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Currently, almost every aspect of distributed learning takes place either partly or wholly through, on, or in computers. Students write papers, take exams, and perform experiments by means of computers; students and faculty send one another messages, participate in discussions, create diagrams, search for and retrieve information, read articles and books, and engage in research with the aid of computers; student records and institutional policies are kept on computers; video lectures and voice conversations are communicated through computer networks; and personal and institutional finance are managed via computers. All of this occurs in a wider context in which computers are increasingly embedded in the objects and activities of human life, to the point where computer scientists speak of and study “pervasive computing” and “ubiquitous computing.”

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