What is distance learning?
Distance learning programs cater to students who are pursuing an off-campus program or are not physically present in a traditional classroom. It utilizes various technologies and communication platforms to overcome both temporal and spatial distances between students and instructors. With rapid advancements in technology, distance learning is fast becoming as effective as on-campus programs. In some aspects, such as flexibility, accessibility, and convenience, it even surpasses traditional degree programs. Distance learning programs have enabled students from across the globe to study at good universities and colleges without having to relocate.
Benefits of Joining a Distance Learning Program
In addition to being more affordable and convenient than traditional on-campus programs, distance learning allows students to study at their own pace and schedule. You don't have to face the pressure of assignment deadlines or worry about missing a class. These programs also empower you to strike a balance between your studies and work routine. Course material and information is readily available on the web, and many educational institutions even conduct their exams online.
Minimizing the Distance
A distance learning program can only be effective if it manages to make the distance between instructors and students as short as possible. The primary challenge any distance learning program faces is that of setting up an effective channel of communication and removing the psychological space by making learners comfortable with the system.
Distance learning began even before the advent of the Internet. During those days, correspondence and lessons were conducted through letters and mail. Today, we have many channels of communication including Internet chatting applications, email, voice over IP software, and video conferencing. These technologies facilitate students with having productive dialogues with their instructors and peers. Some programs even make use of group discussion applications that enable learners to interact with other students from all corners of the world. Distance learning programs also encourage students to take part in online discussions and participate in activities that involve collaboration. Distance learning program courses are also specially designed to instruct and test students over a distance. Students, on their part, need to have a certain degree of self-directedness and must keep themselves motivated at all times to take initiatives in learning. With enhanced accessibility to information and freedom to follow a flexible schedule, self-directedness plays a vital role in students' education.
Synchronous and Asynchronous Technologies
While synchronous communication is better in almost all situations, it is not always possible for people to talk in real-time especially when there is a time difference. Some of the popular technologies used in facilitating synchronous communication include web chatting and conferencing software, live streams, and VoIP applications that enable people to have a telephonic conversation over the Internet. There are even a number of distance learning programs that administer live lectures through video streaming. Asynchronous communication and instruction channels include regular emails, recorded lectures on CDs and DVDs, and reading material. Many distance learning schools also upload the recordings of lectures on their website so that students can easily download the video/audio files and watch them at their leisure.