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Distance learning, sometimes called e-learning, is a formalized teaching and

learning system specifically designed to be carried out remotely by using electronic


communication. Because distance learning is less expensive to support and is not
constrained by geographic considerations, it offers opportunities in situations where
traditional education has difficulty operating. Students with scheduling or distance
problems can benefit, as can employees, because distance education can be more
flexible in terms of time and can be delivered virtually anywhere.

Popular distance learning technologies include:

Voice-centered technology, such as CD or MP3 recordings or Webcasts


Video technology, such as instructional videos, DVDs, and interactive
videoconferencing
Computer-centered technology delivered over the Internet or corporate
intranet
Studies indicate that distance learning can be as effective as the traditional
format when the methods are appropriate to the teaching tasks, there is
student-teacher interaction, and the teachers provide students with
appropriate and timely feedback.

Forms of distance learning

1. Synchronous distance learning - Learning by chatting online,


teleconferencing and sitting in a classroom. This type of learning offers less
flexibility and affects the students life to an extent. Involves live
communication either through sitting in a classroom, chatting online, or
teleconferencing. It is, however, the most popular form of college distance
learning and continuing education programs, as it facilitates a greater
amount of interaction between students and professors, as it makes
interaction between students and professors easy.

Synchronous learning is best suited for degree programmes that draw


attention to communication, such as nursing, counselling psychology, general
psychology, and general education.

2. Asynchronous distance learning - typically has set weekly time limit, but
otherwise provides the students with the freedom to work at their own free
will. Students have more communication with other fellow students and
communicate through online notice boards. Asynchronous learning might get
difficult at times because for the students the only information received text
medium. However in some classes, video or audio option is also available.
3. Open Schedule Online Courses - With open schedule online courses,
students are allotted the greatest amount of freedom. This is an
asynchronous form of learning in which students are provided Internet-based
textbooks, mailing lists, Email and bulletin boards to complete their
coursework. At the beginning of classes, the student is provided a set of
deadlines, but is allowed to work at their own pace as long as the work is
turned in by the deadline. This type of learning is great for students who work
well independently and those who do not procrastinate.
4. Hybrid Distance Learning- Hybrid courses combine synchronous and
asynchronous learning to create a structure in which the student is required
to meet at a specific time in a classroom or Internet chat room. However,
they are allowed to complete assignments on their own time and may pass
them in through an online forum. This option is sometimes offered when a
university lacks adequate space to accommodate all their course loads.
5. Computer Based Distance Learning - The main difference between
computer based learning and hybrid learning is that students are not allowed
an open schedule. They are required to meet in a specific computer lab or in
a classroom at a designated time each week.
6. Fixed Time Online Courses - The most common type of distance learning
today is fixed time courses. As the title states, these courses are strictly
online, but students are required to log-in to their online learning site at a
specific time. Although they are completely online, the format remains
synchronous because mandatory live chats are often required.
Advantages of Distance Learning

Flexibility

Distance learning is a very flexible way to study because you are able to choose
when and where you study. There are no timetabled classes to attend which means
you can fit studying for a qualification around your other commitments. You
wouldn't be adjusting your time because you can study at home or in an office
nearby where catching time wouldn't be a distraction to your study.

No Commuting

Taking online courses can be one way to cut down expensive gas or public
transportation since students can have their classes anywhere as long as there is a
laptop and an internet connection. Time and energy is also conserved because the
travel time would be very distracting especially when the school is very far.

Lowered costs

Prices for online courses are generally cheaper than their on-campus counterparts
and you wont have to worry about moving or getting meal plans on campus, some
additional benefits to learning from home.

Learn while working


As distance learning can usually be completed on your own schedule, it is much
easier to complete distance learning courses while working than more traditional
educational programs. Keeping your job gives you more income, experience and
stability while completing your degree giving you less to worry about and more time
to focus on your studies.

