Good Convergences And Divergences In Distance And Conventional Education Essay Example
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Convergence in the UK system of education has been developed since the 1990s (Tait & Mills, 1999, p. 8). Traditional educational institutions have begun to apply open and distance learning or the educational technologies and approaches which allow student to learn even when they are distant from their teachers. It has been witnessed in many post secondary institutions (Tait & Mills, 1999, p. 9). Various educational institutions have moved from the single and conventional mode of teaching and learning to the dual modes, which are taken from the part time and full time and conventional and distance arrays. In short, the barriers between open and distance learning and conventional education have been broken down.
Hence, convergence was inevitable. There has to be more provisions for educational delivery since it is now a pressing economic, social and political matter (Bacon, 2004, p. 2009. Apparently, the information economy, the educated population has to be globally skilled and totally developed individuals. Improvements in the educational system are necessary since the economic systems between countries are not overlapping (2004, p. 209). Global migration also requires people to have a certain set of high skills as they would be finding employment in the commercial agencies of the developed world (2004, p. 209).
Educational reforms are necessary and the convergence is just one major aspect of it (Tait & Mills, 1999). Universities have to shape up and apply the present and common means (such as technology) to fulfill their functions and mandates. It is vital that students are skilled and upgraded according to the needs of the technological times (1999, p. 17). As global societies aspire to have equal social and economic opportunities, then, they have to lead themselves into learning societies (1999, p. 18). Post-secondary educational institutions must not only increase in numbers, they must also be accessible to a wider population who would demand access to education (1999, p. 20). These include the following: women, the physically challenged, outcast minorities, among others. In the end, national governments push their desires to deliver mass post-secondary education and training, in the most efficient and effective fashion (1999, p. 20).
At one point, divergence is still present since the social and economic capacities among nations vary (1999, p. 21). There are also differences in the physical, intellectual and social needs of the population around the world. They also have differing priorities. The traditional position has been and still persists that the rudiments of the conventional education are followed (Cooper & Hemmings, 2003). This poses a great challenge to integrate and overlap the convergence and divergence to a point where the gains will amount to the demands require by the information economy.
Various Aspects Where Education Converges and Diverges
1. Student Types
Many pedagogical research impressed on the concept of “learning styles” (Cooper & Hemmings, 2003). Experts believe that if only they could categorize the learning styles of students, then, they can provide more choices for them in terms of educational experience. Hence, teachers can custom fit their teaching style so that it is more apt with the students’ effective ways of learning (2003, p. 2). It is now a common concept today that the best learning experience is where the students’ learning styles match with their instructors’ teaching styles (2003, p. 2). Various scales are available to typify the learning styles of students. These scales use various learning style descriptors (2003, p. 2). As often, these learning styles are related to the students’ personalities and types (2003, p. 2). Hence, learning styles are seen as a significant pedagogic concept as classes grow in numbers and in diversity.
In this regard, convergence is possible if the subject matters are taught using various teaching styles. This is precisely due to the differing types of student. As we see, students going in for a tertiary education have different ethnic and cultural backgrounds (De Vita, 2001, p. 165). They carry with them the previous practices and learning styles as gained from their training programs and institutions (2001, p. 165). As the misfits between the teacher’s style of teaching and a student's way of learning have been pointed out as a potential hindrance to effective learning in the conventional classroom, convergence becomes a best alternative (2001, p. 166).
Higher institutions now apply and have valid reasons to apply several teaching modes to deliver instruction. The advanced development in technology has enabled educators to reconsider conventional, standardized instruction methods and incorporate the new concepts in student types (and their learning styles) and the teaching methods or styles to craft the best design and delivery of their subject matters (2001, p. 166).
As a basic form of convergence, teachers now apply a set of teaching modalities based on the premise that by presenting the content in the most effective manner (according to the student type and their learning styles), then, the objectives of the course will be perfectly met (2001, p. 166). Convergence has been utilized to profile student types so that teachers have a better understanding of the group of students they are teaching. This is to say, that the teachers are still using the conventional classroom instruction method but they are also employing a convergence of teaching styles which will match the students’ abilities and orientation to learning.
2. The convergence of full-time and part-time paths
The factors for convergence and divergence include the following: educational goals (versus training); the fundamental role of the teacher and the tutor in the learning process; personal and pastoral care; peer support in the learning process; social contexts for debate and reflection; and the distinction between knowledge and information (Tait & Mills, 1999).
