Distance learning is any form of education that does not require the students to be always physically present at a school or college. Traditionally, distance learning involved correspondence courses wherein the student corresponded with the school or college via post. Today, however, it involves online education as well.
In fact, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of schools and colleges have adopted online education as a go-to method of teaching. The number of students opting for distance education too has increased.
So, what exactly is distance education, and is it the right option for you? Let’s take a look.
What is Distance Learning Education?
As mentioned, distance learning education involves methods of teaching that does not require the student to be physically present in the lesson. The students can communicate with their schools or colleges via mail. In fact, this is what traditionally distance learning meant.
However, with the rise of the internet, the tools and methods of distance learning have changed or have modified. Today, distance learning is called by various names including e-learning, online learning, and uses various technologies to facilitate student-teacher communion.
Traditionally, the main focus of distance learning was in providing education to non-conventional students. People like full-time workers, military personnel, or individuals in remote areas, who are not able to attend regular classroom lectures, had been the main focus of distance education. However, today distance learning has become an established form of education and the trend shows ongoing growth in the number of students opting for it.
The reason behind this growth is that distance learning has some advantages over conventional classroom education. The primary advantage is the flexibility in the learning hours that it provides. However, that’s not the end. It has several other advantages that a classroom education system does not provide.
What are the Benefits of Distance Education?
As mentioned, distance education has shown steady growth in the number of students opting for it over the years. This is because it has several benefits over conventional classroom education.
Flexible and Convenient
Distance learning is all about the flexibility and convenience of the students. With distance education, you don’t have to leave your job to pursue your education. You can both work and learn at the same time at your convenience.
You also get full freedom as to when and where to study. In some cases, you may need to attend some online tutorials at a given time. But apart from that, you get to choose when and where you want to study. You don’t need to sit hours inside a classroom for learning. You can study in your garden, or your couch, wherever you find your learning comfortable. With distance education, you own your study time and venue.
For any given program, distance education is far less expensive than regular classroom courses. With distance mode of education, the institutes providing it do not have to bear the huge overhead costs of classrooms, equipment, offices, staff, and administration. So, the institutes can pass these savings to the students. As a result, the cost of pursuing a degree becomes much less in distance education.
With distance learning, you save the trouble of commuting to your school or college and thus you can save a lot of time there. For learning remotely, all you need is your computer and a working internet connection. You get access to all the study materials and you get to learn at your own pace.
So, if you want flexibility in your education or due to any reason you are not able to pursue a regular classroom course, you can always opt for distance education. Moreover, there are several types of distance learning available to choose from.
What are the Types of Distance Learning?
With time, the methods of implementing education remotely have changed substantially. So, nowadays we see that there are several types of distance learning programs available. And you can choose what suits you best.
Synchronous and Asynchronous
Distance learning is broadly classified into two types: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous learning demands that you take part in learning activities, like webinars or virtual classes, simultaneously with fellow students and your teacher. It has the advantage of live interaction with your teacher. On the other hand, it’s less flexible as you need to be available at the scheduled time to attend sessions.
Asynchronous distance learning, on the other hand, is much more flexible. It does not require you to participate in online sessions at the same time with your fellow students. Instead, you’ll be given course materials like textbooks, CDs, DVDs, and you can study at your own pace and comfort. But in asynchronous learning, there are generally some weekly deadlines to be met.
As the name suggests, hybrid distance learning is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. In this mode of learning, students are permitted to study and complete assignments in their own time. But there are specific deadlines to complete their work.
Open schedule distance learning offers the maximum flexibility to the students. You can choose from a variety of options about instructional methods, time, place, and other related factors. But in an open schedule, you generally need to maintain a deadline in completing the assignments.
Computer-based learning courses are courses where you do not get direct classes but the same classes are held online. And you need to be available and present at the scheduled time to attend your lectures.
This too is a type of online learning program. But in fixed time courses, you need to log into the school’s online learning site at a specific time. The format is synchronous because it offers live interactions with teachers and fellow students.
What are the Disadvantages of Online Learning?
Distance learning or e-learning as is often called indeed has numerous advantages. But it has its fair share of demerits as well. For example, online learning demands that students remain focused and self-disciplined during their entire term of education. Otherwise, there remains a chance that he/she will end up not succeeding in clearing the course. But there are some other drawbacks as well.
