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Is Distance Learning For You?

In the past few years the popularity of distance learning has skyrocketed. Almost everyone has heard of online schools and distance education, and you may be wondering if it is a good choice for you. Whether you are interested in completing your high school diploma, getting a university or college degree, or upgrading your career skills, distance learning may be an option for you. But distance education shouldnít be undertaken lightly. It is important to consider both the benefits and drawbacks when trying to decide whether distance learning is for you.

What is Distance Learning?
Distance learning is the name given to any type of information exchange that takes place across a physical distance. Also known as distance education, distance learning occurs when a student learns from a teacher who is located in a faraway place. It can be associated with existing schools or colleges, or distance learning can take place online, over the phone, or through the mail. Distance learning is now used commonly in education, and there are distance learning programs for those in elementary, secondary, higher, or continued education.

How is Distance Learning Achieved?
Distance learning canít take place in the same way as traditional learning does. Because traditional learning takes place in a defined space, students and teachers can more easily exchange information, both orally and visually. But with distance learning, students and teachers are not in the same physical space, and thus need to find another method of communicating.

Distance learning is usually achieved by making use of all that technology has to offer. In order to get information, assignments, and tests to students, instructors need to have a way of transferring information reliably and effectively. Students also need to have a way to communicate with their instructors. Distance learning often relies on four main types of technology to transmit information:

  • Voice: Information in distance learning can be relayed by voice over the telephone or radio. Distance learning often involves telephone seminars or conferences in which students can discuss information and assignments with their instructor.
  • Video: Video is regularly relied upon when it comes to distance education. Tutorials and classes can be given to the student in the form of slides, film, or video.
  • Computer: With the help of recent technical advances, distance learning often takes place on the Internet or by using special learning management software. Files can also be sent and received over the computer.
  • Print: Using mail or fax machines, necessary reading materials can be sent directly from a teacher to a student. Assignments can then be submitted via fax or mail to the instructor for grading.

How Effective are Distance Learning Programs?
According to recent studies, distance learning is equally effective as traditional learning is. When students are motivated to participate and guide their own learning, distance education can provide them with a lot of skills and information that they can use to further their careers, study interests, and other life goals. The key to having a successful distance learning experience also relies on the abilities of the instructor to make full use of the technologies at hand to provide support to students.

Who Participates in Distance Learning?
Distance learning education is becoming extremely popular, particularly in North America where many people find they have little time to attend traditional classes. People who become involved in distance learning include those who:

  • cannot find the time to attend campus classes
  • cannot travel to an actual classroom or campus
  • work full time or part time
  • are busy raising a family
  • have disabilities or who are too ill to attend classes
  • those who want to earn certificates, degrees, or credits at their own pace

Benefits of Distance Learning
Distance learning can offer many of the benefits that traditional learning offers along with many more. Some of the benefits of distance learning include:

  • the chance to maintain a flexible schedule.
  • the chance to use different technologies to learn new information.
  • the opportunity to meet new people in an online forum.
  • the opportunity to learn from home or from work.
  • the opportunity to design your own learning schedule.

Drawbacks of Distance Learning
Though distance learning can offer a number of benefits, it is not suitable for everyone. Distance learning requires a lot of patience and determination to complete, particularly for people earning distance learning degrees. Because it occurs at a distance, there is not as much teacher-student interaction compared to traditional learning. Additional drawbacks may include:

  • the lack of a classroom setting
  • the lack of structured learning opportunities
  • less interaction with other students
  • absence of a campus to visit
  • increased time to get instructional feedback

Is Distance Learning For You?
Before you sign up for some distance education, take some time to consider whether or not itís really for you. Distance learning can be very effective for some people, especially those who learn well in a less structured learning environment. In particular, distance education is suited to those who can learn on their own and who have the dedication and time to put towards their learning. If you enjoy classroom settings and one-on-one interaction, distance learning may not be your best option. To find out if you will enjoy distance learning, ask yourself these questions?

  • Do I enjoy working by myself, or do I prefer working with others?
  • Will I miss the classroom atmosphere?
  • Can I motivate myself to fulfill my educational goals?
  • Do I have the skills to complete work that arrives in print, over the telephone, or via computer?
  • Am I self motivated, or do I prefer being motivated by others?

 
 
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