- No need to maintain regular time-schedules - Unless a person has enough time on hand, it is practically impossible for him/her to follow a time-bound classroom schedule. A low attendance percentage often leads to being debarred for examinations. With the help of tech-based learning media, this issue can be effectively addressed. Learners can study according to their convenience, without worrying about rigid schedules.
- Easier on the pocket - The fees on most distance learning courses are significantly lower than the classroom modules. What’s more - students need not spend money on transportation and/or accommodation, while pursuing a web-based course. This is particularly important for out-of-town students. More often than not, the quality of education is the same - but the effective cost becomes lower when you opt for the distance learning option.
- Chance to become familiar with tech gadgets - There’s a big difference between being able to randomly type on a computer, and using internet resources to pursue web-based courses. Thanks to the increasing popularity of mobile app development, texts and references can be shared via internet-enabled smartphone applications as well. There are, of course, online video lessons and interactive student forums too. For students with disabilities, there is a host of specially designed education technology resources. When you sign up for a distance course, you simply have to learn how to make use of these tools.
- The ‘learn as you earn’ option - Distance learning is more popular among working professionals - and this is precisely the reason for that. There is no age bar for signing up for a professional course (of course, till a certain point!), but hardly anyone can quit his/her job to go for classroom coaching. Instead, it’s much more convenient to work during office-hours, and study after getting back home and during weekends. Particularly for courses like MBA and CA, distance learning is the go-to option for many employed people across the globe.
- Round the clock access to books and resources - Since you would be studying at the times you wish, there is no restraint on when you can refer to texts and references. All that is required is a reliable broadband internet connection at home - and you can study in the wee hours of morning, or burn the midnight oil (doing so regularly won’t be advisable from the health perspective though!). What’s more, you can interact, share views, and learn from your ‘virtual classmates’ who have undertaken the same course.
- No learning deadlines - Of course, students who have signed up for distance courses also have to clear qualifying exams - but the day-to-day homework burden can be done away with. There is no pressure of learning up certain topics/chapters/modules within a pre-specified number of days/weeks. You can take your time to understand every concept, and clarify all your doubts - before the final test dates arrive. You’ll need to be sincere to yourself though - if you do not utilize the resources, the expenses will go to waste, and you will end up tricking yourself.
- Geographical barriers take a backseat - It’s the age of tech-based learning - and enrolling at a renowned foreign university does not require traveling to that city/country. You can, from the comfort of your home, browse to the institution’s website, check out the enrollment regulations, dates and fees, and do the needful. Even junior students have the option of learning on the go, via engaging mobile educational apps for kids. Distance learning ensures that it does not matter where someone is located - (s)he will always have access to the best education resources.
- Interaction with teachers/guides - Contrary to what many still believe, a long-distance course offers ample opportunities for students to effectively interact with teachers. In fact, the former can drop off an email or use online chat applications to resolve whatever queries that they might have, at any time. A vast majority of these distance learning service providers have tie-ups with noted academicians - ensuring that proper guidance is often only a few clicks away!
- No need to follow any particular learning order - This is true in most cases. When you sign up for a distance learning course, all (or a portion of) the study material will be sent to you (either online, or via courier). You can study them in the order you feel like - i.e., in the order of topics that interest you most. This makes learning seem less of an arduous task than at classrooms - where Chapter 2 invariably follows Chapter 1 in any text. As long as you cover the entire curriculum, there is no one to monitor the order in which you study.
- Availability of courses on almost all subjects - Previously, distance learning courses used to be limited to a few academic domains. With the development of subject-specific software programs and mobile apps, that has ceased to be an issue. A person can easily find holistic, competitively priced academic courses on even relatively less popular subjects on the web. Looking for classroom courses on such subjects can be a pain.
- Lack of distractions - This is a double-edged sword, but we are here talking about the more meritorious learners here. There are schools, colleges and universities (maybe not the well-known ones), where there are distractions aplenty in the classrooms. As a result, a serious student can miss out on valuable points and lessons shared in class. On the other hand, if you are a distance learner - you can study in the peace and quiet of your home (assuming that your home is peaceful, that is!)
- No peer pressure - Peer pressure can have varying effects on students. While some are spurred on by it to perform better, others can get adversely affected by the petty jealousies of their co-learners. While pursuing a distance learning course, you can track your progress with that of the other students online - but there is no scope for such additional peer pressure. After all, there is one else next to you, taunting you about the time you need to learn something up!
A common complaint against distance learning courses (particularly for professional courses, like MBA) is that - they are not deemed to be of equal value to full-time classroom courses. While this is true to an extent, getting a degree from a reputed, accredited academic institution can help students work their way around this problem. Distance learning is catching on among students of all ages - and it sure has a lot of factors going for it!
Ross Smythe is the senior concept developer at Teknowledge Mobile Studio. He regularly writes on the web, specifically on various topics related to education technology.