Requires Strong Self-Motivation and Time Management
As mentioned, students opting for online learning need to be self-motivated. In classroom courses, there are enough factors that constantly push students to their learning goals. Strict schedules, peer-to-peer activities, and face-to-face communication with teachers, all help to keep students falling off track.
But in online learning, there are no such things. So, you need to constantly self-monitor and motivate yourself to study. Also, in distance or online learning, time management is of utmost importance. More so, if you are a job holder and have responsibilities at your workplace. Even if you are not doing a job, you need to be meticulously clear about your study hours. Otherwise, there remains a chance that you’ll fall back and will not be able to complete your course.
Can Cause Social Isolation
Distance learning, due to lack of interaction, can lead students to contemplate more, leading to social isolation. A lack of human interaction can be harmful. Social isolation coupled with a lack of communication can lead to severe mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and even depression.
Especially in the asynchronous mode of learning, where students do not have the opportunity to interact with teachers and fellow students even online, it can be seriously detrimental to one’s health. A lack of communication also leads to a lack of communication skill development in students.
Online Learning is Limited to Certain Disciplines
Not all educational disciplines are equal. And some, like medical science or engineering, require extensive hands-on practical experience to be qualified. The mode of e-learning is suitable for an explanation of theories, but being online, it does not have the scope of providing hands-on experience. So, we see that online learning is suitable for courses largely based on the teaching of theories like psychology, social sciences, etc. But e-learning is not effective in fields like medical science and engineering.
Inaccessible to Computer Illiterate Population
Today, a majority of the population owns a smartphone or a personal computer. So, it can be argued that online education is accessible to most. But there are people who do not own such devices. The number of such people may not be high when calculated as a percentage of the total population, but numbers do not always speak the truth. Also, many who own such devices, are not computer literate and thus face troubles in pursuing e-learning.
So, e-learning or online learning is best to be thought of as an addition, rather than a replacement to traditional classroom education.
What are the Best Distance Learning Courses?
As already mentioned, distance learning is suitable for certain disciplines of study. So, if you opt for distance education, you’ll do well if you choose from them. Below are the most popular distance learning courses:
BSc (Honors) in Business Management: This course can help you learn how business concepts are applied in real-life scenarios. Also, you will receive an honors-level degree upon the successful completion of the course.
Master of Business Administration (MBA): Online MBA course covers various areas of business such as human resources, accounting, finance, and marketing. All in a manner, most relevant to management analysis and strategy. Successful completion of this master-level course generally means a more senior role and a better salary at work.
MSc (Accountancy and Financial Management): This course is suitable for professionals working in finance and accountancy sectors. This course will help you develop advanced knowledge and understanding of accountancy and financial management which is sure to improve your work skills.
Human Resource Management: An HR is primarily responsible for the management of people in an organization, focusing on systems and policies. So, in this course, you’ll learn the details of the management of human resources.
MSc in Applied Psychology: Applied psychology is the use and application of findings of scientific psychology, helping to solve practical problems of human and animal behavior.
Which is Better, Distance Course or Regular Course?
When choosing between distance and regular courses, you need to keep certain factors in mind. Regular courses offer strict routines and are fairly structured where you have to go to a school or college and have regular classroom lectures. This can be helpful if you are someone who is constantly procrastinating. Regular courses will then help you get the necessary push to complete your course successfully. There will be teachers, fellow students, with whom you can interact and learn quickly.
Distance learning, on the other hand, is more flexible in approach, where you need not visit a school physically for pursuing your education. You can learn at your own pace and convenience. And that can be both helpful and not depending on what type of education is needed for you.
If you are a self-motivated person, or you are doing a job somewhere, distance learning can be the best option to pursue your studies. With distance learning, you can then enhance your knowledge and skills in your field of work and move to a senior job role.
However, the courses offered in distance education are limited. Not everything can be learned distantly and neither are they offered. So, if you wish to study, say, medical science, then a regular course will be better for you. But if conditions suit and the course you are willing to study is offered in an online course, you can always go for distance learning.
Education is of prime importance to all. And distance learning has made the way to education more accessible. With distance education, the barriers of age, time, and most importantly distance is getting increasingly blurred and that is good. Today, anyone from around the world can pursue a degree of his/her choice from anywhere, thanks to distance learning.
Though it has its demerits, distance learning has made education accessible to many who cannot opt for regular courses. So, we can safely say that distance learning is here to stay and you too can opt for it if that suits your purpose.