Support Groups in Distance Education. Knowledge Series.Report as inadecuate

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For most distance education (DE) systems, distance, time, and/or opportunity isolate learners from their teacher and their fellow students. To facilitate interaction, most DE systems include different types of support groups. Modern technology allows groups to interact effectively even though individuals are far apart. Technology may appear to be the answer to overcoming geographic obstacles; however, the problem of access must be taken into consideration. Institutions must also accept variations in students' needs. Social support groups can address teaching and learning needs and social needs. The type of group used in a specific situation will depend on the geographic distribution of students, the availability of technology, human and financial resources, and the aims of the group support system. Tutor-based groups, self-help groups, and virtual groups are possible alternatives to face-to-face meetings. Dangers of incorporating groups into a support system include students developing dependency on the group; succumbing to peer pressure; and crossing the line between collaboration and plagiarism. Group meetings can be given an unwarranted degree of importance in DE courses. Careful consideration should be given to the possibility that the effort would be better used in improving other components of the DE course, such as the material. (Contains 21 references.) (MN)

Descriptors: Adjustment (to Environment), Adult Education, Cooperation, Cost Effectiveness, Delivery Systems, Distance Education, Educational Environment, Educational Needs, Educational Technology, Foreign Countries, Group Activities, Group Dynamics, Group Experience, Group Structure, Helping Relationship, Internet, Peer Influence, Peer Relationship, Postsecondary Education, Program Effectiveness, Psychological Needs, Self Help Programs, Social Support Groups, Student Needs, Student School Relationship, Teleconferencing, Tutoring

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Author: Robertshaw, Michael


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