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distance education

updated fri 7 jan 00


Gail Nichols on thu 6 jan 00

It's been interesting to read the discussion on distance education programs
in ceramics. Interesting that much of the criticism of such programs has
come from people who haven't been involved in them!

I've had the priviledge to study at Monash University here in Australia, in
both distance and 'on-campus' modes, and have been very pleased with both.
In both cases, the success of the course has a lot to do with the quality
of teaching and supervision, but doing the distance option doesn't
necessarily mean these factors have to be compromised. Email allows for
easy and rather informal communication, so there is no excuse for not
having regular contact between student and supervisor.
Dealing with visual images by distance is not always easy, but video has
proven a reasonable method, backed up by phone, email, 'snail mail', etc,
and some form of annual on-campus session. And university libraries these
days should have the technology to be able to deal with off campus

I don't see that distance education could ever be classed as the 'easy
option'. It requires considerable maturity, self motivation and drive on
the part of the student, as well as a great commitment from the supervisor.
Perhaps the key to Monash's success is that its distance program is a
postgraduate one, so students are expected to have some previous knowledge
and experience, and the capacity for independent work. As with any course,
on or off campus, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.
Institutions that promise 'easy' degrees are ones to be avoided if you want
more than a piece of paper in the end!

Gail Nichols
Sydney, Australia