Distance learning has been taking over traditional classroom education for years now. This process has advanced and quickened due to the pandemic. There are many people for and against it, so let’s see the pros and cons of distance learning and decide which side we are on. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen a lot more ads for webinars, courses online, and other forms of e-learning since the beginning of the pandemic. It has become a massively popular way of learning new things.
Distance Learning Versus E-Learning
These two concepts are interconnected, but they are not the same. When you hear ‘distance learning’, think of the location. When you hear ‘e-learning’, think of Internet connection.
In distance learning, students and teachers are physically separated, which is not necessarily the case in e-learning. In e-learning, students and teachers use electronic media (often the Internet), which is not required in distance learning.
If you study with books and show up in college once a semester to take an exam, it is distance learning and not e-learning. When you watch an online lecture in class, this is e-learning, but it is not distance learning. If you take an online course or join a webinar, this is both distance learning and e-learning.
In today’s world, these two concepts overlap so often that many scholars already use them interchangeably. For this article, we will follow their lead and blend the two. We will focus on distance e-learning and webinars in particular.
Pros of Distance Learning for Students
Here is why you should choose distance learning:
- Flexibility in time and space. A friendly environment makes learning more effective.
- It’s easier to stay in touch with your tutor/professor.
- Distance learning is less stressful.
- It’s suitable for shy people and introverts.
- Long-term savings.
- Higher educational value.
Let’s go over them in detail one by one.
Flexibility in Time and Space
Most online courses are self-paced, which allows you to create your timetable. Even webinars, an asynchronous (in real-time) type of learning, can be watched later. It is convenient only for free-spirited souls that do not want to be constrained by some arbitrary schedules. It is first of all an optimal (if not the only) solution for people with jobs, families, or other adult responsibilities.
Distance learning has also been a lifeline for every ambitious person living in a rural area. Many US high school students got a chance to take more challenging AP classes, specifically thanks to e-learning. Many foreigners can now study at top American universities without having to leave their home country. And what about those people who can’t attend class due to illness? Distance learning has genuinely been a potent force in bringing equality to the world.
Employers use e-learning to standardize knowledge and skills among employees who live in different countries. Through webinars, they can provide training, exert managerial control or organize monthly meetings with hundreds of people at the same time. Distance learning has become indispensable in the age of globalization.
A friendly environment is also a vital part of learning. It’ll be easier and more pleasurable for you if you’ll be able to choose the place to study in – it can be your room or café that you love the most. It’s up to you, which is convenient. If you concentrate better in silence, it’s possible with distance learning. The same goes for studying your favourite music.
Studying by yourself makes you understand that you can learn new things all your life, not only at school or university. There are so many online courses, all of them waiting for you. It’s so easy because all you have to do is have a device and Internet connection. You can do it any time, even if you’re six or you’re seventy – it truly doesn’t matter now.
It’s Easier to Stay in Touch with your Tutor/Professor
Usually, the only way to contact your tutor or professor is to write an email or meet them directly. It could take a long time. Now, thanks to all the platforms and social media, you can contact them via chat, video, or audio. Sometimes, you’ll even know when they’re active and ready to answer your questions.
Distance Learning is Less Stressful
Anyone who attended an online meeting could say that. Not being present next to a large (or even smaller) group of people, but sitting in your room or office, tricks the mind, and you feel a lot more relaxed and ready to take part in the discussion.
It’s less stressful for children as well. They don’t have to stay up early, an hour or two before the lesson, so they’ll be less sleepy. It means better concentration and readiness for learning new things. There’s another factor – everyone remembers how stressful it is to be called out, mainly when unprepared. Distance learning will take it away and ensure more friendly conditions of studying.
It’s suitable for shy people and introverts
Shy people often don’t dare to ask questions if they don’t understand something. Or, they’d love to ask for something that interests them, but they find themselves unable to do that. Distance learning makes it possible. For many people, it’s easier to ask or be active in general via chat. Thanks to the safety they feel being in a place they like and are more likely to find the courage to do what they couldn’t find courage for. Also, distance learning makes it possible to listen to courses or lessons online, since many of them are recorded.
According to Best Colleges, 40% of those entering an online program want to change their career. At the same time, they do not want to quit their current job to go to a traditional college (again). To avoid the opportunity and the financial loss, they opt for more flexible and relatively inexpensive distance learning. It allows them to test various career options without having to burn bridges.
When you study at home, you get rid of less obvious expenses such as parking, gas, cafés, etc. These may seem inconsequential, but they do add up in the end. Eliminating such small charges will save you a fortune in the long term.
