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What is Education Really About

Education used to be straight forward. After 12 years in Primary and Secondary school, you would have mastered the 3 R's. After that, you would attend a college or university,  attend classes in a classroom, and learn everything you needed to start work in your chosen industry.

If you are still thinking that is how someone gets an education: wake up!

The world has changed, and there are more changes in store.

Professor Geoffrey Dixon from the UK, summed it up in an article “In the real world there is chaos”.    Reference: The Horticulturist, Journal of the Institute of Horticulture, Vol. 13 No. 3 Summer 2004. page 7.

What Has Changed?

  1. Costs –Traditional education simply costs more than we can afford.
  2. Needs & Demands–Education is now for all ages. People change careers more often. New disciplines emerge faster. Skilled staff shortages abound.
  3. Tools –Technology provides previously non existent ways of learning.
  4. Bureaucracy – Administration and legal issues have become more complex, creating increased financial and psychological stresses on educators.
  5. Speed –Change has become so fast that old management and planning systems simply don't function.

What is Education

There are lots of different opinions.

The task of providing an education system can be broken up into 4 areas of activity:

  • Administration
  • Course Content
  • Course Delivery
  • Assessment.

With financial and other pressures impacting increasingly on education, one reaction has been to attempt to solve the problem by shifting emphasis amongst these four areas.

Some training institutions (and systems) for instance, put less effort into course content and delivery, and focus more strongly on assessment: the assumption being that if Assessment is strongly controlled, delivery and content will not need to be controlled, and can be left to the teaching staff to determine on a case by case basis. In theory this may sound good, but in practice, it can leave teaching staff with less support and direction.

Distance Education

Correspondence courses have been around since before the average person had a telephone, let alone a computer. Some 20 th century distance education courses are relatively unchanged from 100 years ago in terms of the delivery and assessment methods; others are vastly different to what was even practiced ten years ago.

Traditional Correspondence Education through Australian Correspondence Schools. Study guides and course notes are maintained on a computer database.  Materials can be continually adjusted or expanded.  When a course is ordered, it is selected from this database and compiled. Students are sent materials either through the postal system, or courier; and interact with tutors by any or all means at their disposal.

Online Education

Courses are now delivered via the Internet.  Notes and other study materials can be downloaded or viewed live.  Interaction with tutors and access to additional resources (eg. online libraries, forums, chat with other students) is possible any time, anywhere. Location of the college and when you study is no longer a factor.

E Learning

Course materials can be burnt to a CD or DVD. One DVD can be networked and delivered to any number of students all at the same time. E learning may have some advantages over online, for example: high quality video can be presented as part of the course far easier than through online education. 

Blended Learning

This involves using a combination of delivery methods. A student may do some of their study online, some through e learning in a classroom and some through lectures and workshops, face to face with teachers.

Guided Self Study

An increasing range of “teach yourself” materials are being produced, both as printed or electronic materials. These are designed to walk a person through a learning process, with no interaction from a school or teacher whatsoever.

Books such as the “Complete Idiots Guide” series, and the

Competency Based Assessment (eg. Training Packages)

Students are assessed in a Workplace (or simulated workplace) to determine their competency to demonstrate certain skills. This type of education system may focus heavily on “assessment”. Some educators in both the UK and Australia have been very critical, and others very supportive of this approach.

Criticism has centred upon it taking emphasis away from course delivery; supporters on the other hand often say it is not meant to be about delivery, and that is another issue altogether.

By John Mason Principal, Australian Correspondence Schools  www.acs.edu.au  Phone 07 5530 4855

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