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Discussion

Barszcz makes some valid arguments against distance learning.Namely, the perceived quality of such programs is low.Also, the perceived benefit of “expert” assistance with course work may be overstated.

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But the strongest argument which Barscz’s essay presents involves the invaluable out-of-classroom social experiences which appear absent in distance learning courses.

While each of these arguments is compelling, each criticism can also be challenged. For example, Barszcz cites a survey which indicates that students expect lower quality in distance education courses.

However, perception and reality are often quite different. The author offers no evidence to indicate that students’ expectations are fulfilled. Just as with any learning situation, dedication breeds quality. If an institution sets standards for instructors, educational materials, and methods of communication (the same standards as it implements with traditional curriculum), then a distance learning program should thrive on its own merits. Further, while Barszcz does doubt the willingness of scholars and other experts to contribute in a virtual learning atmosphere,

he once again offers no evidence to the contrary. In fact, logic would tell us that a busy scholar would find more time to offer his or her insights through the relatively easy process of online communication; valuable time and money spent on travel and room and board for speaking engagements at institutions country-wide are not so convenient, however. Even if one accepts the author’s assertion that expert opinions are absent from distance learning, the loss to the student is still no greater than at a traditional institution.

Based on these two arguments, I cannot agree that the author has made a valid case against distance learning. As for the third point…. Discussion 2 The bulk of Barszcz’s argument rests in his claim that distance learning deprives students of the “social life on campus” aspect of the college experience. Barszcz argues that such experiences equip a student with “style”—providing important lessons in interpersonal communication. One would be hard-pressed to argue that a well-rounded education involves much more than note-taking and test-taking.

Employers today value “soft skills” just as much— if not more—than book smarts. Is the author’s claim that distance learning does not provide these types of interactions correct? A true answer to this question is difficult, if not impossible. Distance courses vary in their content. While some programs may operate on a strict instructor- student e-mail interaction, other programs offer diverse learning opportunities, such as chat rooms, message boards, and even video conferencing. Any of these supplementary materials

afford students ample opportunity to interact with each other. Plus, online students are more likely to “meet” a diverse range of individuals. Many colleges—particularly small community colleges—are composed of a “like meets like” student body. Unless a student attends a large university, opportunities for interaction with individuals of a vastly different cultural background are reduced. Online, however, a housewife from Minnesota, a high school graduate from China, and a sailor from Australia can “chat” in their virtual classroom.

How much more real-world can one get than that type of variation? In addition, virtual learning can even serve as a less intimidating outlet for those introverted students who may not express themselves in a traditional classroom atmosphere. In both of these regards, distance learning can improve social skills. In the overall cost-benefit analysis of distance learning, I believe these programs are firmly “in the black. ” Question 1) Connotative language, or words with clear emotional appeal, contribute to the pathos

of an argument. True Question 2) Ethos is concerned with the logical soundness of an argument. False Question 3) To strengthen the logos of an argument, be sure that evidence is sufficient and accurate. True Question 4) In his article, James Barszcz points out that many major colleges and universities are attempting to use online education to prepare students for ‘life-long learning. ’ True Question 5) Barszcz believes that online education can adequately replicate the experiences in a traditional classroom class. False

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