Higher Educational Value
Research revealed that talented students fare much better in an online course than in a standard classroom. They are not forced to neglect their studies so that others can keep up. They can do everything at their usual pace.
Slower students, on the other hand, can take their time to understand the material. They can re-watch the lectures whenever they want or even retake the course later without losing the money. Their progress is kept safe, so they do not have to do everything from scratch if they decide to do the course later.
Let’s take webinars as an example of e-learning. With them, it does not matter where you sit in the classroom: you can hear your teacher just as well as hundreds of your peers. It does not matter what eyesight you’ve got: teachers will usually share the screen with presentations and all the supplemental materials.
It doesn’t matter if you are shy or not: there is no need to raise your hand, as you can leave an instant message to a presenter. All these advanced tools really help level the field for hundreds of students around the globe. They also allow teachers to save time on activities such as grading and focus more on their students.
Cons of Distance Learning for Students
Despite all the amazing advantages, e-learning is not devoid of drawbacks. Here are some of them:
- Student isolation.
- The danger of procrastination.
- Lack of practice.
- Lack of validity.
Distance learning is often performed in isolation. It prevents students from forming lasting relationships with their peers and professors, which is detrimental to their mental health. This also often prevents them from quickly correcting their mistakes: many online teachers take quite some time to answer in forums. That is why webinars are a better type of e-learning: instant messages allow students to improve immediately.
Danger of Procrastination
You usually need much motivation to finish an online course or watch all webinars. Because e-learning is not obligatory, many tend to default to it. Many also tend to underestimate this type of learning, thinking that it is something easy. And when it’s not, they quit. If you want to persevere with your webinar or MOOC, you will need to find time and strong motivation for it. Otherwise, it won’t work.
Lack of Practice
The majority of people learn best by practice and distance learning often makes it less possible to practice something with a group or, for example, in a laboratory. Only by doing something yourself, you’ll get the certainty that you have a necessary skill. Your tutor won’t be able to see the results of your work unless you send it through the platforms you’re using.
Lack of Validity
E-learning may yield you a certificate, but it rarely provides a full-fledged degree. Many online universities are either not accredited or simply not recognized by employers. More than 60% of US students, who do e-learning full-time, are enrolled in for-profit colleges. These private schools are generally known for the bad quality of their education.
Pros of Distance Learning for Organizers
Remember that every knowledge you get needs to be repeated. This way, your knowledge would be consolidated. Distance learning makes this repetition much easier for you, as a tutor/professor, to execute. You can share teaching materials, like presentations and files on the platform you’re using. It’s effortless. What other pros can you find in distance learning?
How to make your webinar/course more interactive? Check out here.
It’s More Effective
You can prepare files like audio, video, presentations, documents, or images for your students. They’ll be able to check them out anytime, which is really convenient, not only for them but for you as well. You share it once for everyone.
Read this article and get to know how to make distance learning more effective here.
Easier to Track the Progress
It’s much easier to track the progress of your students on distance learning. You can do it by assigning some tasks or doing little quizzes. It can even be fun for the students since many platforms make it look more like a game (for example, Kahoot).
It Saves the Money
If you’re preparing courses or training for a lot of people or for companies where there’s a significant employee turnover, distance learning will be much more convenient. You won’t have to pay for accommodation, a training room and tutors every time. You can use recorder training or make a webinar, but you would still skip the cost of the accommodation and training rooms.
No One Will Be Late
You won’t have to explain how to get to the training room, there’ll be no problem with someone being late because of the traffic. People will get the notification and turn up on time.
Cons of the Distance Learning for Organizers
There are though a couple of cons to this kind of education, not every tutor is an expert when it comes to technology. They could feel lost in the sea of features that online learning platforms offer. They could even feel lost when it comes to using a computer, so you have to keep that in mind.
Lecturers Need to Learn How to Use the Platform
It’s an essential part of distance learning. Lecturers need to know how to use the platform, how to make it look good, and especially they need to realize that the technical part of online learning has a pivotal role in it. It’s also crucial for them to know how to hold their audience’s attention.
Lack of the Authority
It’s definitely harder to build authority in online learning, and a good leader is truly essential in the process of learning new things. So, the tutor needs to find a way to build that authority.
See here how to engage the students and participants of the course.
But you should not discard e-learning because of the few rotten apples. It’s not perfect, but very often it’s more practical and valuable than your local college. Wouldn’t you instead learn from a person working in the field rather than an academic? Webinars attract experts as well as people yearning to become one. So, don’t miss your chance to become a professional without having to get out of bed.
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