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Distance learning can be defined as the acquisition of knowledge and skills through mediated information and instruction. Distance learning encompasses all technologies and supports the pursuit of life long learning for all. Providing courses and electronic field trips are among the principal applications for distance learning in Pre-K through grade 12 education. Distance learning is also used to support rural and inner city classes with student enrichment, student courses, staff development and in-service training for teachers and administrators. Further, distance learning is used to share classes among schools for those areas who may not be able to find good teachers to teach honors courses like math and science. Distance learning provides a way to share those types of classes and employ one instructor. In higher education, distance learning is providing undergraduate and advanced degrees to students in offices, at community colleges and at various receive sites. Students for whom convenience may be a crucial factor in receiving college credit are earning degrees by interactive instructional television, ITFS and other means of delivery. These students may be place-bound or time-bound and this type of instruction provides access to all who wish to pursue a degree. Corporations often look to the use of technology and distance education to provide training and continuing education for their workers. This saves them millions of dollars each year using distance learning to train employees more effectively and more efficiently than with conventional methods. Programming for distance learning provides the receiver many options both in technical configurations and content design. Educational materials are delivered primarily through live and interactive classes. Today's technology offers many options for delivering and receiving education over a distance. The ability of the teacher and students to see each other may not be a necessary condition for effective distance learning, but audio is a critical component for interactivity. Teaching strategies based on computer applications are emerging that are also effective. Distance learning provides equity of access to information and opportunities, and can dramatically decrease the costs and inconveniences associated with maintaining a well-trained work force. Telecommunications systems that serve education can also benefit the community at large. In rural areas, especially, telecommunications systems and services are tied increasingly to economic development and community survival. New uses for distance learning include the application of information and educational resources for Pre-K through grade 12 students, adults, senior citizens, local governments, organizations and businesses. It should be noted that quality of distance learning programs varies widely, and there are hucksters out there selling worthless, unaccredited degrees and programs, sometimes passing them off as legitimate to unwary learners; buyer beware!


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