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Societal and Cultural Factors Influencing the Distance Education Movement

written by: Natalia Brophy•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 1/13/2011

Because of societal and cultural factors in distance education, distance education is rapidly increasing among the majority of universities in the United States. Is this just another hype which is destined to die out? Or is it here to stay?

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    Societal and Cultural Factors in Distance Education

    Online education brought revolutionary changes to the education industry. Due to an overwhelming demand, the number of schools offering online programs and degrees is growing every year. There are plenty of societal and cultural factors in distance education movement phenomena. Here are the most obvious ones.

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    Faster Paced Lifestyle

    In modern culture, time is money. It seems like our life rhythm is becoming faster and faster every year. Unlike the majority of Easterners, Western people don’t seem to be able to sit, relax, and enjoy the present. They are always in a hurry trying to complete more, achieve more, and earn more. It is not surprising that fast food chains never seem to go out of business. It is also not surprising that distance education has become so popular.

    You can drink your coffee, eat your hamburger or frozen meal, and read the lecture online at the same time. Even if you are health conscious, you will still benefit from online courses because you can do your homework while your homemade pot roast is cooking in the oven. Or you can log in to your classroom and read or reply to forum comments every time you have a free minute. You don’t have to drive anywhere, so you save tons of time and money on gas.

    The majority of people who choose distance learning have full-time jobs, so they can study during their lunch break or when their boss is not in the office (not that I recommend that).

    If you have an Internet-enabled cellphone, you can read a lecture or attend a classroom while waiting at the dentist's office, waiting for a bus to come, or while struck in traffic. You cannot beat the flexibility and convenience that online coursers offer. If you are a typical Westerner, these societal and cultural factors in distance education alone would make you choose online education over the traditional classroom setting.

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    Green Movement

    Traditional education settings are known to waste a lot of energy, paper, and water on a daily basis. Green living advocates who care about what our Earth will look like fifty to one hundred years from now choose distance learning for noble reasons. By taking online classes, you will not only help the Earth but will save plenty of money on paper, ink, and gas.

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    Different Definition of Culture

    Technology is changing our lives dramatically whether we want it or not. It is okay not to know who wrote War and Peace and to think that Beethoven is a dog from a movie. You cannot however be called cultured if you don’t know what Facebook or Google are or how to send a text message.

    For many people, the Internet and technology became a savior of their social life because it is often easy to communicate and connect with people while hiding behind computer screens. For such people, distance education is a natural choice because they don’t have to overcome their fear of speaking in public in order to be good students. They can express themselves more freely on forum boards rather than in classroom, and they can email or message their teachers with questions and comments rather than raising their hand in front of the entire class.

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    Advances in Technology

    Even though some say that technology is both a blessing and a curse, when it comes to education, it definitely has been a blessing. Amazing advances in technology contribute to the popularity of the distance learning movement.technology 

    Being able to access your classroom twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week from almost anywhere you are (even if you are travelling abroad) has made the lives of many students and professors much easier. You don’t have to wait for spring break to go to the beach for a week. You can get easy Internet access in every civilized country and in most hotels. You don’t have to worry about handing your homework to the professor because there are emails, Blackboards, and plenty of other educational platforms which allow it do be done in a few seconds online.

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    With the current direction the Western world creating societal and cultural factors in distance education, the movement will most certainly continue to grow. Will it ever replace traditional education? Probably not any time soon. Will it become more popular than traditional education? That wouldn’t surprise me.

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    Image Credit

    • Laptop and Cellphone: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1269437