Distance online education is a form of learning in which students and instructor do not have to be at the same place at the same time. The classes are conducted entirely through the Internet.

Although the Internet has added a completely new dimension to remote learning, the idea of distance education is not a new one. Coursework was conveyed by radio and correspondence course in the early forties, and more recently by videotape or satellite TV.

The Virtual Classroom
Distance online education is a situation in which students and instructor meet in a virtual classroom. A virtual classroom is any online area where students and instructor meet for course activities. What makes this learning method unique is that it uses the Internet as the primary means of communication. Educational technology delivers the class content and communication between the instructor and students. The educational experience emerges outside the classroom using message board forums, chat rooms, and e-mail. Instead of attending classes, the students and instructor meet online in a type of setting that resembles a chat room.

Assignments are given just as in a traditional environment. The students research the subject online, answer questions, conduct projects, write reports and term papers, and take exams. Group projects are often assigned, but the majority of the work is completed independently, with the teacher available by email, to assist as needed.

Testing and Evaluation
Quizzes are a popular form of testing knowledge; grades are usually based on a rubric that combines quiz scores, class participation, project grades, and exam results.

Benefits of Online Education
Online education offers students more freedom, and flexibility of schedule. Classes and work assignments can be accessed at any time. Online distance education reaches social economic populations of adults who cannot attend on campus classes for a variety of reasons such as living to far from a campus, courses not offered by local college, child care, or lack of reliable transportation.

Drawbacks of Online Education
Like any method of education, there are some potential drawbacks to the virtual classroom. Adult learners, they must be able to access, organize, and evaluate information using technology. Students must be computer literate, and be able to conduct research online. This includes the ability to find relevant information, and filter out what is non-relevant. An adult learner must have self-discipline, and be able to develop and maintain a study schedule, on both a daily and a weekly time frame.

Online education is not for everyone, most adults who participate in the virtual learning environment are happy with the freedom they enjoy. They no longer have to commute to school after work or sit in drab classrooms that do little to inspire them. More and more colleges and universities are adopting online education as a method of delivering curriculum content, in order to attract both traditional and non-traditional students. Online education is clearly the wave of the future.

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