Benefits of distance learning
The exponential growth and development of technologies in the last few decades has inevitably caused the rapid progress around the world in the 21st century, which consequently led to significant institutional and social changes. As the number of technological innovations and discoveries multiplies, so do the chances of students to fulfill their academic dreams and achieve success.
The importance of education and the future development of distance learning are best illustrated by the estimates that the online industry will exceed the value of 360 billion dollars by 2026. Thanks to digital technologies (primarily computers) and the Internet for the first time in history children, regardless of their country or region of origin, have equal access to education that suits their interests and aspirations without having to be physically present in the traditional classroom.
In other words, children can attend online classes via video conferencing software, maintain interactive communication with their teachers, engage in interactive learning with their peers, send assignments they have been given, and have access to the latest learning materials on the online platform.
If you are interested in distance education, or you are considering it, this text will help you by stating the key benefits of distance learning that should be taken into consideration before making a decision.
It’s less expensive than traditional education
If we look back, barely two centuries ago, education was reserved only for the privileged few, primarily in terms of status, and later in terms of financial standing. With the emergence of technological innovations, and civil rights protests, first in Europe, and then in the USA in the late 19th and early 20th century, the elite was forced to step aside and make space for their fellow citizens in educational institutions, because everyone now had the same right to education. However, education was still too expensive for many, especially higher education.
Thanks to the possibility of distance education (both formal and nonformal), the costs of educational institutions have been greatly reduced, because they do not use teaching facilities, and the only remaining fixed costs are lecturers’ salaries and the funding of potential extracurricular activities or research, if the school provides any, which leads to partial reduction of tuition and enrollment fees. On the other hand, students are completely relieved of incidental expenses associated with student life on campus, which in turn leads to increased accessibility of education for most students.
The reasons why online education is more accessible than traditional education are the following:
- No school travel costs
- Students do not have to live on campus, or rent an apartment near the school/university
- Thanks to the fact that education material is posted on the online platform, students no longer need to purchase expensive textbooks
Location is not a problem
In addition to the fact that distance learning is accessible to everyone due to lower costs, another major benefit that should be mentioned is location freedom, in contrast to traditional education that is tied to a specific location. Location freedom gives rise to another important advantage, and that is more free time, which is something most students dream about, given that they lose a lot of time commuting from home to school. While some students have to commute, not long ago, many students were forced to leave their hometowns, family, friends and first loves, and relocate to be able to get an education that would provide them with a better future.
So, by choosing distance education, students can resist the pull of postmodernist alienation and dedicate themselves to the things that matter to them, be it extracurricular activities, studying for tests, completing assignments, or the possibility of holding a full-time or part-time job that will allow them to earn money and gain independence.
Learning is flexible and self-paced
This benefit of distance learning primarily works in favor of those who like to design their own lecture schedule, and those who prefer learning at their own pace. They are mostly students who possess a high level of independence and responsibility, while those who do not possess these traits may be encouraged to acquire them.
Online education that does not require synchronous learning, i.e. physical presence of students in the classroom, provides access to lectures and learning materials 24/7, which is the main advantage for those students who work and study, or who simply want to pay more attention to certain areas of learning that could help them advance their career. The only aspect of distance education that allows no flexibility whatsoever is mandatory test-taking, and submitting assignments within the given deadline.
Students have access to newest digital research content
Only a decade ago, this benefit was unimaginable for most educational institutions, both high schools and universities. Thanks to the Internet, all the latest knowledge and research is immediately published and made available on academic platforms. This benefit works both in favor of lecturers, and their students, because teachers can incorporate newly published research into their lectures, while on the other hand, students who are interested in covering a topic in more detail can access the research documents associated with the topic.
Vital soft and transferable skills are consolidated
The most serious criticism aimed at traditional education is that it does not prepare students for the actual demands of the business world. However, one of the greatest benefits of distance education observed from a pragmatic standpoint is the opportunity it provides to students to develop soft and transferable skills while using technologies and distance learning tools, which can later be implemented in one’s job as well. The most useful skills students can acquire in distance learning are the following:
- Time management – One of the basic and perhaps even key skill necessary for successful distance learning is time management. It turned out that many students who do not possess sufficiently developed time management skills often get overburdened due to poor organization, which then leads to poorer grades than in traditional education. On the other hand, students who possessed solid time management skills were able to further improve their organizational skills, and thus their academic achievement. So, if you want to improve your already solid time management skills, then enrolling in an online course is perhaps a good starting point for stepping out of your comfort zone.
