What Is Distance Learning: A Comprehensive Guide

Gone are the days when learning was only possible when teachers and students met in a physical classroom. Technological advancement has displaced this barrier, and distance learning is now possible.

Many individuals are embracing distance learning now more than ever. You can take classes from anywhere in the world, at your convenience. Teachers no longer have to stress about meeting students in a classroom; you can teach from the comfort of your home.

Generally, distance is no more a barrier to many things, thanks to science and technology. So, if you are considering taking up a distance learning program, you are making the right choice.

Moreso, this article contains all there is to know about distance learning: its types, importance, and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Kindly read along to learn more.

What Does Distance Learning Mean?

Distance learning is a method of learning in which students and teachers communicate through the internet, email, virtual classroom, etc., instead of meeting physically in a school.

In other words,  you may not need to be physically present in a classroom to learn. Teachers can also conduct classes from any location.

It started as far back as the 1840s but was not popular among people especially in developing countries but with the advent of technology and the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are resorting to distance learning.

SEE: What Is E-Learning

How does distance learning work?

Distance learning in itself is flexible. Different educational institutions now provide a platform for distance learning and there are different approaches to it. These approaches are;

1. Blended distance learning

This is also known as hybrid distance learning. It combines traditional face-to-face education in a classroom and online learning.

This approach is one in which the students are physically present in the class while coursework and assignment are done online.

Advantages of blended distance learning

A.  Personalised training experience

One of its advantages is that it gives everyone a chance to receive personalized training. Each and every individual learns at their own pace. As a result, the learning needs of everyone are fully catered for.

B. It’s more fun

Individuals get to experience both worlds of learning. You get to experience the world of online learning and physical experience.

The students get to enjoy the benefits of traditional classroom learning and online learning, which makes learning more effective.

Disadvantages of blended distance learning

A. Basic technology knowledge

The students must have basic technical knowledge, which may not be the case in most developing countries and people from poor backgrounds.

As such, blended learning is enjoyable only for people from developed countries or people from well-to-do backgrounds.

b). Instability

There’s no defined mode of learning. Students have to go through the stress of mixing both forms of learning.

This might not allow the students to enjoy the full benefits of either mode of learning.

2. Full-time distance learning

This is one in which learning is strictly done online. In this case, the learning process does not happen physically in any way.

In other words, it does not include traditional classroom learning. It can be done from any part of the world as the distance is not a barrier.

Advantages of full-time distance learning

A. Greater flexibility

It helps students study at their own convenience. This helps students study without interfering with other commitments.

B. No cost of transportation

Here, students do not need to leave their location to acquire education since they can access classes from where they are.

As a result, you bear no cost of transporting yourself to the campus or school. Also, students take and complete assignments and assessments from wherever they are.

C. Less expensive and time-saving

It provides an avenue for the middle-class individuals of the society to get good and quality education within a short period as compared to the traditional mode of learning.

Some schools allow students to pay tuition in installments. Also, you no longer have to transport, pay for accommodation, or buy academic materials like textbooks.

SEE: Ways Online Learning Beats Physical Classes

Disadvantages of full-time distance learning

A. Complicated technology

Any student seeking full-time distance learning should be ready to invest in getting a range of technical equipment to access classes.

Moreso, software or hardware malfunction may disrupt the learning process, thus demotivating students.

B. Overdependence on technology

All through the learning process, you use technological equipment and the internet. This overdependence is a significant drawback to full-time distance learning.

Hence, individuals who lack discipline may find it difficult to cope. Also, some individuals prefer physical connections with instructors.

SEE: Reasons Why Online Learning Is Bad

Types of Distance learning

In recent times, distance learning has advanced considerably due to the latest development in technology, and this has led to the emergence of types of distance learning which includes;

1. Synchronous distance learning

This is one in which the students all learn at the same time. It can be done either through teleconferencing, video conferencing, or chatting online. Basically, it involves live communication.

It is preferable for degree programs that involve a high level of communication such as psychology, counseling, nursing, and many more.

Advantages of synchronous distance learning

A. Learning is more interactive

In this case, there’s engagement between all students and the instructor. Each student gets to contribute to topics discussed in the class.

In addition, it allows for group work and presentations. This creates a greater feeling of togetherness and lessens the feeling of isolation. This in turn aids the social life of these students.

B. Better communication and understanding

There’s a more responsive exchange between the instructor and the students in this case. Furthermore, students get immediate answers about any aspects of the learning process when it’s unclear to them. As a result, students get to understand lessons better.

Disadvantages of Synchronous Distance Learning

A. Less personalised for learners

Synchronous learning is not designed to suit learners. Instead, the teachers determine the learning pace and lecture time.

Moreso, every student has to adhere to the time scheduled for each class, and students can’t access missed classes.

B. It is less flexible

It is more like the traditional classroom learning model but digital. You have to meet up with the class regardless of how busy you might be.

