easy it was to utilize these services to keep in touch with students and get new students enrolled from almost anywhere, without worrying about allocating a classroom with ample space for all interested parties, there wasn’t much on which to deliberate. Some universities have even made these methods standard for multiple courses: according to ARNnet, an Australia university recently invested in a video conferencing platform to reach all 20 thousand members of the student body, taking strain off both the campus facilities and the students’ busy schedules.
Since the introduction of video conferencing to higher education, distance learning through video conferencing has allowed students from all walks of life and even multiple countries to attend class virtually, with coursework both assigned and turned in digitally, while the video conference aspect allows students to ask questions and get answers in real time. Meanwhile, for students who can’t make every online lecture, these conferences can be easily recorded and placed online for streaming and download.
The ability to take courses from anywhere and on one’s own time is what really makes a change in the learning sector. Students are no longer trapped on-campus for 10 to 12 hours per day waiting for one lecture to start hours after another finishes; instead, these men and women can get the majority of education and assistance they need from their own homes and on their own schedule. While college used to be so heavily structured that it shut out a great deal of prospective students, most notably those from low-income families or working to pay their own way, these changes make it possible for students to schedule their education around work, rather than vice versa.
In turn, opening up educational opportunities like this allows universities to extend educational opportunities to students from other campuses states, and beyond, forging and strengthening bonds between different institutions through cooperation for the sake of students, not just financial aid. According to the US Journal of Academics, there are a number of other benefits students and schools can appreciate with the incorporation of distance learning opportunities into their core curricula:
These opportunities, which used to hinge upon everything from scheduling to wheelchair access, are now almost entirely contingent upon a student’s time management skills. That alone is a massive step forward in making higher education available to everyone—now, you can learn what you want as long as you can stick to your own schedule.
Opening the Door
Video conferencing in education is helping to tear down the boundaries between classes, schools, and access to higher education altogether. While education outside the classroom used to require long and complex correspondence courses, managed over weeks and months with little to no instant contact between learning and instructing parties, but today this is clearly not the case. According to the National Student, technological advances have made not only access to education easier, but also enhanced the experience of distance learning; online students can now enjoy actual conversations with classmates and instructors, real time lectures and study sessions, and the ability to learn at their own pace without giving up the access to the best educators in the country.
As the economy continues to turn and technology continues to advance, experts predict even more online degrees and distance learning programs, with fewer stumbling blocks in the way. Going back to school is easier than ever.
PHOTO: Radvision/Samsung; A low cost desktop HD Video Conferencing system designed for the office or a small meeting room. Credit: Medical Video Conferencing Ltd