Amongst the blessings of technology in the modern age is the ability to receive an education hundreds or thousands of miles away from a classroom in a convenient and efficient manner. A vast majority of universities offer open distance learning for students all around the world which, on the surface, seems like a great opportunity to receive an education without the hassle of dealing with overflowing parking lots, rushing to classes, or fitting classes into the current work schedule. However, open distance classes might not be an ideal scenario for every interested person. What are the problems faced by open distance learners? They’re numerous enough to mull over before enrolling in an on-line program.
When asked what are the problems faced by open distance learners, life and its ensuing complications seems to be the number one response. Most enrolled students in open distance learning are committed to their life in some other fashion apart from school such as a family to care for, a necessary full-time job to pay the bills, or some aspect which occupies the majority of their time. Unless the students make a personal commitment to complete the course of study, odds are life will find a way to distract and tear them away from accomplishing their goal of continuing their education.
No Established Routines
Just like students in a traditional school environment, open distance learners must create a dedicated place for studying and learning to take place. At least with a traditional school environment, you had to report to a certain room at a certain time, and usually you could train your brain that this time in the classroom was for learning. Successful students commit to a time to study and a place to study. It’s part of establishing a routine that keeps students plugging ahead when times get tough. Yet life has demands and students of open distance learning tend to gain a false sense of freedom. Yes, you’re free to learn at home, but the other commitments of life are going on around you. Students who stop, drop, and learn don’t tend to retain as much information.
Be honest with yourself. If considering an open distance education, consider your work habits before sitting down to tackle a new facet in life. Self-monitoring is not always effective, especially when procrastination sets in, and, once the work starts piling up, there is less inclination to recover from that procrastination. Just like setting up the work environment, establishing the habit of working is essential and must continue on a regular basis. So procrastinators beware: Open distance learning might not be for you.
Lack of Socializing with Peers and Working with Your Learning Style
Amongst other issues to consider when asked what are the problems faced by open distance learners is the loss of social interactions in a learning environment. Lack of socializing interferes with gaining peer interactions as well as limits the type of instruction a student can receive. For instance, the collaborative learning, or group work, a student might receive in a traditional classroom setting is not possible in most instances with distance learning. If a social interaction were possible with distance learning, students might hesitate to meet with someone whom they only know from the Internet. This type of interaction is an important workforce tool because if you can’t communicate and learn to work well with other personalities, you’ll soon limit yourself and your job performance.
Also, not everyone learns the same way. This problem with open distance learning would definitely hinder a kinesthetic or tactile learner, and if the program doesn’t provide video interaction then an auditory learner would also not fare as well. So, if you learn new concepts best by listening and discussion or by building something or working with manipulatives, then open distance learning is not your best option.
Don’t Understand? You Might Be Left Behind
Finally, the loss of teaching spontaneity or modifying instruction to ensure student comprehension might not initially seem like an issue, but it really does matter. As an instructor, monitoring student comprehension is crucial; otherwise, students don’t understand a concept, the lesson moves on, and one or more students are left behind to try and figure out what they didn’t grasp. Feeling lost while all others continue with the lesson will quickly deflate a confidence level. What are the odds of continuing with a program when you feel like a failure? Not very high at all.
While thousands of people do benefit from open distance learning every year, it’s not the best type of learning environment for everyone. Weigh all of your options and consider what type of student you were in the past as well as what are the problems faced by open distance learners in the last few years. In the long run, you could discover an educational program that fits your needs, whether that is with a traditional style of formal education or an open distance learning education.
This post is part of the series: Learning About Distance Learning
What can you expect from open distance learning and how might you begin accomplishing your goals of furthering your education? This series explores the answers to those questions.