College Trends: Distance Learning

Distance learning was already increasing in popularity before the pandemic. After the pandemic, it has become one of the fastest-growing college trends. There are several reasons for this huge surge in popularity of distance learning. But first, it helps to understand exactly what is distance learning.

What Is Distance Learning?

Thanks to technology, students can opt for distance learning.

Flickr user Tim Franklin Photography

Distance learning refers to the process in which students learn through online classes instead of traditional in-person classrooms. Distance learning uses the power of the internet and can take several different forms. Students may learn via video recordings, online lectures, video conferencing, or any other online medium.

Distance learning has come a long way from when it first started. In the beginning, there was little or no interaction between teacher and student or among students. That has changed in recent years. Students can interact freely with teachers and other students using video conferring, chat rooms, and other instant messaging technology. They can ask teachers questions, discuss project ideas with teammates, and even complete group work together using internet technology.

In terms of academics, distance learning offers students everything they can get through in-person traditional classrooms. Most reference materials that students need for their program are scanned, uploaded, and easily accessible online. Completed assignments are submitted to professors as email attachments or uploaded to their classroom portal. Students don’t need to visit traditional libraries or send completed tests and assignments by post or courier.

One thing to keep in mind is that flexibility and convenience don’t necessarily mean easy. Online programs can be just as rigorous as traditional programs. Students are expected to put in the work, submit assignments on time, and excel in the tests to earn good grades. Distance learning is not meant to be an easy way to earn a degree. Instead, it’s meant to make a good education more accessible and more affordable to everyone.

Benefits Of Distance Learning

The biggest advantage of distance learning is that it makes higher education more accessible to everyone. It eliminates all geographical boundaries, allowing students from anywhere in the world to enroll in any program they want without having to relocate. Students can enroll in their desired program in a specific college from halfway around the world. Distance learning also makes higher education more accessible to students who are unable to attend in-person classes for any reason. This could be because of a disability or because they have to care for younger children or older adults at home.

Another big benefit of distance learning is the tremendous flexibility it offers. It is a welcome solution for students who have other obligations that prevent them from attending traditional classes on a fixed schedule. With distance learning, they can balance their studies with other personal commitments.

Affordability is another huge advantage of distance learning. Online programs offer full degrees at a fraction of the cost of attending traditional on-campus classes. In addition to those savings, students also save on accommodation, fees, text books, transportation and several other expenses that all add up. Moreover, students enrolled in online classes can also work while studying. Being able to graduate with minimum or zero student loan debt is the deciding factor for many students.

Potential Downsides of Distance Learning

Despite its considerable benefits, distance learning does have a few downsides that you should be aware of. Students who enroll in online programs miss the in-person interactions with classmates and professors. This is one of the biggest deterrents for many students. This lack of interaction and collaboration can leave students feeling isolated and unmotivated. It’s something you must take into consideration before enrolling in a distance learning program. These programs are best suited for students who have a strong sense of self-motivation and self-discipline.

How To Choose a Distance Learning School

If you’ve decided that distance learning is right for you, the next thing to do is choose the right program. Online programs vary considerably from one another in terms of quality of education, total cost, and the programs they offer. And yes, many online schools are nothing more than degree mills or outright scams. You must take the time to do your research to make sure that you choose the right school for you.

Here are some things you must look for when choosing a distance learning school:

1. Accreditation

This is the single most important thing to look for in any school. Accreditation is an approval certification granted by an independent accrediting organization. It ensures that the institution meets specific academic standards. It also ensures that the credits you earn will be recognized by traditional universities as well as future employers. Enrolling in a school that isn’t properly accredited is a waste of time and money. Many universities and employers won’t recognize a degree certificate obtained from an unaccredited school.

2. Choice of programs

As with traditional schools, every online school offers a variety of academic programs. Before enrolling in any school, it’s important to dig deeper into their programs. You want to make sure that the curriculum aligns with your higher education goals. Does the school offer the combination of subjects you’re interested in? Does it offer professional certification or an Associates degree?

3. Transfer of credits

If you intend to pursue a Master’s degree or some other professional certification, make sure that your credits will transfer. Not every college accepts credits from online schools. Some colleges may accept only some credits from select online schools but not others. Before enrolling, make sure that your credits will transfer.

4. Features and fit

Don’t take anything for granted when enrolling in an online school. Doing a deep dive into one program and expecting that all are the same is a big mistake. No two programs will be exactly the same. Even if the curriculum is similar, there will be a big difference in the format, quality, cost, teaching style, and even the success rate. Research every program you’re interested in at length to determine if it is the right fit for you.

5. Quality of faculty

Having good teachers is crucial, whether it’s a traditional classroom or an online classroom. Reputed online schools go out of their way to hire experienced professors who are experts in their field. Most schools also list their faculty on their website. It’s worth taking the time to check the professors’ bios to determine their educational background and teaching experience.

6. Requirements and schedule

Every distance learning school is set up differently. Every school sets their own schedule for live virtual classes. Requirements and expectations from students also vary from one course to another. Some may require students to attend live sessions, while others may not require mandatory attendance. Some may set firm deadlines, while others may allow students to work at their own pace. Every student’s circumstances are different too. You may prefer firm deadlines while another student may prefer working at their own pace. Go through the requirements and schedule of every program you’re interested in to determine whether it works for you. Make sure you can meet the requirements and schedule before you enroll in any program.

7. Cost

Cost is the ultimate barrier in choosing a distance learning school. You will see that the cost varies significantly from one school to another. Even the way the fees are set up will vary. When calculating the total cost, make sure to take into consideration tuition fees as well as all other costs. Add the registration fees, and test fees if any. If you need to invest in new technology to enroll in a particular program, add that to the total cost. Consider what you’re getting for the money and whether you can afford it.

Colleges with distance learning programs

Several colleges across the US offer distance learning programs. These are a few programs offered by reputed universities:

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