‘The world is a click away,’ a phrase aptly defines the concept of globalized world which are interconnected by communication technologies. The communication technologies (radio, television, Internet, mobiles) provide access to the flow of information around the world. The world is changing rapidly and to be with them; it’s important to be updated which can only be possible by educating oneself. Education means to gain knowledge by enlightening oneself with surroundings as well as with the world. Therefore Distance Education has become a new trend to collaborative learning by using technology. However, Distance Education is not only for students but also for everyone who wants to pursue education whether they are on job, homemakers or somewhere out of the country.
Collaborative learning is the method of instruction for a group of students to work towards common academic goal. However, media that facilitate the distant education includes electronic mail, video, audio, radio, video-technology, mobiles and multimedia. The concept of new distance education theory deals with the concept of distance. The theorists elucidated the difference among distance education and conventional ones; the former one does not attend educational institutions whereas the latter are required to go to universities or colleges. According to the notion of distance education, it is in hands of a student to determine the place and time of his/her study. Moreover, it is a learner to learner communication which also anticipated two-way communication by open learning as well as correspondence study; however it saves money and time.
Distance learning is found both in advanced as well as in developing countries but one of the advantages of developed country is that its advancement supports the widespread influx of technology associated with the distance education . On other hand developing or underdeveloped countries lack behind due to large number of illiteracy and no sign of improvement. According to the goal 2 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal, primary education is significant to all the children and it should be widely implemented till 2015; but the scenario is other way; developing countries has less access to printing knowledge as well as technology which could improve their standard of education. Further, the inequality access of education became a barrier for the developing countries as well as the cost and the quality of education.
However, with the introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) in developing countries, it has benefitted students and teachers to acquire education while living geographically as well as physically away from the place. Many countries have introduced virtual education system which even reaches to the remote geographic areas. The distance learning program with the use of different communication technology made it possible for these countries like Pakistan to be equipped with new and enhanced education system.
The introduction of ICT is a key element in the growth of Pakistan in terms of new jobs, wealth redistribution and education. Distance education has been a great initiative for Pakistan. There are many steps that have been taken by government of Pakistan for education and one of it was to initiate virtual classes in schools/ colleges /universities. These classrooms use internet as well as video facilities for the interaction with the learners of the whole world. Also electronic libraries have also been introduced that linked one to worldwide books, journals and articles.
Allama Iqbal Open University is one of the largest universities that use distance education programs to facilitate those students who work outside Pakistan or home-makers. They use the audio and video facility as well as the satellite internet in order to improve the distance education. Similarly Virtual University of Pakistan and Aga Khan Education Services are also included. The former one uses television for broadcasting its lectures and also these lectures are available in multimedia CD-ROM; whereas latter ones uses computers for distance education especially in rural areas. Aga Khan also improves the method of teaching by collaborating with international educational institutes.
Moreover, there are two research programs such as PERN and IEARN that have linked the research and education of Pakistan with the world. They use the services of digital library and to participate in online-based curriculum projects which enhance the potential of students to share knowledge and research globally. The radio program is also developed in collaboration with UNICEF to raise issues that create awareness in the society regarding gender discrimination, corporal punishment and so on and so forth.
However technologies have been effective tool for distance education in Pakistan but there are certain limitations that needed to be addressed along with its use and importance. The literacy rate of Pakistan is very low; one of the biggest constraints for the distance education therefore it affects the comprehension level as well as quality of instruction. Firstly teachers are not well versed with the technology skills and they are not even well-trained, secondly internet is expensive and most of the rural students cannot avail its opportunity and lastly the misuse of technology as the technicians are not well-trained. Therefore these all could be a hindrance in distance education programs.
Despite being cost efficient and untrained instructors, distance learning has become a potential source for rural population to grow themselves and interact with the world. Moreover, it is important to overcome the hurdles by making education essential for everyone and advocate different programs that promote distance learning. It is an opportunity to open new horizons of sharing knowledge and learning.