Distance learning is revolutionizing education

Distance learning is revolutionizing education in our country, and it’s only the beginning. 

The proliferation of distance learning is creating an environment where students of any age are able to learn, at any time and from anywhere, without commuting or sitting in a traditional classroom. The implications of this are enormous – right now, over 3.5 million college students are taking online courses or earning online college degrees, and over 700,000 high school students are taking at least one course online. 

{mosads}Increased access to broadband connectivity has transformed countless kitchen tables and coffee shops across America into virtual classrooms. In rural communities, distance learning technologies are allowing doctors to connect with colleagues to learn new techniques and procedures. In schools around the country, textbooks are being replaced by interactive tablets that allow students to engage directly with what they are learning. Teachers are able to track the progress of their students in real-time, providing them with the ability to tailor lessons to an individual student’s needs. 

Today, almost any degree can be earned online—high school, undergraduate and graduate—and students can choose from a variety of schools and programs to help them meet their educational goals. These degrees include additional programs that provide essential job training and workplace skills for people who are looking to enter a new field or expand their knowledge base. 

We can only continue this impressive growth if we can continue to innovate and invest in new technologies and services without unnecessary regulatory burdens. 

Just this week, the FCC voted to increase the funding for its E-Rate program, which helps connect schools and public libraries to high-speed Internet. We need to make sure that we keep the pipeline of investment and innovation in online learning open. 

How can we continue to meet this growing demand? We need continued and robust investment in content and platforms, but also in networks that are fast enough to deliver the content and reliable enough to connect more people to those learning experiences. 

This starts with the innovators in the private and public sectors that are bringing learning and information to life for students. Significant strides have been made because we were able to build and improve upon the components of distance learning without unnecessary roadblocks hindering our growth. Continued investment is essential if we are to maintain and improve our country’s foundation for dynamic distance learning opportunities. We must all be champions of an environment that fosters that investment. 

Today’s advanced learning platforms, content and networks have become so integral that learners quite reasonably expect to use technology that is fast and reliable to help them achieve their goals. And yet, students and teachers continue to discover all the ways technology can help them learn, offering stimulating lessons and interactive methods that create invaluable learning experiences. By encouraging continued investment into these 21st century solutions, we can help ensure that distance learning continues to benefit more students every day.

Flores is executive director at the United States Distance Learning Association and administrator and program professor at Nova Southeastern University, Abraham S. Fischler School of Education


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