Distance education as a form of innovation in higher education

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010

Author: Bordiyanu Ilona, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

The sphere of human activity and education cannot be free of global evolutionary and revolutionary processes in the political, economical, cultural, educational, technological, informational and other environments that are necessary for the development of any society. There had been drastic changes in the world by the end of 20 century in all environments that were closely interrelated and globally ensured human activity. The transition from primary sources of revenue to the intellectual resources in the economic environment had been made in all developed countries. Money as a tool in the geo-economic segment receded into the background and gave a way to technology, which in turn led to the rapid development of the technological environment. Since the early 90's «high-tech» technology began to occupy leading positions in many industries, but today they are relying on the rapid development of information environment, and increasingly giving a way to the «high-hume» technologies – methods of creating technologies. As a consequence there is now a significant dependence between the society and the conditions of its informational structure. All these processes led to the fact that modern developed society became a society of education. That education is the cornerstone of economy. Reported trends are global in nature and, on the one hand, are forcing the international community to reform education, and on the other hand, leading to distinct imbalances, manifested in the intellectual expansion of some countries on others. As the result, there is an outflow of the intellectual potential in the form of people and ideas. Kazakhstan, unfortunately, falls under this category and as a result of discrepancies between the high intellectual potential of the country and a very slow pace of its development; it needs a qualitative leap in the way of changes in technology, science, industry and business.

Kazakhstan now needs fundamentally different specialists from those who graduate from institution of higher education in very large quantities. For a powerful qualitative leap the country should grow an army of professionals who are ready for active and creative activities, have professional skills and creative abilities to implement them, and then develop a high level of professional competence, but also have social tolerance, and be communicative. These principles lie in the development of standards for the third-generation of higher education.

Embodiment of the declared principles compels educational institutions of all levels to follow the path of changes in educational technologies. For many years, education in Kazakhstan was based on object-oriented methodology, assuming a passive assimilation of large amounts of knowledge. As a result, which is contrary to expectations, the graduates have not only weak skills, but often general scientific erudition which does not equal to the proper amount of knowledge invested in the student during the study at higher education institution.

The need to move from object-oriented to student-centered learning process that requires a radical revision of approaches to educational technology becomes obvious.

Innovations that are vital for any professional person naturally become the subject of study, analysis and implementation. Innovations do not appear out of nothing, they are the result of scientific research and advanced educational experience of individual teachers and entire communities. This process cannot be chaotic, it needs to be managed. [3]

In the context of innovation strategy integrated in pedagogical process in higher education, the role of president, deans and faculty heads significantly increases as a direct carrier of innovative processes. Taking into account all the diversity of educational technologies: teaching, computer, problem, modular, and others - the implementation of pedagogical processes should be done by teachers. With the introduction of the educational process of modern technology, a teacher increasingly develops as a consultant, advisor. This requires special psychological and pedagogical training, as not only the specific, substantive knowledge in the field of pedagogy and psychology, educational technology is realized in the professional activities of teachers. On this basis the readiness of perception, evaluation and implementation of pedagogical innovations is being formed.

The concept of "innovation" means originality, novelty, change; innovation as the means and process involves the introduction of something new. With regard to the pedagogical process in higher education, innovation means the introduction of new objectives, contents, methods and forms of education, organization of joint work of teachers and students. [3]

In recent decades, a new problem for education has appeared. Knowledge ages every 3-5 years, and technological knowledge - every 2-3 years. It won’t be long until it is 1,5-2 years. The knowledge of university graduates is doubling every 3-4 years. If you do not change the educational technology, the quality of training will lag behind the desired objective in the labor market. Assimilation of knowledge by students using information and communication technologies on the lowest is estimated at 40-60% faster or more, per unit time, than with conventional technologies (for the same period are given more knowledge or fashionable to shorten courses in Universities).

Educational-methodical base, educational and information technologies of any university do not depend on the full-time education, accelerated degree program or remote study. If knowledge, training material and all the didactic components are collected and formalized in computers, they still can be applied to the audience (or equipment) or any user located outside the institution.

One of the types of innovations in the organization of higher education is the introduction of distance education.

In recent decades, distance education technologies have received intensive development.

Distance education is the educational system of the 21st century. People have great expectations about this system. Results of social progress, previously concentrated in the Technosphere, today are concentrated in the infosphere. The era of informatics has come. Experienced by the phase of its development can be characterized as telecommunications. It is the phase of communication, the phase of transfer of information and knowledge. Today education and work is synonyms: professional knowledge age very quickly, so they must undergo continuous improvement - this is an open education! Today the global telecommunications infrastructure provides the opportunity to create systems of mass continuous learning, global exchange of information, regardless of the spatial and temporal zones. Distance education has entered the XXI century as the most effective system of training and maintaining a high qualification level of specialists.

