A distance learning course refers to online education method where students learn at their own pace but also have the benefit of teacher instruction.
Interest in distance learning has spiked massively over the past year, due to worldwide lockdowns forcing in-person educators to change tactics, so there is more data than ever on this subject. Often, the term is used interchangeably with “e-learning” and “virtual classroom” although there are important differences. E-learning, for example, refers to self-paced study without the instruction of a teacher or set study times. A virtual classroom, on the other hand, has a teacher overseeing students and a set class time.
Distance learning courses, when at their best, provide quality education to large numbers of people at low cost and with no commute; all that students need is access to the internet.
Further, machine learning programs that students interact with can identify learning styles and note which material they struggle with so the lessons can be adjusted for the student’s benefit. Good courses can even adjust lessons immediately, while sending analysis to the course instructor.
Distance learning courses also integrate well with NLP-run programs like machine translation and transcription programs for video material.
An effective distance learning course requires a course plan and effective student assessments. Teachers moving to a distance learning program should review the data before implementing plans and assessment methods.
Other internal course data includes student behavior, completion rates, and student progress rates. Importantly, data on the amount of times students seek help through chatbots or make use of external plugins like machine learning learning or transcription programs provide important data that instructors can use to either update the course lessons or provide one-on-one assistance to struggling students.
Good distance learning programs incorporate data on student interactions with the entire distance learning environment, including websites, apps, and forums. Additionally, student surveys, reviews, and other sources of feedback provide important information for teachers and developers to improve lesson plans and outreach.
Useful external data include education and course-relevant industry news as well as psychological studies. These sources provide useful information on reaching potential students and engaging current students who may be struggling.
Distance learning course challenges may include inconsistent access to the internet and, for child students, an unsupportive home environment. Younger children, in particular, suffer from a lack of consistent school schedule and peer interactions; adding the struggle of a distracting, neglectful, or even worse home can make learning nearly impossible.
Finally, security is a major concern, especially for schools that were forced to begin distance learning or virtual classroom teaching without warning or adequate preparation. However, many technology departments and software services provide cyber security protection protocol and protection services for distance learning courses.
NCES: Fast Facts: Distance Learning
ResearchGate: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Distance Learning: A Comparison Using Meta‐Analysis
Cyber actors likely view schools as targets of opportunity, and these types of attacks are expected to continue through the 2020/2021 academic year, says the advisory. These issues will be particularly challenging for K-12 schools that face resource limitations; therefore, educational leadership, information technology personnel, and security personnel will need to balance this risk when determining their cybersecurity investments.
Security Magazine: Cybercriminals targeting K-12 distance learning education to cause disruptions and steal data
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