Distant Learning and Cartography: Present State in Russia
The future changes, which are connected with the introduction of our country
into the society of free market economy, forces to develop optimal forms of
getting education.. The economy of free market in its turn requires the proper
professional knowledge. Modern life, developing by fast rates, puts the new
requirements not only for a science, engineering, medicine, but also for a skill
level of the workers in these spheres. So it also influences the system of getting
professional skills or in other words the system of education.
At present time there are a lot of different forms of training, answering new demands of time, we shall stop on Distant Training (DT).
It is necessary to tell, that DT, which appeared in Russia about 10 years ago, stronger and stronger takes its place in the market of educational services. According to the calculations of A. A. Andreev (Euroasian Association of Distant Training) more than 117 centers of DT work in Russian Federation today . Basically it is the centers of DT attached to the higher educational institutions - universities and institutes, but the quantity of not state centers of DT at the institutions of secondary and higher education, which are basically connected with business is gradually being increased.
With the help of DT people get additional, secondary, higher and one more higher education. DT allows to get education for those people who does not have opportunity to get it by traditional ways (people with the limited physical opportunities, people living in the remote areas, people with outstanding abilities). Russian people in foreign countries can also use DT, it is also useful for those who wants to change the job. According to a Federal service of employment of the population, it is necessary to retrain about 2 million people annually .
Though now there is no any exact opinion concerning the status of the DT, but someone considers it to be the new organization of educational process, implying independent training of the student. Others consider it to be a new step of a correspondence course, with application of information technologies. Someone thinks, that it is the new form of education, alongside with the full-time tuition, tuition by correspondence and external studies, which is constructed as an interaction between the teacher and student. And another opinion is that it is an addition or alternative to the traditional types of training. But all of them understand the basic meaning of DT, approximately, as follows. DT is a process of training, when a student and a tutor have spatial and temporary remoteness from each other and from the means of training, and the educational process is carried out with the help of various information technologies . Vary interesting definition of DT is given by Association of DT USA: DT is a synthetic, integral, humanistic form of training, based on use of a wide spectrum of traditional and new information technologies and technological means, its independent study, organization of a dialogue exchange between the tutor and trainee, when the process of training is not critical to their arrangement in space and in time, and also to concrete educational establishment .
Different authors select several forms of distant training, but first of all we shall try to present the most widespread form of a distant training.
In rare cases the certification of a level of preparation will be carried out before the beginning of training, usually the notification of payment for the certain rate or semester serves as a basis for registration.
The basic form of the educational and cognitive activity consists of the independent work over the training aids, which is sent by mail at once after the payment or is given under a pledge on time of study. The time of study for various courses varies from 110 up to 220 hours. Usually a teacher-adviser (tutor) of one discipline or of all course is attached to a remote student, sometimes one tutor advises the whole group of the trainees. The student can consult the tutor by the phone, and with the help of a fax, usual or electronic mail, personal contacts are not excluded also. Thus constant contact is held, that allows operatively to solve the problems, which have arisen during study.
Except for the basic independent work above a material, there are such kinds of training activity as computer conferences, teleconferences, information sessions, computer and teleadvices, business games, virtual excursions etc. The rate of training can be corrected at the request of a student. While study independently the trainee can decide how many hours it is necessary for him to master the given theme. In process of delivery the offsets and examinations (in written form, in the form of the tests or business games), the student begins to study another material, if he is lack of time to pass the material he has the right to prolong the term of training. Each separate discipline or number of disciplines, which are mastered by the student, create a complete representation about the certain subject. It allows to form the educational plan adequate to the requirements of each student choosing the disciplines from the set of independent educational courses. Peculiarity of technology of such educational process is that, the educational disciplines are divided on levels or unites - which comprise the information on a theme of educational discipline picked up from articles, monographies and textbooks. This material is constructed as a hypertext and is supplied with the references to "paper" materials or other available aids of training. Hence the DT is a new form of education, and telecommunication is just a new mean of realization of pedagogical purposes and ideas, the educational process consists not only of the contents of training and methods, but also of the aids of training. The main part of the training aids is still formed by the textbook, but in the electronic version. With the help of introduction of new technologies the system of teaching gets a new aspect, but the relation between a student and a teacher remains of the same position with a support of aids of training. .
Undoubtedly, the positive features of the DT are the following. It gives the opportunity to combine work and study; there is an absence of "distances", student can live at a distance of several kilometers or even in other country and study a course of any Moscow institute or university; this system allows to train almost a not limited amount of students; fast updating of the information on the new theories or methods; it brings a comfort - opportunity to choose not only the necessary courses, but also rate and time of training; the profitability is also very important. Both domestic, and foreign educational systems of DT are cheaper on approximately 10 %-50 %, as the utilization of the areas and aids is more effective .
It is supposed, that in the future we will use up to 40 % of educational time on the distant forms of training because of the increasing role of new information technologies, we will combine it with traditional forms (40 %) and self-education (20 %) .
There is other sight on the theory and technique of DT. According to the opinion of the assistant director of the Institute of General(common) Secondary education A.V. Hutorskoy the traditional form of distant training uses reproductive method, and it has quite a number of disadvantages. Hutorskoy in his works points out that teachers and developers of DT usually offer "paper" textbooks and lectures transferred in the electronic form. The main task of them is to give a selected content.
