Your Classmates in China: Distance Learning Brings the World to You
The ultimate classroom--it's a space where students from around the world can meet weekly to share perspectives, experiences, and learn from each other. Ever since the World Wide Web knit us all together, this dream has been within reach: it's called distance learning.
A Global Classroom
Online education is globalization at its best. When the barriers to communication come down and geography is no longer an issue, the real learning can begin. At a traditional college, the student in the seat next to you may hail from the same neighborhood; in an online program the student responding to your email just might be the prince of Bhutan.
The United Nations of Distance Learning
That's what one California businessman discovered when he signed on to a correspondence course in strategic planning and encountered students from Iraq and Afghanistan--even an official in the Austrian government. Clare Kaufman, student counselor for a distance learning resource center, reports a similar experience. "The prospective students who come to me with questions are mostly from overseas: places like Ghana, Dubai, Albania, Papua New Guinea, India. I would say at least 80 percent of my correspondence is with students outside the U.S."
Teaching Each Other
What's so good about this cultural mix? It's an unprecedented learning opportunity. For Sarbdip Thandi, who completed a Master's in Public Health online, distance learning offered an opportunity to learn from her peers across the globe: "Gaining knowledge from someone who was working directly with people in the Middle East helped me better understand what a public health program would need to look like when developed for the Middle Eastern population in California."
Book learning is just not enough. Thandi observes, "I think that learning from students who are working directly with a specific ethnic group is sometimes more valuable than learning from textbooks. It's like getting a course on culture-competency with each class throughout the degree program."
At one time, "correspondence course" meant learning from a textbook, on your own. Today, distance learning programs are making it easier than ever to learn from your neighbor--whether that neighbor is around the corner or around the world.
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