Recognizing the pitfalls of distance learning can make for a more rewarding experience

Distance learning is a great opportunity for students to pursue college in a non-traditional style. One unique aspect of online university programs is the fact it offers tremendous benefits for people who want to pursue higher education, but have challenges in meeting these goals due to either personal or work constraints. For these individuals, online universities open a door which otherwise would have been slammed shut to hopeful students. If you are one of the many students who have difficulties attending class in a traditional classroom setting, now you can enjoy the flexibility and elastic way of learning that online programs offer.

Before you enroll, there are a few aspects of distance learning you should consider. As terrific as online courses are, as with many things in life, you’ll also learn there are a few drawbacks associated with engaging in a totally online learning environment.

Lack of personal interaction

One of the biggest disadvantages of distance learning is the online student doesn’t have the ability to engage in personal interaction with counsellors, professors and fellow classmates; this factor may be a big drawback for some students. Coursework completed over the Internet removes the “human element” which exists in the interaction traditional classrooms possess. Many students who are enrolled in a full online program often miss the interpersonal conversation which transpires in a regular classroom.

While online programs have made many positive strides to include the human element in interaction by professors including phone calls, video lectures and other tangible techniques, it still has a way to go before it is equivalent to the experience students have in the traditional classroom environment.

Socialization on campus

Another downside is students miss out on campus life. If this is important to you it is a significant consideration you should carefully evaluate before making the decision to plunge into a distance learning program. Campus programs such as clubs, organization, sports, student government and other special events are not always a part of the “non-traditional” student’s life. Students committed to studies on the web are not usually able to make use of these types of activities offered on campus. As a result, many opportunities for socialization are often non-existent.

This is also another area where colleges are working to improve by offering networking and other social gatherings so online students can experience a degree of socialization like traditional students do. The drawback is this is often difficult for most online students who are going to classes through distance learning because they have either time constraints or they don’t live local to their college.

Limited resources

Resources may also be limited for the online student. Distance learning centers do offer many options to students, but you’ll miss out on many other resources campus universities typically offer. Support such as workshops, study groups, hands-on writing and tutor centers and are not accessible. The Internet learning online program framework does typically offer innovative ways to assist students, but sometimes the interpersonal contact is more useful and helpful to students who are struggling in a specific subject area.

Curriculum limitations

There are also some curriculum limitations students face. For instance, many subjects, such as physical education, dance, and some disciplines in music and art may be unavailable to the online student. While many schools are working hard to incorporate these classes into modern degree programs, it is not the same as taking it in a traditional classroom. If these types of topics fall within your realm of interest you are likely better off exploring programs which take place in the traditional classroom instead.


A large downside to many students is cost. Scholarships do exist, but criteria are not always inclusive of online programs; opportunities are continuously improving and expanding, but there are still some limitations for online learning students. Additionally, most distance learning programs have technology and other types of fees attached to the overall costs of tuition and other mandated registration fees. These extra fees can significantly add up over the course of a college career. However, on the plus side, many distance learning colleges offer flat rates for either in-state or out-of-state tuition.

Distance learning is here to stay and will continue to experience growth and popularity despite the downfalls some students find themselves experiencing. What is most important when determining whether or not online education is right for you is to list the positives and weigh it against the negatives. Many students who may occasionally feel they are missing out on bits and pieces that factor into a traditional college education, often feel the benefits outweigh the down sides.