Distance Learning: Benefits, Types, Advantages and Disadvantages

Rajiv Shah
Rajiv Shah
Distance Learning: Benefits, Types, Advantages and Disadvantages

What is distance learning?

distance learning, also called distance education, e-learning, and online learning, form of education in which the main elements include physical separation of teachers and students during instruction and the use of various technologies to facilitate student-teacher and student-student communication.

Distance learning traditionally has focused on nontraditional students, such as full-time workers, military personnel, and nonresidents or individuals in remote regions who are unable to attend classroom lectures. However, distance learning has become an established part of the educational world, with trends pointing to ongoing growth. 

The Benefits Of Distance Learning

As mentioned above, students can study from universities around the world, even if they are not able to travel to their preferred program. This allows top universities to be available to students who would not otherwise be able to attend due to distance, finances, or other circumstances.

Distance learning is extremely important for those who cannot attend programs due to health complications, severe social anxiety, busy work schedules or parenting demands, or any other situations which make it necessary to be confined to the home.

Online programs, such as University of the People, cater to students who prefer or need distance education. UoPeople is a tuition-free nonprofit institution, making it an affordable and sustainable option for students worldwide. In addition to being affordable, University of the People employs academic leadership from renowned universities around the world, allowing equal opportunity for students to access quality education.

UoPeople provides distance education for students who may have physical or health restrictions, those who live in remote areas, or those who cannot otherwise attend school due to late work hours or raising a family. This provides an equal opportunity for people to access higher education despite restrictions or location.

How does distance learning work?

There are different types of distance learning available. Nonetheless, instructors send all information to students over the internet.

This information may come in the form of: 

  • Online textbooks
  • Screen-recorded videos using tools like Snagit and Camtasia
  • Voice-over slideshow presentations
  • Scheduled chats between students and the instructor

What are the disadvantages of distance learning?

The benefits of distance learning are clear, but there are some warnings when it comes to this learning approach, too.

Let’s consider some of the disadvantages. For one, students face a higher risk of online distraction. Without face-to-face meetings, students can lose track of deadlines and motivation.

Students who work well on their own may easily surmount these obstacles. Students who have trouble prioritizing may stumble. So will those who lack organizational and scheduling skills. 

Distance learning comes with hidden student costs, too. These expenses include:

  • Gaining access to a reliable computer
  • Having an internet connection
  • Buying a web camera (in some instances)
  • Computer maintenance
  • Utilities (e.g., electricity for internet services)

The future of distance learning

Most professors aren’t confident they can make online learning as effective as their face-to-face courses. 

But if you’re cramming traditional teaching methods into your online courses, your students’ success (and your evaluations) will suffer.

We want you to be successful teaching online. And engaging your students with video is the best way to do that.  

We understand that teaching online can be intimidating. And we’ve helped thousands of professors across the country easily create video content for more effective courses.

Types Of Distance Learning

1. Online courses

Online courses are usually offered as additional classes in traditional degrees. As long as students have computer and internet access, they can learn and receive instruction at home.

2. Hybrid courses

Hybrid courses combine traditional classroom settings with online learning at home. This can mean that students learn individually at home and meet up for in-person instructions or lectures at certain intervals during the course. The amount of at-home learning and in-class learning varies for each hybrid course.

3. Conference classes

Conferencing allows students and teachers to meet up for class in real time, whether in a group or one-on-one with an instructor. Using the phone or video chatting, such as Skype, students and teachers can engage in live lessons despite distance.

4. Correspondence courses

Correspondence courses consist of students engaging in class material via mail or email. Students receive material and assignments through mail, and they send completed assignments back through the same method.

5. Hybrid distance education

Hybrid distance education combines synchronous and asynchronous methods. Students receive deadlines to complete assignments and exams. Then, they work at their own pace.

They submit assignments through online forums. They maintain contact with their instructor. Yet, they work at their own pace. As students progress, they gain access to new modules. 

6. Video conferencing

Video conferencing is traditionally a meeting where two or more participants use video to connect over the internet. This is a form of synchronous communication.

Using tools like Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect, or other conferencing software, teachers and students interact together no matter where they are located. 

Video conferencing enhances student-instructor interactions and provides a structure for lesson planning. It remains a vital component of distance learning.

List of Universities offerenig Distance Learning

These universities offer all sorts of programmes that might interest you, starting from graduate, post graduate and doctorate programmes, to short courses.

1. Harvard University Extension School

The esteemed Harvard University in America now also offers more than 200 courses online via distance education.

These offerings include videos of actual lectures on campus which are available in different formats based on students’ needs. Current popular subjects are management, English, environmental management, government courses and computer science.

2. Boston University Online

Boston University is another respected American university currently offering great courses through distance education. Apart from  undergraduate to doctoral level, various non credit professional courses are also available.

3. Indira Gandhi National Open University

Founded in 1985, the Indira Gandhi National Open University offers 310 degree programmes in science, arts, social sciences, commerce, and information technology through 21 Schools. It is the biggest university in the world with more than four million students in India as well as 36 other countries. 

4. Open University of Catalonia

The Open University of Catalonia in Spain was only founded in 1994 but already boasts somewhat 60 876 students. They offer more than 1000 degree programmes up to doctoral level in three different Schools, including Open Programmes.

5. University of South Africa (Unisa)

With more than 250 000 students, Unisa has campuses in Pretoria and Florida, Johannesburg, South Africa and numerous contact centers abroad. It also has mega university status. The University was founded in 1873 and in 2004 merged with Technikon Southern Africa to form the new Unisa.

It offers internationally recognized qualifications ranging from undergraduate to doctoral studies as well as informal courses in six Colleges.

6. United Kingdom Open University

Founded in 1969, and with approximately 250 000 students worldwide, the UK Open University, whose academic faculties and research centers are based in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, offers more than 250 undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications of a high standard.

7. University of the Philippines Open University

University of the Philippines Open University was founded in 1995 as a campus of the University of the Philippines. It provides online teaching and learning in three Faculties, namely that of Education, Management and Development Studies and Information and Communication Studies.

It offers qualifications ranging from undergraduate to doctoral and non-formal courses to students in the Philippines and abroad.

8. Open University of the Netherlands

The Open University of the Netherlands was founded in 1984. Students can study academic programmes or select from almost 300 modular courses. Students have the option to either register for a full-length degree programme or for modular courses, meaning they can register for two modules only if they wish.

Programmes in Computer Sciences, Learning Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Law, Management, Cultural Sciences and Psychology are offered.

9. Open University of Hong Kong

The University offers more than 100 postgraduate, degree, associate degree and sub-degree programmes to its students, determined to provide only high quality education.

10. Thomson Rivers University Open Learning

It has more then 20,000 registrations and offers approximately 55 degrees, diploma and certificate programmes online, web-based and in printed, formats according to student' own personal requirements.

11. The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand

More than 100 qualifications and 1200 courses are offered including technical and vocational training to higher professional and continuing education.

12. Bangladesh Open University

The Bangladesh Open University was founded in 1992 after researching a new mode of education for many years. It already has more than 2 million students and offers both formal and non-formal programmes through six different Schools.

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