While there are a number of challenges associated with any form of teaching where physical separation is involved, it is also important to understand some of the key advantages of distance education. After all, these various plus points have helped to boost the popularity of distance learning courses and also go some way towards explaining why some teachers and students actually prefer it to in-person alternatives.
Continue reading to find out more about the advantages of distance learning.
The advantages of distance education are numerous, and understanding them can help teachers and learning institutions to deliver more effective remote learning experiences, while also convincing students to participate in these activities. Additionally, it can also help students to make more informed decisions about how and where to study.
Of course, this is not to say that there are not also advantages associated with in-person teaching too. However, in-person sessions are not always possible and even when they are, they may not always be the ideal approach. In this article, we cover some of the biggest plus points associated with distance learning in more detail.
Perhaps the most immediately obvious advantage of distance education is the level of flexibility it provides for students. In general, remote learning tends to require more independent study and because modern distance education is usually online-based, students have more control over both when and where they study.
For teachers and academic institutions, modern education technology, or EdTech, offers possibilities to deliver lessons via synchronous or asynchronous methods. Examples of synchronous methods include video conferencing and digital whiteboarding, while asynchronous methods allow for the creation of a learning resource center.
The all-round flexibility on offer via distance education can make it ideal for people who have to juggle a lot of additional responsibilities, as well as those who like to study when the mood strikes, rather than when they are obligated to do so. Nevertheless, it is also possible for remote education to have structure and deadlines too.
Breaking Down Barriers
Another of the main advantages of distance education is the removal of the natural geographical barriers associated with in-person teaching methods. When equipped with the latest EdTech, academic institutions are now able to provide teaching services to almost anyone with a reliable internet connection, regardless of physical location. As a result, they have the potential to build a larger and more diverse learning community.
For students, the breaking down of these geographical barriers also offers additional learning opportunities. For instance, it is now possible for students to enroll in distance learning courses from major academic institutions in other countries. This potentially opens up a wider range of courses and a higher level of teaching.
Furthermore, distance learning also has the potential to break down barriers associated with disability. As an example, a video lesson can be edited to include subtitles for those who are hearing impaired, while written content can be made available to those who have difficulty reading via text-to-speech technology. The aforementioned flexibility can be crucial for people with certain conditions, while the lack of travel can also be advantageous.
As a general rule, distance learning courses cost academic institutions less, because lessons can be scaled up and down more easily, and because lessons can be delivered once, recorded, and re-used. In many cases, these savings are passed on to students, meaning distance learning is often more affordable than in-person courses.
This is, in and of itself, one of the most important advantages of distance education, because tuition fees are often one of the major barriers to learning, especially at degree level and beyond. On a very basic level, reducing costs for teachers and students can help more people to access education.
On top of this, it is worth noting that distance learning can help students to save on costs associated with relocating, which is often required to attend a college or university. In fact, students may even have the ability to study while working a full-time job, which can also make course fees affordable and can help students to avoid student loan debt.
One benefit of distance learning, which is sometimes overlooked, is the opportunity to develop transferable skills. If a student is able to learn effectively using remote learning technology, they are also able to take many of those skills into working life and other areas. Some of these transferable skills include:
- Independent working
- Time management
- Research and fact-finding
- Digital communication
The development of these skills is significant, because the number of jobs that provide work-from-home opportunities is growing all the time, and, in some cases, telecommuting may even be a necessity. Moreover, employers are often impressed by candidates who have completed distance learning courses, due to the self-discipline involved.
The various advantages of distance education have helped to move it on from a somewhat niche area of education to a completely viable alternative to in-person instruction in its own right. In particular, it can be beneficial in helping to add more flexibility to lessons or courses, while also reducing some of the costs.
Beyond this, distance learning has the power to break down some of the geographical barriers to education, making it much more accessible, and the skills developed through remote learning are transferable to many careers too.