The term “distance education” is not yet fully succumbed in Russian and in English language teaching literature. There are options such as “distant education”, and “distant learning “. Some foreign researchers, highlighting the special role of telecommunications in distance education, define it as teletraining. But still the term "distance education" is most often used. [4]

Distance education as accelerated degree program originated in the early XX century. Today in absentia one can obtain not only higher education but also learn a foreign language, prepare oneself for entering higher education institution and so on. However, due to poorly adjusted interaction between teachers and students and lack of control over training activities part-time students during the periods between sessions of the examination quality of such training is worse than what can be obtained by full-time education.

Modern computer telecommunications are able to provide knowledge transfer and access to a variety of educational information on a par, and are sometimes much more effective than traditional teaching tools. Experiments have confirmed that the quality and structure of training courses, as well as the quality of teaching in distance education, is often much better than that of traditional forms of education. New electronic technologies such as interactive discs CD-ROM, electronic bulletin boards, multimedia hypertext, accessible via the Internet using Mosaic and WWW interfaces can not only ensure the active involvement of students in the learning process, but also allow manging this process in contrast to most traditional learning environments. The integration of sound, movement, image and text creates a new unusually rich in its capabilities learning environment with the development which will increase the degree of involvement of students in the learning process. Interactive features that are used in distance learning programs and delivery systems information allow adjusting and even encouraging feedback, to ensure dialogue and continuous support, which is impossible in most traditional systems of education.

The term "interactivity" is widely used in domestic and in overseas educational literature. In the narrow sense (for the user interacts with software in general) interactive communication – it is a dialogue of a user with the program, i.e, exchange text commands (requests) and responses (the invitations). With more advanced means of dialogue (such as having to ask questions in any form, using the "key" word in the form of a limited set of characters) allows to select options for the content of educational material and mode of operation. The more there are opportunities to manage the program, the more active the user is engaged in a dialogue, the greater is interactivity. In a broad sense, interactivity involves all stakeholders into a dialogue with each other using available means and methods. This assumes an active part in the dialogue on both sides - the exchange of questions and answers, the management course of a dialogue, monitoring the implementation of decisions, etc. Telecommunications environment, where millions of people communicate with each other, is essentially an interactive environment. Teachers and students will act as subjects in an interactive collaboration in distance education, and e-mail, newsgroups, conversations in real time will be implementing a similar interaction.

By 2000 according to foreign experts, higher education had reached the minimum education level required for the survival of humanity. Education of such a mass of students on full-time (daytime) form is unlikely to survive the budgets of even the most affluent countries. It is no accident for the past decade that the number of students in non-traditional technologies is growing faster than the number of full-time students. The global trend of transition to unconventional forms of education is traced in the increasing number of universities, conducting preparation of these technologies.

A long-term goal of distance education system in the world is to enable every student living in any place, to take a course of any college or university. This implies a shift from the concept of the physical movement of students from one country to the concept of mobile ideas, knowledge and training to spread knowledge through the sharing of educational resources.

Experts believe that the interactive teaching telecommunications cost 20-25% cheaper than the traditional teaching. Microsoft believes that the cost of network training can be reduced at least twice as much as traditional as the teacher in a position to give lessons from anywhere in the world, and even special computer equipment is not required. Savings can be achieved and due to other factors. Adopting a system of distance education, training department can be confident that all students enjoy the same and, moreover, the most recent teaching materials. Because training manuals are updated with Internet much easier. An interesting observation is that while training in distance education system it is easier to produce screenings weak students. Passive behavior at the usual seminars is easy, and at the electronic is impossible. As a result a larger number of students drop out in distance courses than in traditional ones.

Distance education within the system of higher education is such an organization of educational process in which a teacher develops a curriculum which is mainly based on self-study student. Such a learning environment is characterized by the fact that the student is often separated from the teacher in space or in time, so students and teachers have the opportunity to dialogue with each other by means of telecommunication. Distance education allows teaching village people who do not have other opportunities for education or access to university professors or specializations.

Since the mid 70's in many countries a new type of educational institutions started to appear, they were called differently -"open", "distance" university, "electronic", "virtual" college. They have the original organizational structure, use the original set of pedagogical methods, economic operation mechanism.

Characteristic trend of distance education is just the union of the organizational structures of universities. There are basic types of organizational structures of the university distance education, which include:

- units of accelerated degree program (distance education) in traditional universities;

- a consortium of universities;

- open universities;

- virtual universities.

Thus, in recent years a new type of organizational structure of distance university education - a consortium of universities - has begun to develop. Distance education services are provided by a special organization that integrates and coordinates the activities of several universities. University Consortium offers a suite of courses which are developed at various universities - from college courses to courses for degrees. In the 70's and 80's, many countries established national public universities. They used many of the organizational principles of accelerated degree programs. But in general, open education brought many new things in the educational system. The principle of openness of education means freedom of enrollment in the number of training courses, the individual making the curriculum and the freedom of time, place and pace of learning. In an open education there is a rich and elaborate educational environment in which the learner is guided entirely independently, desiring to achieve his educational purposes only.