Students bear all the loss in cases of technical difficulties during online learning because classes continue regardless. As such, students may miss out on a lot of things taught.

2. Asynchronous distance learning

This is a form of learning where students access classes at different times. However, deadlines are strictly set often within a week, but students can learn at their own pace.

In addition, students can communicate with each other through online notice or bulletin boards.

Advantages of Asynchronous Distance Learning

A. More effective method of learning

In this case, there’s an opportunity for every learner to have full access to the instructor, and this aids effective communication between them and meets individual students’ needs.

In other words, every student has the opportunity to learn how best it suits him and when best he assimilates.

B. Higher level of flexibility

Here, learners can study at any time and according to their own pace since there is no specific time scheduled for classroom learning.

Also, it provides an opportunity for students to access classes and the materials used in class for times when you need to review or brush up on what you’ve learned.

Disadvantages of Asynchronous Distance Learning

  • Course materials and instructions may at times be misunderstood and misinterpreted without the real-time interaction.
  • Students may feel less satisfied without social interaction between their instructors and peers

How To Teach Distance Learning

If you are a teacher and looking to go into the online space, you can apply as a teacher to any available school offering remote education. Some universities that offer distance learning courses include The University of Florida, The Open University, Walden University, and a host of others.

Also, look out for the teacher’s requirements to see if you qualify. Online teachers have modules they work with, just like traditional classroom learning.

If you are an experienced traditional classroom teacher, you won’t have much problem teaching remotely, and if you are new to the teaching job, all you have to do is groom yourself.

In addition, online learning platforms are available for you to create courses that students can access anytime.

Lastly, as a teacher in the online space, here are some tips to guide you.

  • Start by asking about the welfare of your students
  • Simplify what you teach and how you teach
  • Give a quick review on the last lesson taught
  • Be a learner yourself
  • Use lightnings, music and games to your advantage
  • Make the class an interactive one. Engage your student
  • Manage your classroom
  • Be attentive to the need of each and every students
  • Plan ahead of your class. Have a lesson plan
  • Have objectives of what you want to students to know at the end of each class
  • Consider digital grouping strategy
  • Let there be intervals for break. Do not bore your students

How to Study Distance learning

If you are interested in distance learning, you must apply to an academic institution that offers online courses, but you have to meet the requirements.

Here are some steps you have to take in applying for distance learning courses.

1. Select an Institution to apply to

Various institutions now offer online courses. Make a list of at least three institutions you want to apply to, increasing your chance of gaining admission. John Hopkins University, Northwestern University, and the University of California could be part of your options.

2. Choose a program to apply for

Just like having options of institutions to choose from, you should also have a list of courses to choose from as this will raise your chances of getting accepted.

Institutions that adopt distance learning have a range of online programs they offer. Some of these programs are:

  • Accounting
  • Art History
  • Biology
  • Child development
  • Computer Engineering
  • Management Science
  • Linguistic

Before applying for a course, make findings to see if your desired institution is offering that course or related courses

3. Complete the online application

You might need to set up an account that will include most of your personal details. Also, you may need to upload some documents electronically.

Some institutions may require other documents and some institutions accept applications by post.

4. Prepare for the admission interview

Some universities or certain programs may require an interview which may be conducted via Skype or Zoom, through email, or online.

Prepare yourself to answer basic questions such as why you enrolled for the course, why you chose the University, what makes you stand out from other students, why you should be given an opportunity to study the course you chose.

5. Go through the enrollment process

Once you’ve been accepted, that’s not all there is to it. There are certain enrollment processes that are required, most of which are the payment of fees. This may be done online.

Distance Learning Master’s program

The distance learning master’s program is a postgraduate degree program. The process of obtaining this degree is not that different from the undergraduate distance program.

It is important to note the registration deadlines on the university’s website.

Once you’ve met every requirement, you need to decide to be committed to learning.

Here are some tips that will help you while learning remotely:

  • Have a routine. Schedule your time well
  • Communicate with your lecturers and classmates
  • Create a work environment
  • Cancel out distractions
  • Be accountable
  • Have other things planned
  • Make up your mind to adapt to online lectures

FAQs

Is distance learning valuable?

Yes. Distance learning is valuable as students can earn a university degree.

Is it distant or distance learning?

It is distance learning and not distant learning. Distant is an adjective that means far-away, so it doesn’t correctly define distance learning.

When does distance learning start?

It starts when you enroll in a school that offers distance learning and as soon as the academic session starts.

Are distance learning degrees respected?

Yes. They are well respected, especially in developed countries.

Conclusion

Distance learning is super effective. It may be more effective than the traditional mode of learning if the necessary tools are properly utilized.

However, you need a strong discipline level and focus to follow through with classes, particularly in asynchronous distance learning.

Lastly, you should check the post on What is LMS if you are considering setting up an online course for students.

I hope you got value.

Thanks for reading.