Written by: Kaleido
People usually have mixed opinions about distance education because, like most things in life, this approach to education presents a series of both pros and cons. If your teenager is about to begin post-secondary education and is considering doing part or all of the program online, you can help with this important decision by gathering information on the subject. Your teen will then have all the facts on what distance courses truly imply to make a well-informed decision. With this in mind, here are the main advantages and disadvantages of distance education.
Let’s start with the perks. Most people associate online courses with flexibility… and they’re right! Students who study online can manage their time more freely and plan their days as they wish! This can be appealing for students who work part-time, as it offers a solution to strike a healthy school-work-life balance. It also allows parent students to spend more time with their children and to juggle family life and school more efficiently. Lastly, let’s not forget about working adults who study part-time; they are rarely available during business hours to attend class.
Distance education also allows students to set their own pace. Sure, they still have to keep up with classes and be ready for exams, but they enjoy more freedom on a day-to-day basis. Students can establish a study schedule and make it work with their other personal obligations rather than conform to a more rigid timetable. For example, some night owls study late because that’s when they’re most efficient. Unfortunately, this can be hard to manage with class at 8:30 the next morning!
Online courses are a convenient option when students want to pursue a program far from home. After all, not everyone has the means or the desire to move for school. Distance education even allows students to enrol in a program offered by a foreign school; a great way to broaden one’s horizons!
Self-directed learning isn’t given to all students. While some may find it easy to learn by themselves, others need interaction with a teacher or other students. Fortunately, teachers often provide presentations and other visual aids to which they sometimes add audio commentaries. Class portals also generally include a forum, offering students a venue to ask questions and receive answers from their teachers fairly quickly. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s harder to communicate via the Internet than face to face. Email isn’t always the best means of communication when students want clear explanations. After all, nonverbal behaviour is the most crucial aspect of communication.
To take online classes students have to be self-disciplined, organized, and keep their objectives clear in mind. Procrastinating can be dangerous and must be avoided as it can be hard to catch up once students fall behind, even if only slightly. Freshmen are more prone to being a little lost at first because they’ve always operated under a clearly defined structure, meaning they’re not particularly practised in time management.
Motivation is the key to success when taking online courses; but it can be hard for students to stay driven when they’re all alone at home in front of a screen. For some, a classroom is a more stimulating learning environment given their need to interact with other peers and a teacher in order to absorb. Lack of interaction can also result in a lesser sense of belonging to the program of study―another important source of motivation. Moreover, students who like teamwork might be disappointed by online courses: not all of them include group assignments and those that do rarely require that students work in person. Chances are team members won’t necessarily live near each other or won’t have matching schedules. All this makes distance education a little impersonal. Online courses are often much more populated than in-class courses and some students can feel they fade into the crowd or aren’t appreciated, which can quickly lead to discouragement.
Lastly, the distance programs offered by post-secondary institutions vary greatly in structure: some combine both online and on-campus courses while others propose virtual classrooms. This is why students should inquire about the online program’s curriculum to ensure it works for them before enrolling. Another thing to consider: distance education can be either entirely or partially online. It isn’t uncommon for students enrolled in a program with on-site classes to follow a few of their courses online. Other students complete their entire education online in establishments designed specifically for this, such as the Centre for Distance Education.
Students should make sure they fully understand what a distance education implies before diving in head first. Individual personality plays a big role in whether a student will find online courses easy or difficult. It’s all a matter of learning methods, motivation and autonomy. Also, certain fields of study are obviously better suited for online courses than others. All in all, when done right, distance education can be a wonderful opportunity to succeed!