At the heart of the new educational system based on the principle of openness, which is applicable to higher education there is:

- an open admission to higher education, i.e waiver of any conditions and requirements for admission, except for reaching the required age (18 years);

- joint planning of training, i.e freedom of making individual courses by choosing from a system of courses;

- freedom in the timing and pace of learning, that is, admission of students to higher education throughout the year and no fixed terms of education;

- freedom to choose the place of study: the students are physically absent from the classroom most of training time and be able to choose where to study.

Carrying out the principle of openness has led to significant organizational innovations that have become feasible precisely because of the introduction of new technologies of storage, processing and transmitting information. For example, in the 90’s a new model of distance education appeared, based on technology of teleconferencing. This model is called telelearning or teleeducation. In this case, teleconferencing, which may be in real time, is the main form of interaction between teacher and student, expanding this interaction, previously carried out mainly by mail. This teleconference can be carried out both between teacher and students and between learners. This can be audio, audio graphical, video and computer conferencing.

Model of distance education has appeared recently, but it leads to radical changes in the organization of modern education. This is evident in the fact that on the basis of this model there began to develop a new organizational form of modern education - virtual universities. This form of training is considered a new, just incipient model of education. In this model, a fully implemented those potential restructuring of the education system that are characteristic of teleconferencing technology used for training purposes. These technologies enable groups of students and individual student to meet with teachers and other students, being at any distance from each other. Such modern communication tools are supplemented by computer training programs, which replace printed texts, audio-and videotapes. The emergence of such a model of distant education leads to the fact that education is conducted not only at a distance, but regardless of any institution. Such a model has not been yet fully implemented. It faces significant challenges, in particular, the problem of obtaining public recognition and the right to issue diplomas and certificates, to assign the appropriate level (the problem of accreditation of a virtual university). Overcoming these difficulties and full development of a model of virtual university will mean profound changes in the organizational structure of modern education. [6]

However, despite all the above advantages of distance education at the moment there are a number of problems. One of the key problem is attracting teachers to the training content. Because of low salaries, teachers tend to perform as much as possible the amount of training load, and the result they devote less time for preparation of educational and methodical support courses. However, the majority of teachers demonstrate a serious interest in using distance education technology. The solution to this problem could be either a decline in the number of hours teaching load for teachers using distance educational technologies, or their incentives.

The second problem is more general and goes beyond one institution. The introduction of distance education technology is a process which requires considerable expenses. Therefore, it seems expedient to combine in this way the efforts of several institutions with similar educational programs. However, as a rule, content developed in one institution is difficult to adapt to another because of different standards for the formation of content and process management systems of distance education. It is important that the various universities had the opportunity to share training and educational materials with each other. Way of solving this problem lies in the use of international standards for creating courses, so that an effective means of learning, developed in one university could be used by other universities, without changing the existing infrastructure of distance education.

Distance education technology, applying audio, video, forums and chats allows creating effective training courses, but there is a problem with the preparation of teachers to work with these technologies. But mastering these technologies is no guarantee of quality teaching disciplines. It is well known that the main character, must possess a teacher learning (tutor) is the ability to perceive the student as a colleague, send a text form, not only knowledge but also emotions, keep communicating, in an entertaining way to represent knowledge. For the development of precisely those qualities it is necessary to organize training and retraining of teachers. It becomes necessary to conduct training on the content of such courses and teaching in an e-learning environment, where the distance learning technology is used in an educational process that enables teachers to be in the role of student and to pass through the course themselves.

Departments should be involved in the process of distance education to connect undergraduate and graduate students to problems solving associated with the introduction of distance education technology.

A huge number of facts, examples above show the need for the establishment and expansion of distance education in Kazakhstan, as an essential factor in the development of skilled, intelligent, highly professional society.

Distance education offers students access to nontraditional sources of information, improves the efficiency of independent work, gives completely new opportunities for creativity, discovery and consolidation of various professional skills, teachers can implement fundamentally new forms and methods of teaching with the use of conceptual and mathematical modeling of phenomena and processes.

Thus, distance education as a new socio-important information services already exists in reality and will have great prospects in the future, both for learners and suppliers of the service.

Distance education is becoming one of the most important tools to improve the educational system as a whole, starting from governing to educating and ensuring access to education. Distance education is one of the main tools for the implementation of open education, providing for substantial expansion of educational content, methods of obtaining educational services, forms certification, covering the concept further, accelerated degree program and continuing education.


1. http://college-training.ru.

2. http://db.informika.ru//

3. www.dis-edu.ru.

4. www.istu.edu.

5. Clarine M. “Innovations in education. Metaphors and models”. M.: Nauka, 1997.

6. Gozman L.Y, Shestopal E.B “Distance education at the threshold of the XXI century”. Rostov - on - Don: "Thought", 1999.

7. Shakhman N.M “Technical means of distance education”. M. - "Knowledge", 2000.

8. Jasinski V.B “Distance education - the condition, technology and prospects”. Scientific publications / Karaganda State Technical University. Karaganda, 1999.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010

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