Barriers to Distance Education

April 24, 2003

Today’s new technologies, particularly the Internet, present higher education with the largest megaphone in its history-the capacity to disseminate knowledge to an exponentially larger number of people than ever before. To do this, educators use a vehicle now commonly known as distance education.

It is a subject that has stimulated intense passions, new and aggressive competitors, pressure for new (and often very different) resources, an evolving regulatory environment, and more ambiguities than certainties about appropriate policy and practice-not to mention the most fundamental questions about the future of the academy.

This paper describes the barriers to distance learning, both inside and outside the higher education community. Inside the academy, distance education programs encounter numerous challenges: the academy’s acceptance of distance education as an appropriate teaching method, competition for limited financial resources, and the ability to withstand the slow governance gauntlet. Outside the academy, distance education encounters varying regulations, laws, policies, and practices imposed by congressional and state legislators, accreditors, and professional associations.

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