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“Can You Be Educated from a Distance,” an insightful essay by James Barszcz, brings to focus some of the benefits and disadvantages of Distance Learning education (DL). In it, Barszcz discusses the mechanics of DL courses available to students, the quality of education DL can offer, and some reasoning behind its rapidly growing popularity. “Can You Be Educated from a Distance” is an engaging article that students of all ages can benefit from. Barszcz cleverly introduces a seemingly positive example why DL is an effective form of education, and then gives a more logical reason why it is not.
Barszcz writes, “From the school’s perspective, there is a lot of money to be saved” (7), in regards to the costs of keeping a classroom open, and maintaining campus facilities. Saving money is a good thing, but the author then states that the instructors “work harder to run a DL course for a variety of reasons, they won’t be paid any more, and might well be paid less” (7).
By first introducing an opposing view, Barszcz can successfully tailor his counter-point to overpower the former.
Barszcz includes a quote from Fairleigh Dickinson University, suggesting that DL courses “prepares our students, more than others, for life-long learning for their jobs, their careers, and their personal growth. ”(7) This suggests that those students using the internet for college classes will be better prepared for their careers because they will have more experience with the technology that is destined to play an increasingly major role in their future.
Nevertheless, Barszcz explains that students today already have as much, if not more of, a grasp on internet technology than the professors teaching these online courses.
Barszcz skillfully uses statistics, data, and quotes which indicate that DL courses are not what they are cracked up to be. Those who champion on-line courses claim that DL is easy to use, and that students can earn a degree that is equal to that of a standard university. However, Barszcz points out that freshman enrolled in only DL courses are 15 percent more likely to drop out, and that the “Students themselves seem to understand the weaknesses inherent in the setup. (7) Another example of this is where the author speaks of a survey conducted for eCornell. The survey showed that “Less than a third of the respondents expected the quality of the on-line courses to be as good as the classroom course. ”(7) Barszcz strongly produces yet another illustration: “Regardless of their expectations or desires,” (7) Fairleigh Dickinson University students, “are now required to take one DL course per year. ”(7) This is supposed to give students the skills necessary to function properly in today’s technological age.
Conversely, he explains that these universities are more interested in making money that preparing their students for the future. In Barszczs’ essay conclusion, he gives poetically clear examples why students will benefit from taking campus-based courses. He stresses the value of face to face interaction between the students and the faculty. Being late to a class, or missing an assignment has a stronger effect if the student has to personally interact with the instructor.
Barszcz defines the word education as a process of “drawing out”, stating that campus life can “draw out, from within a person, qualities of intellect and character that would have otherwise remained hidden or dormant. ” (8). Even though he points out that it is difficult to tell precisely what it is that makes campus life so valuable, Barszcz gives several rich examples, “Watching how Professors joke with each other in the hallways,” or “going out for coffee after class with people in your dorm” (9).
Being immersed in the culture of “campus life” has a profound impact in one’s identity as a student. Whether students are just starting their college career, or they are polishing up their Masters degrees, Barszczs’ essay “Can You Be Educated from a Distance”, is an invaluable article to explore. DL courses are an option for most students, and should be carefully considered when choosing a path for a college education. Every student wants to succeed, and understanding what opportunities are available is vitally important to academic success.
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