Distance learning can be a wonderful alternative to traditional learning, especially when there are significant barriers that prevent access to conventional learning situations. However, distance learning also has some definite disadvantages. Anyone planning to study or teach via distance learning should carefully consider these drawbacks and weigh them against the benefits.
Here are some basic distance learning pros and cons. Keep in mind that these are generalizations and everyone is different.
Probably the most obvious benefit of distance learning is the accessibility it provides. Students can learn from anywhere in the world. This is an especially important consideration for foreign students who wish to study in the United States.
Another important advantage of distance learning is that it allows students to study and learn at their own pace. The rigid time constraints of traditional learning are removed. Distance learning also provides accessibility to learning materials at all hours, thus allowing students much flexibility in scheduling around jobs, families, and other activities.
Distance learning has undergone vast improvement in recent years as both students and teachers have become more comfortable with technology.
As convenient as distance learning can be, it just is not a good fit for some. Students who have trouble with time management and procrastination are usually not good candidates for distance learning. They tend to lack the self-discipline required for success in a distance learning environment. This type student needs the structure of a traditional learning setting.
Another disadvantage to distance learning is the technology requirement. Just as some do not have easy access to a traditional learning situation, some do not have ready access to a computer and Internet connection, both of which are required for distance learning. And some who do have the required equipment feel ill-equipped to use it.
Distance learning also changes the way in which interaction between student and teacher contributes to learning. The amount of interaction through distance learning is minimal and involves no face-to-face, in-person dialogue. This is an important disadvantage for students who need immediate feedback.
Teaching via distance learning requires careful planning and coordination by the instructor. Along with making lesson plans and creating instructional materials, the instructor must also coordinate use of equipment and facilities.
Without a doubt, distance learning is changing the world of education for both students and teachers. But before you jump into that world head first, consider the pros and cons to determine the best learning situation for you.