Are Free Internet Technologies and Services the Future of Synchronous Distance Learning?


Distance education is not a new paradigm, but the latest ways it can be delivered certainly are. In the past couple of decades, the distance learning implementations were mostly realized using videoconferencing technologies and/or learning management systems. Recently, various Internet collaboration services have gained enormous popularity in all areas of human living, especially in distance learning, where many of them are offered free of charge. In this paper we elaborate the deployment of a synchronous distance lecturing solution based on free audioconferencing and screen sharing networking technologies, and we discuss the benefits gained in the context of cost, functionalities, effectiveness and users’ satisfaction. The experiences after three semesters of use indicate that this alternative approach provides quite valuable means for effective implementation of distance learning, where the students appeared to be highly satisfied by the possibilities and functionalities that the system offers.

KEYWORDS: Distance education, distance learning, Internet technologies, video conferencing, audioconferencing, learning management systems.