IELTS Reading Exam

Distance learning reading answers


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You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 14-26 which are based on Reading Passage 2 below.

Read more: Distance learning ielts reading



Distance learning is not a recent innovation in education, correspondence courses having been used for over 150 years, but new interactive technologies are providing new opportunities and strategies for teaching at a distance. Several studies have compared face-to-face classrooms to distance classrooms in order to evaluate differences in student performance and quality of instruction. A meta-analysis of these studies showed that distance-learning students performed equally well and some distance courses outperformed their classroom counterparts.

This result has been consistent over many studies across many disciplines; advances in communication technology and innovative methods of delivery of instruction at a distance have challenged the idea that laboratory courses can only be delivered in a face-to-face laboratory setting. In engineering, for example, virtual laboratories have been used to teach thermodynamics, electronic circuits, and other experimental courses as well. Programmes in nursing, engineering, technology and other sciences are beginning to use deliver courses via distance-learning methodology in order to reach students in different locations and boost enrolment. A survey of online distance-learning programmes revealed a large increase in student enrolment. The availability of distance courses has made it possible for some people to attend college because courses are accessible within their locality or the time of course delivery is convenient for them.

This opportunity for learning has not been without its critics who keep a close eye on the quality of instruction, and rightly so as with any form of instructional delivery. Quality issues are a major concern for those who intend to pursue degree programmes via distance learning, especially with the proliferation of distance-learning programmes. Although it is difficult for academics to agree on specific standards that constitute quality in distance learning, nonetheless, attributes such as accreditation standards for programmes, evaluating students’ experiences, teacher-student interaction, student-to-student interaction, learning resources for the learner, learner assessment and performance, instructional resources for faculty, faculty training, and learner satisfaction are valid criteria. These and many other factors can determine the quality of delivery of instruction in both distance and face-to-face classrooms.


Distance-Learning Technologies and Innovation in Laboratory Course Delivery

In a selected UK university, five departments that offered laboratory courses in Technology and Engineering via distance learning used combinations of a variety of instructional technologies. The technologies most used were Interactive Microwave TV (two-way audio and video), compressed video, the Internet, CDs, computer software (virtual software), and videotapes. At the selected university in the UK, interviews were conducted on-site with faculty and staff. A wide range of teaching materials, student portfolios, and a secure website were observed. In addition to the Internet, CDs, and video, the university used the following innovative ways to deliver laboratory courses.

Residential and Summer Schools

Residential and summer schools serve a similar purpose; the difference is the duration. The summer school is one week long and combines labs, lectures, and problem sessions. In general, these schools provide four key features, providing the opportunity for students to:

  1. undertake experimental work considered too hazardous for a student working at home.
  2. undertake lab work using more sophisticated equipment, or equipment too expensive to provide at home.
  3. undertake assessed lab work.
  4. work together with fellow students.

Some courses even arranged to take students on a study trip, perhaps to a company with special processes, or to a geographic site of interest.


Demonstration Laboratory

The demonstration laboratory introduces students to the work they are going to undertake, illustrating how to proceed, how to make particular types of measurements, etc. It also covers topics considered too dangerous for students or situations in which the equipment is not available at the residential school. Many of these demonstrations are recorded on video to control both the process taught and the quality of the teaching across numerous groups of students at different levels.


Support Services Provided to Faculty and Students Engaged in Distance Learning

All the departments that offer distance-learning courses offer support services to students and faculty. The support services include e-mail systems, graduate assistants, course websites, proctors, telephone conferencing, electronic library materials, and instructional designers to work with faculty to design and develop courses. At the selected university in the UK, interviews with instructional designers and faculty revealed the significant role played by instructional designers. Although they are not the content experts, they advise faculty, for example, on how information is presented on a website or the format in which the information is presented. The purpose is to maintain a standard format and quality in print materials, including electronic resources. The selected university in the UK also provides a support service to faculty that is unique from other institutions in this study: staff tutors who are regionally based to provide the link between the university faculty and students within the regions. The staff tutors have a key role in quality assurance, especially in facilitating effective teaching of the university faculty’s courses and are responsible for the selection, monitoring, and development of part-time Associate Lectures. They contribute to faculty research and the development and presentation of courses. The staff tutors are highly qualified in their fields and as such, bridge the distance gap between the university faculty and students at different locations.


The UK university, by using innovative strategies such as the Residential and Summer Schools, Field Trips and Demonstration Laboratories in combination with new technologies, is able to teach all its laboratory courses via distance learning to its nearly 200,000 students within and outside the UK. Distance learning is not meant to replace a face-to-face classroom, but it is one major way to make education more accessible to society. As advances in communication and digital technology continue, residential or demonstration labs may someday be replaced with comparable experiences provided through distance education.

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Questions 14-18 (Distance learning reading answers)

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Reading Passage 2 has five sections A-E.

Which section contains the following information?

Write the correct letter A-E in boxes 14-18 on your answer sheet.

NB Some section may be used more than once.

14 One aspect of the course is that students can gain first-hand experience in a working environment and on educational excursions.

15 Where the instruction takes place is not a critical factor in students’ achievements.

16 This method of instruction is not designed to replace traditional teaching techniques.

17 In the future, the use of technology may mean students will not have to attend practical instruction sessions.

18 Attending laboratory courses allows students to benefit from the use of expensive equipment, not otherwise available to them.

Questions 19-22

Choose the correct letter A, B, C or D.

19 One purpose of the summer school is to

A encourage students to work individually.

B enable students to be assessed directly.

C allow students to undertake a simple experiment.

D familiarise students with laboratory equipment.

20 Instructional designers advise faculty on the

A course content.

B support services for students.

C suitability of library material.

D visual display of coursework.

21 Staff tutors are responsible for the

A monitoring of students’ progress.

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B suitability of courses for students’ needs.

C appointment of certain teaching staff.

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D training of all teaching staff.

22 With the increasing number of distance-learning courses,

A it has been difficult to find suitable tutors.

B problems arise with the timing of course delivery.

C the standard of teaching has become an issue.

D student-to-teacher interaction is no longer relevant.

Questions 23-26

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 2?

In boxes 23-26 on your answer sheet, write

YES if the statement agrees with the writer’s claims

NO if the statement contradicts the writer’s claims

NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

23 Many students may find the lack of student-to-student interaction a disadvantage to this method of study.

24 The main difference between residential and summer courses is the length of the courses they offer.

25 At the UK university, difficulties exist where the teaching of science subjects involves laboratory experiments.

26 Instructional designers receive very high salaries.

Answers:-Distance learning reading answers

Passage 2

  1. B
  2. A
  3. E
  4. E
  5. B
  6. B
  7. D
  8. C
  9. C
  11. YES
  12. NO

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