With the convergence of education, the categories of full time and part time studies have changed (1999, p. 5). The distinction between a full time student and a part time student has been blurred by the ways that education and learning experiences are delivered in various platforms and venues (Cooper & Hemmings, 2003). Students who are in full time study may not even be in a classroom all of his time. Hence, this delimitation also causes changes in the way that a professional working student and a mere student are defined. Both full time (or mere students who study and do not work) and part time (those who are working students or professionals who are studying) students come across the definitions of old. With convergence in education, a full time student may or may not be in the classroom all of his days and a working student may still find ample time to work while being committed to his studies (2003, p. 3).
In the same manner, the delineations of distinctions also render itself as a good adjustment for the teachers (Dhanarajan, 1997). Faculty members who now know their students’ learning styles and types can adjust their pedagogy so that it best sustains the requirements of their students (1997, p. 21). In the same way, the students who are now given leeway as to when and where they will learn are now more empowered to apply several techniques to pursue their studies. This generally leads to better educational outcomes (1997, p. 22).
However, this is not a major cause of concern for a divergence in education since most young and adult students alike try to adopt in the best manner when they are conforming to their educational needs (1997, p. 4). Hence, a working student with no special orientation to technological devices may still seek to review with the traditional materials such as books, and the likes. However, there is no clear indication that this would affect his learning experience since the course objectives and fulfillments are the same (1997, p. 4). In retrospect, this just varies in the way that students use their time and resources. It is all quite relative to one’s preference and predisposition and basically it depends on their learning styles (1997, p. 4).
3. The changing roles of the institution, tutor and student
In the bigger picture, the convergence and divergence in education have been brought about by the changes in the public policies (Adey & Dillon, 2012). Government and even private institutions support collaboration among institutions and sectors. This is more of a competitive move by commercial institutions to integrate educational agencies in their material goals of tapping wider markets (2012, p. 5). For instance, the outcomes of scientific and business research are now utilized via the development of products, software, and services that can be patented and/or sold to the educational markets (2012, p. 6). As we see, educational courses and learning modules are already being marketed by professors by commercial initiatives. Other stakeholders include the multimedia developers, educational institutions themselves and the public and private networks of companies that recognize the huge potential of educational products and services at this digital economy (Ball, 2007).
In analysis, educational institutions also now thrive to be more self sustaining and hence, under this mantle, they pursue other goals besides educating the young. They even partner with foreign institutions or global and national enterprises to pursue this objective of self sufficiency (2007, p. 10). As this new patterns of collaboration emerge, the educational institutions submit themselves more prominently to convergence in the educational spheres (2007, p. 17). Their collaborative efforts are made easier by the available technology. Hence, they reach across wider audiences (2007, p. 17).
In the micro setting, the new and flexible roles and expectations between teachers and students have also changed (2007, p. 3). There are now changing patterns and expectations, altering teacher relations to teaching materials, and moving the balance of power and controls in educational setting (2007, p. 4). The courses are now considered as “products” and teachers are in a way marketers or deliverers of these products (Cooper & Hemmings, 2003). The identities of students and teachers have been altered dramatically as well (2003, p. 1). The roles of teachers have been commoditized as well as the roles of students have been changed into a customer. It is more of service or product delivery than the imparting of the knowledge (2003, p. 2).
As such, various levels of form and control, from the students and teachers to the educational institutions and the private and public sectors, all changed (2003, p. 3). They all network into a greater need to deliver the educational products and/or services. Convergence enables the networking of educational, technical, social, economic, and political dynamics to cater to the needs of the customer or the students (2003, p. 2). A common point is the acknowledgment of the fact that knowledge is now a commodity which has to be secured, marketed and sold in a highly competitive market (2003, p. 3).
4. How the student experience has changed and what has led to those changes
Primarily as Cooper and Hummings (2003) have expressed, students have become consumers and customers in the newly marketed educational contents. As also mentioned, varied social, economic and political factors have led to this (Tait & Mills, 1999). The convergence in education has brought about a similar integration of values and practices between educational institutions and the private sector. Both of them consider knowledge as the foundation for competitive advantage and the prospects for access to knowledge has become limited (1999, p. 35).
In this light, the center of education has shifted from the educational agencies and the professors and faculty members (who are then considered repositories of knowledge) to the more modern and technological channels and outputs (1999, p. 36). There has been a more flexible approach to learning and the students’ learning styles and types are paramount. They learn when they want to and learn where they have access to specific conventional and digital learning experiences. The password controls, proprietary rights, access costs and different levels of technical and social accessibility alter the way students control and manage their learning as well as their sharing of information with others (Cooper & Hemmings, 2003).
