Distance Learning: What Students Need to Know and Expect About Distance Learning

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About Distance Learning

Distance learning (D/L) has been around for years. “Distance education is defined as a formal education process in which the students and instructor are not in the same place.” [1]

Nowadays, D/L is being offered for students who cannot attend classes on-site. It is an opportunity given by many schools to take courses online or pursue a degree without setting foot in a classroom. There are many types of D/L courses: asynchronous or synchronous online lessons, correspondence courses, and DVD lessons, for example.

The U.S. Department of Education agrees that a distance learning education is by no means less worthy than attending schools on-site.

D/L Tips

Today several distance learning programs are offered in virtually any field. Many of the opportunities that students can find by browsing the Web are legitimate, but many scams can be found on the Internet, and one must always be careful when choosing a program. Here are some distance learning education tips that could help a prospective online student.

Tip: Students should always check the accreditation of the schools they are planning on attending. They should choose a school that is either regionally or nationally accredited since the degrees are widely recognized by businesses and institutions.

Tip: Before enrolling in any distance learning programs, students should browse the Internet to check forums or blogs to see what students have to say about certain schools, courses, and programs.

Tip: Students who are interested in distance learning courses from organizations other than schools should see if there is free access to a trial course for prospective students.

Since D/L requires more discipline and responsibility from the student, students should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Am I able to make time in my day for school?
  • Am I able to commit to my studies?
  • Am I physically and mentally able to meet courses deadlines?
  • Can I pace myself without too much supervision to meet course objectives by the deadline?
  • Can I spend enough time online to get enough interaction with the classmates?
  • Do I have a PC that will allow me to log on to the university online system(s) without problems?

Answering “yes” to all questions is a good indication that a student can handle D/L successfully. And, answering “no” may indicate that a student may not be ready for D/L.

How Distance Learning Students Must Organize Themselves

Many distance learning education courses and programs are facilitated by a teacher or an instructor who will create deadlines for students and release lectures and assignments weekly; however, some courses are self-paced and require more discipline and responsibility from students in terms of organizing themselves. Here are a few tips on what to do:

  • Study the syllabus well and break down the material in sections each week.

  • For each week, determine what to read and when to do assignments. Also, set a time or day to complete any required term paper, project, or essay.

  • Address all questions upfront for the facilitator to answer.

  • Schedule study time around family and work commitments. The idea here is, to ensure students keep up with their studies.

  • Know when and from whom to order course books. Remember to buy the required course books early.

  • Decide when to schedule examinations and seek a test proctor if needed (as early as possible to avoid delays and complications).

  • Enroll in courses early; otherwise, they may fill up and leave students without a course for a term, semester, or quarter.

D/L is neither easier nor harder than taking courses in class; it is simply a different study method and requires a different approach! Distance learning education may not be for every student because it may not fit a certain student’s learning style. Distance learning is, however, a great alternative for students whose lives don’t allow them to attend traditional classes.

Source and Reference Section

[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2008). Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions: 2006-07