The implementation of distance education was and still is challenging. Not having a face-to-face interaction with the learners makes the process of teaching and learning difficult both for the teachers and learners. However, as Internet technologies have become increasingly robust, distance learning and teaching have become less challenging. In the recent years, both students and educators have become more comfortable with the technology and learn easily how to use it.
Distance learning is a great educational tool enabling many learners to access online accredited courses enjoying the luxury of remaining in the home country and study.
In Armenia, many educational centers and universities offer distance learning education with accredited degree for those who have busy schedule and family responsibilities. However, friends of mine who applied distance learning program were not fully satisfied with the experience complaining about the practicality of the courses. According to them, the educators were novice, not being able to organize a rigid syllabus. They were paying less attention to the learners and sometimes they were completely forgetting to upload new materials and give the necessary guidelines. Hence, the implementation of distance education is not easy as it seems to be.
In the future, if I asked to develop a distance English program for young adults and adults in remote areas of Armenia, I need to consider several facts and design a rigid teaching plan.
First of all, before developing any distance course, it is important to become sure that the target areas have high-speed internet, people have access to the computers and have the literacy to use the internet and computer. Then, I should choose a platform through which teach English. Moodle, blog, email, Skype or Skype in the classroom and even a group in Facebook can be ideal tools for teaching. For choosing the most convenient tool, an interview should be conducted to find out which is the most convenient tool for the learners and teachers. Then, according to the article written by White et. al. I need to specify certain tutor maxims and identify teachers’ roles. According to the same article and another article written by Hauck and Hampel, giving feedback is another important aspect that the distance learning teachers need to consider. The focus of the course developed for adults will be mainly fluency giving the learners the opportunity to freely express their ideas not getting worried about mistakes. However, regular general language accuracy feedback will be provided for language development. To ensure the quality of tutors, an experienced mentor will be assigned to check other teachers and the teachers need to write a report each month reporting their teaching plans.
As I mentioned before, to have a successful outcome, the students need to have enough literacy to use online sources. Hence, it is important to make sure that students can properly use the given materials. If not workshops should be conducted. Moreover, as Hauck and Hampel mention, the motivation can decrease in online learning. Therefore, to maintain the motivation, regular encouragement by teacher is essential.
To sum up, to have a successful distance learning program, educators need to spend plenty of time to develop a well-thought curriculum, putting the focus on student-student interaction, providing a sufficient feedback and content materials.