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The current systems of education are in place for a reason - primarily because they have responded to longstanding societal needs. The rapid rise of distance education can also be explained by its success in addressing important but hitherto unmet needs of convenient access and flexible delivery. In this paper the authors review a number of trends or forces affecting the current practice of distance education. These forces are described as either conservative or progressive in nature. Conservative trends help educators better control processes and outcomes and achieve cost efficiencies in delivery. Progressive trends open up new possibilities in thinking about education and encourage diverse ideas and outcomes. Looking forward, future distance-education practices can be expected to exploit new technologies to further both conservative and progressive ends.
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