Pros and Cons of Distance Education

Distance learning is an established part of the educational environment and as a student you need to know if this is a tool for you or is it something that is better off avoided.  Here we’ll discuss a little history of distance education, go over the pros and the cons of distance education and then arm you with the tools to make the right decision for you when it comes to distance learning.

Distance learning started over 100 years ago when students could take courses via the mail and as time has passed technology added radio and then television to the ways in which a student could attend college at a distance.  Finally the internet came into existence and the number of colleges offering distance education has exploded, making a college education possible for many who had been unable to attend for a variety of reasons.   

The Pros:


Any discussion regarding the pros of distance education must include flexibility!  This means that your job, even if it has you doing frequent travel, should not prevent you from getting that degree you’ve always wanted.  To show just how flexible this aspect is, consider that there are college students who are also active duty soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who are working on their degree including several who are working on a PhD!  A good distance learning program can go with the student anywhere.  The students still need to turn lessons in on time and complete the assigned work before the term ends but for the dedicated student with a laptop computer and an occasional internet connection it is possible to overcome huge distances and still attend college.

This same flexibility also serves to help single parents (or the spouse of a deployed soldier or sailor) to attend college while taking care of young ones at home.  It even helps to set the example when the little ones see their parent doing their homework while they are doing their homework!


This is one area that many discussions of distance learning overlook.  With distance learning, a person with various forms of disability is able to attend class just like a person who does not have a disability.  No more does the spread out college campus need to limit or challenge the wheelchair bound or crutch using student.  This also allows those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to attend class and feel like they are more in control of their environment.  Some people have problems dealing with wide open spaces or lots of people and this allows them to attend college on terms that they can deal with much better than if they had to be on campus.

Another aspect of accessibility is that you can now attend a college anywhere instead of just in your home town.  There are students on the East coast attending colleges on the West coast and vice versa.


While the cost of attendance via distance learning is no less expensive, and sometimes actually costs more, there are other expenses that don’t exist!  The student does not have to commute or worry about finding a place to eat that is reasonably priced.  For those attending a far off college while living at home, you avoid the moving cost or the room and board costs.

The Cons:

It is lonely!  This is perhaps the toughest part of distance learning.  You never see and seldom hear from your class mates and you don’t get to build that bond that may come in useful in later years. 

Asking for help can take time!  While the upside is that you can work on your courses anytime, if you need help you will have to wait for your instructor to log on and see your question! 

It is possible to go on much further about these two cons but these short paragraphs say a lot about the cons of distance learning.

The Tools:

While it is neither a pro nor a con of distance learning, but rather an outcome that every student should know about, you will learn many aspects of being on a virtual team and you will expand your ability to communicate via the written word.  You will also develop your time management skills (if not, you’ll wash out of the class) and become a little better organized.  Depending on your individual circumstances, a degree earned via distance education can be a valuable addition to your list of credentials.

Hopefully these pros and cons regarding distance learning have helped you to understand what the pluses and minuses of distance learning are all about.  Before you enroll, make sure you understand all of the college’s requirements and rules regarding distance learning and residency requirements for earning a degree.  After you have assessed the program and your own abilities, then you can decide if distance learning is for you.  Distance learning can be a great opportunity, I should know; I teach three courses online, I’m currently a PhD student and I’ve two undergraduate degrees and two graduate degrees via distance learning while pursuing a full time career. 

From my perspective: Distance Learning Rocks!