There is no necessity to learn any information, and then to demonstrate one's knowledge. Now, according to the opinion Hutorskoy, the activity of the student is very important, with the help of technology he extracts the necessary knowledge. It might be a compact discs, virtual libraries, databases, various catalogues or search machines in a global network of Internet. Hutorovskoy offers to use webquesters as a manuals, they contain thematic selection of gypertext with the references to local and global resources . The control of the knowledge, which had been received during training, mast be held from the position of the estimation of the process of training and its character, it's necessary to take into consideration some features of interaction with teachers, individual scheme of a trajectory of study, degree of difference between the presented results and standard or popular. It's very important to check active results of training, not information ones.
Besides, the difference of the offered method of DT consists of individual productive activity of a student, it's mainly based on the means of modern telecommunication. According to the plan of the author, the basis of DT, in the opinion of Hutorskoy, is an "educational product ", which must be creates by a student, i.e. abstracts, reports, essay. The estimation of results of training occurs by the comparison as a minimum of two "educational products " of a student executed at the beginning and at the end of a close study of a theme .
Presence of "personal increase" is another peculiarity of such a method. Here Hutorskoy means that degree of "personal increase" can be defined after the comparison of two works, executed by a student at the beginning of the theme and at the and of it.
Some offers that were suggested by Hutorskoy can be identified as controversial ones. For example, he criticizes the use of information, selected by someone, in the books and lectures, but it cannot be coordinated with the offer of "webquesters", which are also selected and made by someone also. Furthermore, it is impossible to agree with the offer to replace the process of assimilation of the information only by knowledge of looking for information and its application. Certainly, it is necessary, but there is information, which should be known by a student, instead of searching for it, using all the possible means.
Besides, E.S. Polat, the professor, manager of the laboratory distant training of Institute of General Secondary education, notes that "educational product" (reports, abstracts), as the result of training is not opening in pedagogy, and the modern system works with it already many years .
However it is necessary to tell about obviously fair offers. For example, creation of special classes devoted to methods and ways of researches, forms of representation and examination of the received results. And special classes devoted to the application of methods of collective and individual distant works . In our opinion it is extremely necessary to be able to orientate in the "ocean" of increasing information, it's important to be able to work with it, not to waste time to look for it.
A first difficulty on the way of study cartography, by a remote way, is the following. It's difficult to find this course.
In comparison with economic and other disciplines, cartography is represented very poorly in distant courses all world. In Russia and even abroad there is no high-grade distant course of Cartography, which would represent knowledge of cartography. Even geography very seldom can be found among distant courses of large western university, not to mention cartography as an independent course. Distant courses of cartography can be found only as a small subordinated section in a course on geography or GIS-courses. Map designing and Cartographic projections can be found more frequently among a small number of cartographic courses.
Now distant courses helps deduce some field of knowledge on a new information level in a modern society. So it's necessary for the future of a cartographic science to create a distant course, in which all the cartographic disciplines will be united..
The idea of creation of such a distant course belongs to the professor of the Netherlands University Utrech F. Ormeling, a member of the International Cartographic Association. In particular professor Ormeling has offered to the Commission of Education of the International Cartographic Association (ICA) to act as an initiator and a chief in the process of a creation of a Internet - Cartography course.
It is planned, that the Commission of Education have to become an organizer and to ensure educational and scientific level of a course. The basic task is to create a certain standard for such courses of Cartography, it will be a pattern for all the students interested in cartography and cartographic education.
The technique aspect of this question still requires discussions and completions, but the author of this idea, the professor Ormeling would like to see this course as a free-of-charge one, with an opportunity to copy interesting materials. Of course, the system of check and control for the knowledge must take place, and there must be an opportunity to consult together on arising questions. The teachers - advisers in distant courses are of great necessity at both national or regional levels, their work must be paid. It would be useful to organize an interactive page in the WWW or on a site of the course, where it would be possible to find answers for the most frequent questions (helpdesk).
The structure of a prospective course may consist, in the opinion of Ormeling, of various directions of modern cartography, studied at a choice of a student. Each section (toponymy, generalization, cartographic projections, databases, vector cartography, the Internet cartography etc.) would represent by itself the completed block of the information, which gives a complete representation about this discipline. Each direction consists of separate themes. For example, the section of Toponymy can consist of such themes as: the introduction, functions of geographical names, languages, international standards etc. Undoubtedly, some sections of the course should be studied longer and in more detail, for example, Generalization or Cartographic projections. They are a base for mastering of all the course.
Of course, the creation of such an arrogant project by the forces of one Commission of Education is quite a great feat. But, it would be possible to hope for a professional and scientific approach, having connected to work other commissions of ICA. For example, a part about relief in topography can be represented by the Commission on Mountain Cartography, a section devoted to Internet - Cartography - by the Commission of Internet, sections of Vector and Rastr-Cartography are offered for developing to Russia, Generalization is offered to Bulgaria, and section devoted to Databases - to Canada etc. .
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