Characteristics of distance education
Education and personal development are essential elements for one’s success in life. But, what if someone is not able to attend regular classes? Should they give up their goals? Of course not, especially because there is an efficient solution for that – distance education.
What is distance learning?
Distance learning refers primarily to a system of learning in which students are not physically present in the classroom, but attend classes virtually, oftentimes from their homes. There are several types of distance education:
- Correspondence courses refer to learning from the instructional materials (books) provided by the educational institution without direct communication with the lecturer. Even testing is done through forms that are filled out online, or submitted by e-mail or regular mail. Although it may sound outdated, this method is still widely used, primarily to complement other forms of learning. It is also very popular in the business world, where it exists in the form of employee tests and courses.
- E-learning initially referred to online learning, although recently, its meaning has extended to encompass all forms of e-learning, including pre-recorded and live lectures, interactive lessons, listening to audio material, etc.
- Open learning is another term that is often used interchangeably with distance learning, although it has its own unique characteristics. It primarily refers to the learning principle where students learn in the way they think is best for them. Given that distance education is based on student self-control and their desire for learning, it is clear why these terms merged into one.
Despite the differences in the definitions listed above, characteristics of distance education remain unchanged – students are not classroom-based, but correspond with the teacher in some way, obtaining the desired knowledge. Thus, we have students who attend classes and perform assignments in line with their technical circumstances. On the other hand, teachers have various methods at their disposal that can be used to enrich teaching, which depends on the subject/course they teach, technology and the software used for distance education.
Technology is an integral part of distance education
Although it may seem that this education system arose with the development of modern technologies and the Internet, it has actually existed long before that. In the modern age, communication was carried out via letters, radio and television, in step with the development of technology.
Today, distance education primarily occurs online, through software that allows students to attend classes and communicate with the lecturer in real time. The fact that these lectures are computer-based is no longer an issue. Applications that enable a high level of interaction during lectures are being developed and updated every day.
Nowadays, it is possible to actively participate in class, ask questions to the lecturer, complete assignments, and many other things. The introduction of new technologies provides additional opportunities, but it should be noted that most things can still be done using the Internet, mobile phone, computer and adequate conferencing software. This learning environment is highly effective which encourages people to increasingly opt for distance education from the comfort of their home.
The most popular forms of online education
There are different methods of distance learning, but the most practical ones have found application in a number of educational institutions:
- Video conferencing – form of distance education closest to traditional, face-to-face learning. Allows teachers to directly address their students (or one student if we are talking about private lessons). Communication takes place in real time (synchronous learning) and it is possible to engage in dialog, just like in the traditional classroom.
- Hybrid learning – a combined lecture that takes place in real time, and is attended both by students physically present in the classroom and online learning students.
- Asynchronous distance learning – a form of education where students and teachers don’t communicate with each other in real time (usually due to being in different time zones). Lectures are pre-recorded and can be watched and re-watched on-demand, and students ask questions via email or one of the communication platforms.
- Open-schedule online courses – students have access to the necessary learning material, but they don’t have defined deadlines. Instead, they can attend courses when it suits them.
- Fixed-time online courses – students are required to attend lectures.
5 key characteristics of distance education
Distance education has various characteristics that make this model of learning so attractive for students around the world, but the following characteristics are most important:
One of the main reasons why people choose online learning is the ability to balance their private and school commitments. In most cases, students who opt for online education have commitments that cannot be postponed.
This is why they need the freedom of being able to plan when they will attend lectures and complete assignments. In addition, e-learning allows a learning rhythm that does not depend on other students, so one can speed up or slow down depending on their abilities and commitments.
- All learning materials are in one place
In online learning, learning materials are available to students at all times. Educational institutions are obligated to provide each student with the learning material necessary for passing exams and successfully completing the course.
Learning material usually refers to recordings of online lectures, online books, tests, etc. Literature is mostly stored on the school server or sent to students’ email so they could use it when it suits them. This saves time and facilitates independent learning.
- Possibility of delayed viewing/replay – people choose distance learning because they want to have the freedom to study when their obligations allow. This is possible thanks to the main characteristic of online education, i.e. possibility of delayed viewing. All lectures are recorded and uploaded to the server, after which they are available to students 24/7. The recorded material can be paused, rewound, or rewatched, which makes it easier to follow lessons and maintain the desired learning pace.
- Cost effective – online education is, as a rule, significantly cheaper than traditional education. Tuition fees are lower primarily because students are not physically present at lectures. In addition, there are no accompanying costs of transportation, books and food. Online education only requires a stable Internet connection and a laptop (or even a mobile phone).
- Quality – distance education provides high-quality education that not only enables the acquisition of new knowledge, but also internationally recognized diplomas and certificates. A large number of schools that organize online courses have years of experience in this field, and can guarantee top quality teachers and latest study programs. This is why diplomas and certificates acquired in online programs are highly valued around the world, both by other educational institutions and employers.
Quality education through distance learning
Thanks to its many positive characteristics, distance education has never been so accessible as it is now. Various obstacles, such as lack of time have been solved in this form of education, as shown by the data, because more and more students around the world opt for e-learning. Simply put, studying from home enables one to obtain high-quality education, while retaining the flexibility of their private life. Everyone is entitled to a good education and a chance for a successful career, and this is exactly what online education can provide.