To do or not to do - that is the question that plagues most students who are contemplating pursuing an education through distance learning. Over the years, distance education in various forms - distance learning programs from open universities, online programs and so forth, have helped realised the educational aspirations of students who could not attend full-time and campus-based classes.
Students often have apprehensions over opting for higher education via distance learning, as they lack clarity about the pros and cons of this mode of education. It's a good idea to understand the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a degree through distance education before you decide if you want to go for this mode.
You must realise that distance education might not be the best choice for every student, but understanding its advantages and drawbacks can help you decide if distance learning is right for you.
Advantages of distance learning
1. You can pursue a job along with studies:A major chunk of students who actually opt for distance education are those who don't want to give up their jobs but want a higher education, too. Distance education comes as a blessing for such students. You can study on the weekends, when you're back from work or even in the middle of the night. You get to learn while you earn!
2. You can save money: For any given program, the fee of a distance education degree (online or otherwise) may be much more affordable than the fee of a regular on-campus degree. Students who are looking for economically viable options can go for a distance learning program.
3. You save time:There's no time wasted in going to and from college, no time wasted waiting for a bus or train. In a distance learning program, your classroom is right in your bedroom - the study material on your desk or the e-material on your computer. Students who don't have enough time on their hands can turn to distance education as an option and pursue it from the comfort of their homes.
4. You can learn at your own pace:The prospect of going back to classroom education can be intimidating for many of us. Asking a question or revealing that you are unable to grasp a concept in class can be quite embarrassing for many students. Distance education comes to your rescue here!
If you are self-disciplined and self-motivated, the best benefit of distance education is that you can learn at your own pace. It's a known fact that different people learn in different ways and at different speeds. In a classroom, when everyone is being taught together, it is often difficult to have every student on the same page. Some students are too shy to raise their doubts in class. This is where distance education has an advantage over a regular campus program.
Since you are given all course work beforehand, you can study as much or as little as you want every day, as long as you complete your study material within the stipulated time. If you've doubts or queries, there are discussion forums, chat facilities with faculty and complete support from the distance education provider.
5. You can study whenever, wherever: Except in scenarios where you have to attend an online tutorial at a given time or a lecture through videoconferencing, you can pretty much study whenever you want to, wherever you choose to. You need not be stuck in a classroom, but can go study in your garden, on your living room couch or in the comfort of your own bed. Irrespective of whether you're a morning lark or a night owl, you can choose an optimum time to study whenever you're at your productive best.
6. Gaining recognition among employers:Distance education over the years has finally found some acceptance and recognition among employers, which is an encouraging sign. As long as the distance learning program is accredited, you need not be worried. In India, all distance education programmes that are approved by the Distance Education Council (DEC) stand automatically recognized for the purpose of employment to posts and services under the Central Government. Private sector employers also value a distance education degree now, and even encourage employees to pursue higher education along with their job so that employees can develop skills and expertise in their field of work.
Read:5 Online Education Trends to Watch in India in 2017
But there's a flip side to every story. A factor that's advantageous for one student might prove to be a drawback for another. Here are some situations that can turn out as disadvantages of distance learning.
Disadvantages of distance learning
1. Chances of distraction high: With no faculty around for face-to-face interaction and no classmates who can help with constant reminders about pending assignments, the chances of getting distracted and losing track of deadlines are high. You need to keep yourself motivated and focused if you want to successfully complete your distance learning course. Distance education is not a good idea if you tend to procrastinate and can't stick to deadlines.
2. Hidden costs: Although the cost of a distance education program is usually cheaper than a regular program, there can be hidden costs involved. For example, if your distance learning course is offered online, you might have to incur some initial expenses like installing a computer and getting a reliable Internet connection. You may need to buy additional resources such as a printer, a web camera and so forth. Some expenses might be recurring, like maintenance and electricity costs.
3. Complicated technology: Overdependence on technology can be a major drawback in distance learning mode of education, especially when the learning takes place in an online environment. Any malfunctioning software or hardware can bring an ongoing class to a standstill and interrupt the learning process. Similarly, if a student is not computer and tech savvy, his learning experience can be dissatisfactory.
