Learning Through Correspondence

by : Jennifer Petersen

Correspondence in the case of distance learning would be any instructional material in a printed format which has been sent to the student. Why is correspondence or the printed word still the medium that is most commonly used? It's probably because once the materials have been sent to students; he can read it at his leisure anywhere. He does not need to be near a computer or a phone and doesn't need to be Internet-connected. If there is supplementary material sent, it is usually meant to enhance and add to the printed material. This could be in the form of audio or video tapes, CD-ROMs or DVDs.

How exactly is this correspondence put together? It takes quite a bit of doing to put the material together. First of all, there's a lot preparation involved. Some person who is qualified to do so has to put together the document which has to go out to all the students of that particular course. The person who puts together the document has to do the research for that particular topic, collate all the material and assemble it into a document, image or a chart. After the material is put together, the final version is duplicated, packed and sent off to the students for whom this is the instructional media.

What are the advantages that distance learning or correspondence has? The main advantage is probably the fact that the students do not need access to a computer or to a network in order to be a part of a learning environment. It can also act as a supplement to another learning media. What is also great is that there is no question of location or time constraints. Students can read, review and re-read at their own convenience and at their own pace. There are no classes to attend, no time schedules to follow.

Distance learning does come with a few limitations as well. One of then is that once the document has been sent off, the information cannot be updated unless it goes back to the preparation, packing and delivery routine. This can mean additional time and costs and sometimes works out to a considerable amount being spent. And of course, courses like these do limit them to a faceless learning which does not give them the benefit of instructors teaching them.

All said and done, correspondence is great way to impart knowledge across time and distances. This is especially relevant when the material is not likely to need updating. For example, in case studies, the details stay the same and even if there are changes, it will not change the facts of the case as far as the past goes, but just add a new scenario to the case as far as the present and future go. Correspondence also works well if it is used to describe a topic or when it is used for narration. It is also great for students when they have to practice, like math problems or learn a speech or poem by rote.