These institutional changes and developments are due to several factors such as the presence of educational technologies for learning and teaching, the impact of institutionalizing lifelong learning policies, the dynamic growth of adult part-time students in tertiary education, and the high demand for professional and career related learning (Tait & Mills, 1999, p. 65). The convergence of educational systems does not simply mean that the good self-learning materials are no longer effective. It just means that the delivery modes have increased and learning can take place even outside the campus walls (1999, p. 66).
The need to recharge the conventional educational system is also due in part to the demands of the time and the ever growing population of illiterate individuals all over the world (Delors, 1996, p. 3). Basic education must be extended to millions of adults who are illiterate, especially to children who do not have physical and economic access to educational institutions (1996, p. 3). Also, the UNESCO has reported that in various countries worldwide, a significant part of the secondary school systems were deemed dysfunctional with inadequate curriculum and poor preferences (1996, p. 15). An important aspect also relates to the access to post-secondary education. This was appalling in almost all parts of the Third World. Compared to the First World, they fare below standards as the basic education in the poor countries is inaccessible or ineffective while in the rich countries, lifelong education has been a necessity instead of a choice (1996, p. 16).
The convergence of education is more likely a commonplace change in the digital economy of today. Divergence is not so much an option because people and institutions conform to the greater requirements of the times. In this respect, the most effective means of delivering education are paramount. Most the time, this is also achieved by the convergence and integration of old and new methods of teaching and learning (1996, p . 17). There is no other recourse but for students (whether young or old) to learn effectively and to attain the best educational experience they could afford.
An interesting analysis is that divergence is never an issue. People and institutions will subscribe to converge if needed. Hence, a good way to start is to erase the dichotomy in seeing and conceiving convergence and divergence (2006, p. 5). There is no divergence as the synergies all align to getting the best out of education in these most crucial times when knowledge is the main driver of the economy. It just takes a good scrutiny and review of the old practices and methods. For sure, a vast educational reform is required in the process of convergence (2006, p. 5). There has to be a good evaluation of the possibilities of linking the positive attributes and new potentials of both the conventional and the more technological methods of education.
It is now defunct to allude to learning as confined to the four corners of a classroom (2006, p. 5). In fact, learning takes place anywhere and everywhere. Also, learning can be simulated as against the old notion that “what is taught today cannot be learned tomorrow inside a classroom setting (2006, p. 6).” The new sets of beliefs and assumptions about learning and teaching lend itself to new practices, values and preferences (2006, p. 6).
Meanwhile, the design, delivery and evaluation of distance education are still at its critical point at this time (Coopers & Hemmings, 2003). While it is good to believe that the distinction between classroom and distance education has been slowly receding, it is still at a premature stage at present (2003, p. 2). Before institutions will totally shift to various alternative modes of education, it will see to it that the delivery of a course carries the most effective support systems to learners. Educational guards should also be in the watch for the inherent values that accompany these new modes, specifically in the areas of the values of education and instruction, functions of teaching and learning, among others (2003, p. 2). The transformation process must also adhere to better instructional design, excellent organization of support systems and proper provision for peer learning (2003, p. 4).
Adey, P. & Dillon, J. (eds), Bad Education: Debunking Myths in Education, 2012. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Bacon, R. D., An examination of two learning style measures and their association with business learning, 2004. Journal of Education and Business, 79: 205–8.
Ball, S. J., Education Plc: Understanding Private Sector Participation in Public Sector Education, 2007. London: Routledge.
Cooper, T. & Hemmings, S., The Changing Identity of “Tutor” and “Student” in the Open University, UK and its Consequences for Learning and Teaching, 2003. University of East England, UK.
Dhanarajan, Gajaraj, "The Convergence of distance and conventional education: Patterns of flexibility for the individual learner," 1997. Madingley Hall Cambridge, England .
Delors, Jacques (Commission Chair), Learning, the treasure within: Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century, 1996. Paris, France: UNESCO.
De Vita, G. D., Learning styles, culture and inclusive instruction in the multicultural classroom: a business and management perspective, 2001. Innovations in Educational Teaching Institution: 38:165–74.
Kassem, D, Mufti, E., and Robinson, J., Education Studies: Issues and Critical Perspectives, 2006. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Tait, A. & Mills, R., The Convergence of Distance and Conventional Education, 1999. London: Routledge.
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