4. Quality of faculty compromised: Often considered to be the lesser cousin of regular education, distance education is often plagued by lack of enough good quality faculty members. In other cases, even if the instructor is good, he or she may not be comfortable with teaching in an online environment. Sometimes the technology might not do full justice to the delivery and design of the course. A student loses out in all these scenarios. Distance education providers should realise that it is not the technology, but good and effective teachers that teach students.
5. Questionable credibility of degrees: Even though distance and online education is starting to get recognition, there are still a lot of fraudulent and non-accredited degrees being offered. With the increase in the number of distance/online programs, the number of scam operators are also rising. This affects the credibility of recognised distance learning degrees among prospective employers.
6. Lose out on networking:The advantages of pursuing a regular programme go beyond just interaction with teachers and good course content. MBA graduates from premier business schools (B-schools) in India would vouch for the fact that the opportunities to network with established alumni, renowned faculty and industry heads go a long way in paving a secure career. A distance learning program loses out on this very important aspect.
Read: 10 benefits of online learning
Despite these perceived drawbacks, distance learning is gaining popularity among students like never before, with many students satisfied with their learning experience. With further advances in technology and more training to adapt teachers to this new mode of learning, the disadvantages in distance learning can soon be sorted out.
About Nishatha Abraham Bijeesh
Nishatha has been writing about education in India and abroad for the last 9 years. She has been in the digital marketing industry for 8+ years and specializes in content marketing. Nothing annoys her more than slow wi-fi, incorrect usage of the apostrophe and people mispronouncing her name. She prefers not to talk about herself in the third person, but reluctantly, had to do so here!
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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.While the types and methods of distance education continue to grow and evolve, potential students should consider some identifiable factors common to all types before enrolling. While these factors are not applicable to every distance learning situation, they do apply to most.
After reading these pros and cons of distance education, you should more closely examine the online programs that most interest you to be sure they fit your life, job, and career needs.
Distance Learning Pros:
Here are some of the benefits of distance education courses.
Convenience — take online courses when you need them, not based on some college’s annual or semester schedule. A course is as close as a computer with an Internet connection.Flexibility — with no set class times, you decide when to complete your assignments and readings. You set the pace. In some programs, you can even design your own degree plan.Availability — distance-learning opportunities have exploded over the past few years, with many accredited and reputable programs.Cost — prices are often cheaper for online courses than traditional college and trade courses — with no housing or meals plans to worry about.Self-Directed — you set your own pace and schedule, so you control the learning environment.Time Spent in Classroom — now you can take a course on just about any subject without ever having to be in — or travel to — a classroom so you have very little wasted time. Note, however, that some distance-education programs still do have an in-class component.Accessibility — with an online course, you can work on the course just about anywhere you have computer access.Better for Some Learners — distance-education courses are often better for people who learn through visual cues and experiential exercises and those that require more time, are language-challenged, or introverted.No Travel Expenses — you may never even have to leave your house to take an online course, and certainly there are no relocation costs.No Interrupting Job/Career — because distance learning courses are located in cyberspace and controlled by your pace, there is no need to quit your current job — or even take a leave of absence — to go back to school.
Distance Learning Cons:
Here are some factors that could negatively affect your success with distance learning courses:
No Instructor Face Time — if your learning style is one where you like personalized attention from your teachers, then online education will probably not work for you.Perceptions/Reputation — while slowly changing as more and more mainstream colleges and universities embrace distance learning, there still is a stigma attached to distance education.Requires New Skills/Technologies — if you’re not computer-savvy or are afraid of change or new technologies, then online education will probably not work for you.No Social Interaction — while you often interact with classmates via email, chat rooms, or discussion groups, there are no parties or offline get-togethers.Making Time — if you are a procrastinator or one of those people who always needs an extra push to complete work, you may have a hard time making time for your online classes.Little Support — students are expected to find their own resources for completing assignments and exams, which is empowering for some, but daunting for others.No Campus Atmosphere — part of the traditional college experience, of course, is the beauty of the campus, the college spirit — but you have none of that with distance-education courses.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this quiz? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.