Disadvantages of Distance Learning:

Lack of social interaction. If the classroom environment is what you love


most about learning you may want to take a step back and reconsider
distance learning. Youll likely get some interaction on chat rooms, discussion
boards and through email, but the experience will be quite different than
traditional courses.
Format isnt ideal for all learners. Not everyone is an ideal candidate for
online learning. If you know you have problems with motivation,
procrastination and needs lots of individual attention from an instructor you
may want to think long and hard before enrolling in an online learning
program.
Some employers dont accept online degrees. While a majority of
employers will, there are some who still see a stigma attached to distance
learning. Realize that your online degree may not be the ideal tool for some
job fields or forfuture learning.
Requires adaptability to new technologies. If youve never been one to
love working with technology you will probably get a lot less out of an online
course than your more tech-savvy counterparts. Make sure you feel
comfortable working with computers and with online programs before you
sign up for a class.
Not all courses required to complete the degree may be offered
online. It makes sense that more practical majors like nursing arent offered
entirely online, after all, part of the degree is learning to work directly with
patients. Find out all the requirements of your degree to see what may need
to be completed offline.
Distance learning requires self-motivation. Because distance learning is
flexible, you need good organization, planning and work to make it happen.
Academic leaders cited in Growing by Degrees, Online Education in the
United States, 2006, stated, "Students need more discipline to succeed in
online courses." Though the instructor is not seated in front of you, you still
need to complete your assignments on time. Like all other forms of learning,
there are deadlines to be met, "fixed-time" exams to be taken and
assignments to be completed before the "Drop Box" closes. There are no
compromises and you can easily get a zero! Distance learning is best suited
for mature motivated learners who cannot afford the time to participate in a
traditional classroom
Distance learning does not give you direct access to your
instructor. Some students fear the loss of the personal touch with an
instructor, such as asking questions after class. However, distance learning
often gives you an opportunity to email your instructor any time or chat
online. It is normal to fear the loss of human contact offered in a traditional
classroom until you commit yourself to this mode of learning and
communication.
Distance learning is isolated. Although you are in a virtual classroom full
of students, the dynamics of interaction change with online education. You
may feel detached or lonely when you pursue a distance learning program
but there are opportunities to send emails, post to message boards and
engage in online group discussions. At first you might miss face-to-face
contact with your instructor and other learners, but web collaboration can fill
this void for many students.
Distance learning requires you to have constant, reliable access to
technology. Students need total access to the equipment necessary to fulfill
course requirements. For example, online courses require a computer with
Internet access. For a course with material on CD or DVD, you need to have a
multimedia player. Technical requirement may be difficult to meet for some
students who may feel overwhelmed and challenged if they are not
completely computer literate. Technical glitches and dealing with an
unfamiliar learning environment can cause stress and frustration, but there
are many ways to overcome these barriers.
Distance learning does not offer immediate feedback. In a traditional
classroom setting, a student's performance can be immediately assessed
through questions and informal testing. With distance learning, a student has
to wait for feedback until the instructor has reviewed their work and
responded to it.
Distance learning does not always offer all the necessary courses
online. Students pursuing a specific certificate or degree program may not
have all the necessary courses available through distance learning so it is not
suited for all subjects. For example, you can study a history lesson
completely online but you cannot perform nursing clinicals online. For some
courses, physical classroom attendance will be mandatory to complete the
course.
Distance learning may not be acknowledged by a specific
employer. Although most employers do acknowledge distance learning,
certain employers do not. Students who want to work for a specific employer
upon graduation should be sure of that employer's perspective about online
education.
Hidden costs. If you work for the military and you are on the ship, learning
material may need to be mailed in advance thus incurring extra shipping and
handling costs
Distance learning must be accredited. You take a serious risk when you
pursue distance learning programs that are not accredited because they may
be issuing fraudulent, invalid degrees. Not all distance learning is legitimate -
there are many "degree mills" colleges that are not accredited. This is
probably the most important factor to check before you enroll in a distance
learning institution.
Distance learning does not give students the opportunity to work on
oral communication skills.Students in distance learning courses do not get
the practice of verbal interaction with professors and other students.