The Pros and Cons of Distance Learning

     Almost everyone thinks about the advantages of a college education at one time or another, and those who feel they have the intellectual and financial resources required are usually faced with a number of viable options that will enable them to achieve their goal. Traditionally, of course, this has involved attending college courses, either in one’s own town, or away from home, perhaps in another state, or even through a series of correspondence courses.

     In recent years, however, the idea of distance education through the internet has become very popular. This can be an excellent way to further one’s education, especially for mature students who must continue working and for others who have to deal with a heavy family schedule. There are some advantages to studying for a college degree this way, but there are a few disadvantages as well.

     Flexibility is the most obvious benefit for students who study on-line. Many mature students are unable to tie themselves down to set times and locations for classes because of the other commitments that control their lives. Family and work can occupy a great deal of their time, and being able to set their own times for study is a great advantage to them. Through the use of lap-top computers they are able to control not only the time of study but the location as well. Easy access to lectures and tests is available at any time of day or night from any location that is convenient to the student.

     The on-line degree programs offered by so many colleges today are almost always up to the minute in terms of current thinking and relevant materials. This is very useful to students who are working, because they are able to apply the latest information available to their current jobs and work environment. Employers can see the advantage of this, and sometimes they are willing to help with the cost of tuition because of the obvious benefits to the organization through increased efficiency.

     The choice of on-line programs is somewhat limited when compared to what is available in a bricks-and-mortar college, though this will likely change in the future. Nevertheless, students can study for a bachelor’s or a master’s degree on-line, and courses in accounting, marketing, business, and technology are readily available. On-line students typically study one class at a time for approximately six weeks and the whole program may take three or four years to complete.

     On-line degree programs are not for everyone, and some students will not be able to succeed in their studies this way. A great deal of self-discipline, motivation, and perseverance is required. Many people need a rigid study schedule and the day-to-day interaction with other students that a college environment can provide. It is important to examine one’s own priorities before deciding on a course of studies and how to achieve the desired academic goals.

     Most people still believe that a degree qualification is best achieved in the traditional way, attending lectures and writing examinations at college with other students. If this is not possible, then by all means, on-line programs should be considered. The cost of obtaining a degree this way is no more than it would be for attending college, and as these programs improve in scope and depth they are becoming more acceptable in the workplace.