Distance learning is a method of knowledge dissemination in which the students and the tutors are separated in time or distance or even both. Most often the distance mode of learning will give the students the flexibility to decide on the following: What do I want to learn? When do I want to learn? At what pace do I want to learn? How would I like to learn? Where would I want to learn?
By allowing the students to make these choices, distance learning had become a truly ‘”open” learning method. Therefore, learning methods which consist of the above characteristics are considered as being “open distance learning”.
It is well researched and understood that not all learners learn through the same methods, nor is there one particular method that will facilitate learning in everyone. Many factors affect an individual’s capacity to learn. Motivations, analytical skills, prior knowledge, interaction, applied learning are thought to be some of them.
Due to this ever-varied consistency of the learners, open distance learning needs to overcome many challenges. Even though some of these challenges are met with the help of the technology, several disadvantages have surfaced for both the teachers as well as the students. Some of these are:
1. Physical separation of the teacher and the students
Teachers are both knowledge givers as well as role models for students in a traditional type of learning. By physically separating the two, students will lose the personal interaction with the teachers and can harm the mental buildup of such students.
Some students are keen on learning while the teachers are physically present, and distance learning would be a disadvantage for such students who look up to their teachers in carrying out their learning.
2. Less motivational
In the distance mode, the students are isolated and do not receive the same sort of interaction with their colleagues in the same course. It is also possible that the tutors will not be able to interact and motivate the students as they would do in a classroom environment. In certain instances, the students will thrive in an environment that will give them a challenge to perform in a peer group. The open and distance mode will lack most of these motivational factors and be disadvantageous to some of the students.
3. Would not help in developing social interactions and oral skills
The distance mode of learning would not facilitate oral communication unless it is a synchronous learning event where all students participate using a communication method. Most of the distance learning methods are using the asynchronous method of teaching and would not facilitate such interaction.
4. Difficult to choose a quality educational programme
When considering the amount of distance learning programmes available, it is very difficult for a learner to identify which will give them the maximum benefit and which courses will be recognized quality-guaranteed courses.
5. Employers’ reluctance to accept distance mode of training
Although it is resolved to a certain extent, some employers are reluctant to accept the distance mode as being as effective as a traditional mode of learning. The wide popularity gained by distance mode of learning as well as the research proving that distance learners have performed to the same standards or even better in performing a task has diluted the sentiment to a certain extent.
6. Need to have good time management skills
The people who benefit from distance learning would be the persons who have better time management skills, as it requires them to be self-guided in the learning approach.
7. Technical difficulties
Another hindrance for the distance learners would be the requirement of relatively sound technical know-how, including good typing skills to perform well, particularly in an online educational setup. It will include hidden cost in purchasing and maintain computers and other equipment to carry out the learning process.
When considering all these disadvantages in open distance learning, most of them are either person-dependent or programme-dependent. Thus, most can be avoided and minimized to an extent where future distance learning would become much more effective and widespread.