Distance learning is a great advance forward in making education more accessible to millions of Americans who would simply not have the time or resources to obtain a college degree or technical certificate. It allows people from all over the country, even in remote or rural areas to plug into technology that lets them learn, at their own speed and on their own time.
But distance learning is not for everyone and some people need the familiar surroundings of a real classroom and a real teacher in order to learn. That’s because our traditional education model features three key components that have proven to be effective in helping to educate large numbers of people. Those components are human teacher expression and explanation, student note-taking based on the teacher’s presentation, and peer communication between the students that is facilitated by the teacher.
None of these elements are present in distance learning and as a result it becomes a foreign way for students, old or young, to receive and process the information in order to learn.
In order to be successful in distance learning we must find a way to overcome the fact that these traditional elements are missing in our online education. Some people can do that and others cannot.
Other barriers to distance learning include having the ability to be self-motivated and to do all of the necessary work including studying in order to be successful. If you can’t study or complete assignments without the monitoring and occasional nudge from a teacher then distance learning may not be for you. Similarly if you don’t have the discipline to participate in all online events and to protect your time and space from interruptions and distractions you will find it very hard to go through a distance learning program.
Distance learning may not be for you as well if you already have a busy life that involves a lot of time and responsibilities. You can try and study as you watch over your children at the pool, but sooner or later one of your kids will by accident or design pull you away from your studies. You can try and do a distance learning program while working 60 hours at the office, but eventually something will give, and that’s likely to be your homework assignment.
Distance learning really is a giant step forward in using technology to improve our lives and education. Just remember that it may not be right for you, at least right now.