- Teamwork – Whether you like it or not, you will be obliged to communicate with your peers in an online classroom fairly regularly, especially when you have a group assignment. In that case, you will be forced to work as a team if you want to achieve success in your group assignment. Apropos, you will gain a sense for teamwork when collaborating on a group assignment, which will be very important for your future remote collaborations.
- Problem solving – Physical separation from the rest of the group often forces students to rely more on themselves and their abilities to solve a task. Specifically, if you are not a natural problem solver, that does not mean that you cannot become one. Interestingly, neuroplasticity (ability of the neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization) reaches the peak of its development before the age of 25, and its strongest stimuli are often time limits and mental effort. So, if you want to develop, or further improve your problem solving skills, perhaps enrolling in a distance learning course is a good starting point.
- Critical thinking – Our very nature, as social beings, dictates that we strive toward conformism, especially when surrounded by peers in the classroom who can laugh at us asking a question or expressing a certain attitude. In the case of online education, students gain courage to ask about things they do not understand, or even confront opinions about a certain topic with their peers.
- Self-motivation/Self-inspiration – When attending online classes, people are often left on their own, which often hones their will and determination. On the other hand, students often feel safe and cocooned in the traditional classroom as part of the group, so it is easy to find people who will always have an excuse for postponing school obligations, or who will satisfy themselves with mediocrity, both in terms of academic achievement and general success in life.
- Adaptability – While the emergence of small cliques, where each group protects its own and does not want to collaborate with others, in the traditional classroom is fairly common, in online learning, such situations are impossible. One cannot impose their will onto others online, because every user on the platform is equal, and every activity is transparent. So, this form of learning can raise people’s awareness of the need to adapt to others, and to appreciate other people, even when you disagree with them, or when your proposals for the given assignment differ.
- Communication skills – Online communication is difficult, because the person you are communicating with is not physically present. Due to a frequent lack of choice when it comes to other channels of communication, students acquire the skill of “social intelligence in a remote environment”. This skill often involves communication with others via video, but also written communication, which is a good starting point for group work in one’s future job, especially if it is done remotely.
- Personal growth – The basic factor of self-improvement is self-reflection and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. When attending online classes, students are often pushed out of their comfort zone when receiving various assignments in the classroom and homework assignments, which is when they are forced to fend for themselves. The time when a person is on their own often helps them to gain independence, self-reflect, and raise their awareness of the importance of personal responsibility for each school or extracurricular task.
Learning is more efficient
There are many factors responsible for superior effectiveness of online learning. Given the fact that they do not directly communicate with students, teachers have realized that they have to introduce more innovation into the curriculum in order to hold students’ attention, and ensure efficient and effective transfer of knowledge. By implementing different tools brought about by digital technologies, teachers can make use of multimedia content, such as existing lectures, documentaries, podcasts, latest research and knowledge related to the teaching unit, as well as virtual trips.
In addition, if a school has an agreement with another educational institution, they can organize joint virtual conferences. So, thanks to the new digital tools, but also the innovativeness of teachers, students have the opportunity to gain an equally good, if not even better education than their older peers.
Possible networking with like minded students
Something that was not in the focus when distance learning first developed and started to spread was continued communication and making friendships with one’s peers after classes. Thanks to the possibilities of virtual communication, like-minded students now have the opportunity to establish friendships that were unthinkable only a few years ago.
Potential diversity in online classroom
We would not like to make conjectures, but the very nature of distance learning demands the use of the Internet and digital technologies, which inevitably leads to a conclusion that online classrooms will be full of children from different cultures and ethnicities, and from different continents, all of whom share one thing – they all want a quality education. Namely, children who use distance learning will certainly get an enriched learning experience when they start interacting with peers who come from a completely different part of the world, different background, and worldview than their own.
Is distance learning the right thing for you?
You have seen that distance learning brings a wide range of diverse benefits that could present a formidable and convincing alternative to traditional education. So, if you want to reduce the cost of education, if you do not attach too much importance to the learning environment, face-to-face interaction with teachers and other students, if you have a long-term plan you want to fulfill, a desire for self-improvement, time management skills, and a sense of responsibility, then distance learning is probably the right thing for you.