Distance learning is fast becoming one of the most popular learning methods of all time. It has been adopted by almost all the fields of studies including much practical oriented streams such as Medicine. But, in most instances, the distance learning is been used as a support medium and contributes to a blended learning scenario.
What is distance learning?
The idea of distance learning is to teach a student in a preferred medium, without the necessity for that student or the teacher to be present at one place. The experts identify this method as an asynchronous method of teaching as the teacher and the students does not require to interact at the same time.
At the beginning, distance learning made use of printed material and CDs in its teaching process and used mailing systems to deliver the content. The packages will accompany a set of instruction for the student to follow. The deadlines will be drawn and the student needs to complete any assignments and return it to the designated tutor.
There were lot of criticism of this learning method, mostly due to its poor interaction between the teacher and the student.
In late 1980s another mode of distance education was shaping up. This time it made use of the internet. From its humble beginnings, the online teaching and learning has evolved in huge proportions. With internet access becoming a cheap commodity and due to the availability of high bandwidth internet, the online educators were given the freedom to design creative as well as effective online courses.
Although these learning methods were around for some time, most people look at it in a less favourable eye. The reason might be the lack of understanding on how distance learning is been done. In making a decision to choose a distance course, most probably online, the students need to look at its advantages as well as the disadvantages. Therefore, we will look at some of the advantages in brief.
Advantages in a distance learning programme:
Ability to use flexible timings for the learning process.
Due to its asynchronous process, the students can follow the course at their own convenience. They can read, do the postings and complete assignments at any time of the day. Only thing that limits the students freedom will be the deadlines.
Avoid the necessity to travel and find accommodation:
In most of the taught courses the students need to be present at a particular place at a particular time. Some students may need to find accommodation for the time period. The travelling and finding accommodation can be costly as well as time consuming. In distance learning the learning takes place at home and avoids both the travelling as well as finding accommodation.
Learn while continuing to work:
Most of the distance learning programmes cater to adult learners who are employed and unable to find time to do their further studies. Due to its flexible nature, the distance mode gives ample opportunity for these learners to continue with their education.
Use of multimedia in the learning process:
The learning styles of each individual will be different to one another. Some will prefer learning through hearing, some by visualizing and another by doing. In online type of distance learning all these methods are incorporated.
Video demonstrations, audio briefings, virtual manoeuvres in performing certain functions as well as readable text give the learners the option to choose and learn. It has proved much effective than the printed mode of distance learning, and in some aspects more effective than the traditional learning.
New ways of interaction:
In online mode the students will be able to interact with tutors as well as other students using discussion forums, chat, blogs and emails. The ability to interact has given distance learning more credibility as well as human touch.
The advantages list mentioned above is no means complete. But, these probably are the most important of them all in making the selection of a distance learning method.