Today I have Lindsey Wright guest blogging. Please be sure to check out her unique guest post. Guest posts are always welcome, please contact me.
However, distance learning is far from perfect. Setting aside the question of whether or not studying remotely measures up in comparison with traditional classroom-based education, there are a few potential pitfalls unique to distance learning that any prospective student considering such a program should bear in mind. For instance, many distance education programs are geared toward providing professional education, rather than purely academic study. While in some cases this may not necessarily be problematic, in others, such as vocational training to work in professional aviation, students may have cause for caution. While every remote professional training program will bill itself as completely legitimate, some expertise is simply difficult or impossible to really acquire without direct, hands-on learning experience. Learning the math, economics, and legal matters necessary to practice accounting is one thing; learning to fly an airplane is quite another.
Legitimacy is another common concern. Although many established universities and colleges increasingly offer online courses, there still remain a number of unaccredited and sometimes fraudulent distance learning programs. Prospective students must be circumspect in selecting a program, and be sure to conduct thorough background research before enrolling.
Even in legitimately accredited and generally well-run distance learning programs, the relative lack of interaction with instructors and other students can spoil the learning experience for some. Studies of student experience in remote education settings have found that successful distance learners must be strongly self-motivated and able to complete their work without much guidance. For many students, more direct interaction with teachers and classmates is necessary to stay on track and do well in school. Even as ongoing technological developments allow for greater degrees of interaction, they may not sufficiently mitigate this issue.
Finally, even if a prospective student really is well suited to a distance learning environment, their instructor may not be. While most educators have been found to hold a generally positive outlook on distance learning, they are not always enthusiastic about participating in it themselves. Such is particularly liable to be the case with professors at established institutions who are called on to provide remote instruction. Lack of familiarity with the technology, uncertainty about how to apply pedagogy in a remote learning context and difficulty adapting to interacting with students at a distance can all become potentially critical problems entirely out of students' hands.
On the whole distance learning remains a promising and viable mode of education. Not only that, but online schools also provide more convenient and accessible learning opportunities to prospective students. However, it must be kept in mind that there are big differences between a remote learning program and a normal classroom setting in the best of cases. Distance learning students should expect a different educational dynamic accompanied by different kinds of challenges and problems, and should remember that some expertise just can't be acquired indirectly. With a little caution, there's no reason distance learning can't be a significant and useful part of students' educational experience. Indeed, as technological development continues, no doubt remote study will grow more prevalent as well, probably in ways we have yet to imagine.
Many thanks to Lindsey.
Enjoy your reading!