Distance learning can be a substitute for a traditional college education. Whether or not it is a valuable substitute is debatable. While there are undeniable advantages to distance learning, the most recognized being flexibility, there are also some very significant drawbacks. Whether or not distance learning is appropriate for an individual depends upon their lifestyle and specific educational goals. Students looking solely to accelerate their climb up the financial/occupational ladder may find an on-line education to be more than adequate. However, students genuinely interested in learning and broadening their horizons would most likely benefit from a more traditional, well-rounded college education.
Ideally, a college education should function as much more than a means of learning a trade and earning a degree. The college experience not only teaches students about Physics and Art History, but it can teach students valuable lessons about themselves and the nature of the world we live in. In this way, attending college can be an invaluable experience for many. A college campus is also a prime place to enhance your social skills and establish valuable networks that will help guide you along your career path.
However, gaining a traditional college education can be next to impossible for some Americans, such as single parents and hard-working professionals. In such cases, distance-learning courses can be a godsend. Distance education is by nature much more flexible, in regards to both location and time. Distance courses are more likely to allow students to work at their own pace, or at least eliminate the time commitment required to attend actual class sessions. Even if deadlines are still observed, distance learners at least have the option of completing their coursework in the evenings or as their schedules allow. The option of taking a test in your p.j.’s is also alluring for many students.
Distance learning can be practical from a financial standpoint as well, especially with the ever-rising cost of fuel. On-line courses can allow students to continue to work full- or part-time while earning their degree. However, students are not always provided with the cutting-edge technology and tech. staff that are generally readily available on a college campus and included in tuition fees.
Despite these advantages, a distance education is not ideal for everyone. Critics have cited many disadvantages to earning a degree on-line. Students and professionals considering distance learning should remember that such an education requires a great deal of self-discipline, responsibility and a strong desire to learn. Students who are prone to procrastination and have poor time management skills may struggle when forced to accept complete control of their education.
Obtaining a distance education also requires a sufficient understanding of and access to technical media. A high-speed Internet connection, personal computer and various other technologies are typically essential. Also, a general understanding of various computer programs and Internet functions are often vital to a student’s success.
Most would agree that college classrooms allow for more hands-on learning and one-on-one interaction between students and instructors. A question that could be easily answered in a classroom setting may require numerous emails and posts to fully explain in an on-line classroom. Also, certain subjects simply cannot be taught effectively in an on-line environment, such as those requiring the use of specific expensive or hard-to-obtain equipment.
While distance learning courses typically require that students participate in on-line discussion boards, which allow for the establishment of a narrative among the class, they are often a poor substitute for classroom debate. On-line discussion requires an entirely different method of communication, which can be less fulfilling and more uncomfortable for many students. On the other hand, students tend to be less inhibited when there is a certain degree of anonymity, which can lead to more honest and meaningful discussion. However, this inhibition also increases the likelihood of conflict, which is further exacerbated by the absence of important verbal and nonverbal cues.
As you can see, whether or not distance learning is a valuable substitute for a traditional college education really depends on what students seek to gain from the experience. While distance learning may be the only practical way for some students to earn a college degree, it might be a less valuable experience for students who have the time and money to pursue a traditional, more well rounded college education.