There are reasons for and against doing distance learning. At the end of the day though it is down to the personal individual if this is the best method for them.
The benefits of distance learning are you can take learning at your own pace. Depending on the size or length of the course you can split it down and take steps at a time. This can be handy if you find pressure from your life and need to take a break from your studies.
Another factor is it won’t affect your life, you don’t need to quit your job, you don’t need to sell your house and move to another dragging any commitments with you. If you’re much older you might not feel like you stand out as a mature student at a University you will find this a big issue at first (though over time you just get used to it or just don’t care).
You won’t have the bother of studying in a class full of people who aren’t 100% committed to a course just ask anyone who’s done a business or I.T course about the number of people the had on their who were just doing it because they had not other ideas what to do with their lives.
You get a qualification or qualifications hence you in theory you could get a better job etc etc.
Also you have the comfort of your own home, more independence to choose when you want to study. This though can be a negative aspect and people in the comfort of their own home may struggle to set time for their work.
When I did home study I found the biggest problem was coming home from a hard days work to get the energy together to start doing my studying for the ten hours a week I was required to do. It was all too easy to just sit down in front of the TV and forget about it.
Another problem I came across was noise from family members, getting calls from friends etc while I was trying to work. My advice is to find a quite area to study so you are not disturbed and make sure all family members understand to keep out the way (for kids let a partner/relative/friend look after them or wait till they’ve gone to bed). I also found the style quite impersonal though various courses will vary for example you might have teaching session one night a week/fortnight/month etc or you might not even have that the distance learning I did relied on me communicating to a tutor on the phone I found this quite difficult talking to a stranger.
One of the final problems and this made me decide not to continue with home learning is that it can be a very long process. I was working towards a degree and planning it from the beginning I worked out it could take between 6-10 years!
I found distance learning could be very flexible for example the Open University who I studied with had a very good choice of modules to choose from when studying for a degree.
Final Words: Don’t go over the top with work, make some time for friends/family/yourself and don’t skip out on work sessions
Research who your studying with where are they based out, what qualification do you get from it (if you get one), what’s the school/university/college reputation and finally found out how you work are you required for infrequent visits or phone/e-mail contact with someone etc.
Do you know how to use materials required in the course for example a business course may require you to use Excel and can you afford the course although you might be able to handle course fees there is potential for more costs i.e. books required.
Is there a better alternative? Although I’ve never done distance learning of a language I personally find there’s no better alternative than going to a class to learn as a teacher can pick out mistakes that you make which you might not realize your doing from tapes. There might be a handy evening course down at the local school or community centre.
I never got a full degree from distance learning as I realized it was something I would not be able to commit to full time, that is why I am now a full time student at a university remember however it might just be perfect for you.