Distance education or distance learning is booming. While the growth was enhanced by COVID school closures, the industry was already experiencing growth before that. The sudden shift to distance learning caused by COVID was eye-opening for many institutions as it highlighted some areas where things were good and placed a spotlight on areas needing improvement. Some schools were much better prepared for the sudden shift to remote learning than other schools. This was primarily based on the institution’s years of experience with online courses and the depth of faculty understanding on how to deliver online courses properly. Similarly, some students enjoy online learning, while others prefer to be face-to-face in a classroom. When weighing the options, it is important to consider the pros and cons of distance learning. Consider technology, flexibility, and social interactions.
Technology is one element to consider. As a pro, students can complete their work from anywhere with an Internet connection. However, some students struggle to stay focused and get easily frustrated if they encounter a technology issue. Similarly, students who live in rural areas may encounter issues with Internet speed and the ability to participate in live video conferences or upload or download large files.
The learn-from-anywhere nature of distance learning is based upon the flexibility of completing the work. However, this can be a positive or a negative element. Suppose a student is working full-time or has other responsibilities that demand a significant portion of time. In that case, the ability to put their classwork around their schedule, as opposed to commuting to campus and being in class at a certain time, can be a pro. However, students who lack self-discipline and strong time management skills may struggle with the flexibility of distance learning.
Finally, consider the role of social interactions. Students who thrive on face-to-face interactions and enjoy the live classroom discussion may struggle more with distance learning. There are ways for distance courses to include technology to support social interactions, but they are not the same as a face-to-face experience.
These are just three of many elements to consider when weighing the pros and cons of distance learning.