Now that so many households, at least in the Western world, have access to the Internet, the possibility of studying long distance has become much more commonplace. Many courses are now available online and it means that the student doesn’t need to travel to a place of learning, which can be a boon to those who have family responsibilities. Nevertheless, long distance learning might not be right for you. Before coming to a decision, you need to consider the following factors.
Not all courses are available online
Courses that are largely academic in nature may be suitable for online learning. However, some courses, particularly those that have a more practical aspect, may not be available – or, if they are, may not be appropriate. If you want to study a vocational course, for example, you are advised to check whether the course includes any time to meet up for practical experience. If you are expected to do so regularly, while completing the rest of the course online, it may detract from many of the advantages of long distance learning; especially if you are expected to give up a week of your time in one go to complete practical elements.
Unfortunately, scams exist, advertised online by unscrupulous organisations that take your money and then either don’t follow through with the course, or provide you with a course that is not recognised by employers. You should be able to avoid this if you are careful, do your research and shop around for the best course for you. Ideally, it should be hosted by a recognised bricks-and-mortar college or university so that you can ask for recommendations and speak to someone about the course if necessary. You should also make sure that the course is properly accredited according to the regulations in your country.
Lack of regular access to tutors
If you are the sort of person who learns best with the regular assistance of tutors, you may struggle with long distance learning. One tutor is probably expected to cover a number of students, so may not be available to give advice as often as you would like. You may also find that you are reluctant to ask too many questions of someone you have never met. Whereas in a face-to-face meeting, you can cover a number of issues and pursue them to your satisfaction, this is much more difficult if you are just in touch by email. A distance learning student needs to be able to work largely alone and have the study and research skills to do so.
Motivation could be an issue
A large part of studying is the interaction that you have with other students. Together, you can iron out any problems with understanding the course and you can motivate one another. When you study online, you may never meet any of your fellow students, although hopefully there will be some kind of forum where you can ask questions and share experiences. Also when you are able to study to your own timetable, you may find that you keep putting studying off and become distracted by outside influences. You may also find that studying alone is dull and therefore quickly lose interest in what you are doing.
Technology can get in the way
Long distance courses will involve most, if not all, of your work being done online. That has some advantages; your course material will probably be largely available online, saving you the time and money needed to go backwards and forwards to the library. However, if you are not very technically-savvy, you may struggle to cope with accessing information and the requirements of submitting assignments. There is also the risk that, if your computer gets a virus or breaks down, you could be out of action until it is fixed. When you go to a bricks-and-mortar university, you will have access to technicians and training in computer skills.
Not all employers approve of long distance learning
There are a lot of advantages to going to college or university other than the course itself. You will mix with people from all sorts of different backgrounds, will build on your communication skills, learn from extracurricular activities and, perhaps most importantly, will be able to network with other students and lecturers. When employers know that you have done a course at a reputable establishment, they know you have developed these skills. Online courses, of course, are minus all these advantages and some employers will take this into consideration, especially if you only have online qualifications.
These are just some of the disadvantages of long distance learning. Nevertheless, there are also a lot of advantages to consider. You know your situation better than anybody, so weigh up the pros and cons and go with the option that is most appropriate for you.