Distant Learning - Distant Education and Student Attitudes

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A Brief Introduction to Distant Learning

Distant learning is a form of education that is conducted through indirect student-teacher interaction and independent study via a variety of media. Distant education courses can be carried out by mail, radio, television and – increasingly nowadays – by way of online learning over the Internet.

Distant learning is becoming more common with technological advances, causing many reputable colleges to begin introducing full or partial distant learning programs as part of their curriculum. The flexibility of location and time makes distant learning programs a viable education option for students unable to pursue a full-time education due to monetary, location, work or health reasons.

When examining attitudes towards distant learning, researchers discovered that the students' attitude towards this type of learning made a big difference in learning success. People with high self-esteem and a positive outlook, for instance, will generally benefit more. This is actually true of all forms of learning. Take a look at a study carried out in Israel, which neatly underscores this finding. Other things that made a difference included the technology used, the amount of student-teacher interaction and also future career prospects.

Student Attitudes towards Distance Learning and Technology

Students who prefer independent study have a more favorable attitude towards distant learning. They can work in their own time and at their own pace. Many students seem to prefer interactive study modules and independent research to viewing video lectures. It helps, of course, to have extremely well-designed course structures like, for example, those offered by the Rosetta Stone language learning courses.

On the other hand, students who require constant external motivation or have trouble with sticking to a self-maintained schedule may not adapt well to distant learning. This is proven extensively in the details set forth by the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium’s paper on student attitudes to learning online.

Student attitude towards distance learning is influenced to a large extent by the technology used for the instruction. These days, distance learning is becoming more technology-based, with interactive modules and use of web based communication applications. Students who have difficulty picking up the required technological skills are not likely to look upon distance learning favorably. Usually, they start out apprehensively and then, as they become familiar with the technology, the level of anxiety goes down, and their attitude towards distant learning starts to get more positive. Fern University discovered that many students feel that technology allows them to participate more actively in the learning process.

Student Teacher Interaction and Career Prospects

Student-teacher interaction is, by the very definition of this type of learning, more limited than that in regular education. However, with widespread use of phones, email, instant messaging and chat, getting in contact and staying in touch has become much easier. Regular student-teacher interaction has been found to be motivational as regards attitude towards distance learning.

Career prospects also influence student attitudes towards distant learning. You are, for example, more likely to put in more effort for a course that will lead to better employment and earning prospects. Employers seem to have a mixed response towards prospective employees with distant learning degrees. Many are willing to consider students with accredited distant learning degrees from reputable educational institutes for employment.

Nevertheless, there seems to be a distinct bias in favor of prospective employees with traditional degrees. According to a study carried out by Jonathan Adams, director of interactive and new communication technologies at Florida State University, and Margaret DeFleur, associate dean of graduate studies and research at Louisiana State University, many employers appear to prefer people with traditional degrees over online graduates. You can find a series of on the Adams-DeFleur research at Pilot Media.