THERE are many people who wish to move up the educational ladder, but due to certain constraints in their day-to-day
commitments they are unable to do so.
While for some it is because of limitations with regard to finances, others face hurdles at their workplaces, as some employers cannot just allow their staff to go for further studies in colleges or universities, whether within or outside the country.
But distance learning offers great opportunities to such individuals. They do not need to be physically present at an institution that offers a course that they want to pursue.
Distance education offers learners an opportunity to study at home with the help of well-prepared materials, special internet sites and other media, and send or email work to their lecturers.
This method of learning has, no doubt, become part of the answer to the current changes in technology, labour market patterns and general global environment which have further increased the spirit of inquiry and innovation.
The system has proved that it can effectively and efficiently deal with all the demands of the 21st century – novelty, creativity, integration of knowledge at global level, research, critical and analytical thinking.
Moreover, all education, whether regular school streams or distance, is aimed at increasing achievement for all learners and helping them become capable people and good citizens. Therefore, colleges and universities with high-quality education are places where students, lecturers, and parents want to be.
The benefits of distance learning are immense. It provides an increase in access to education for people who might have no chance to attend lessons due to work, family, or physical limitations. It is easy for one to change or enhance their career prospects wherever they are – in a rural set-up or urban area, or even overseas. A person can gain a degree from anywhere in the world. It fits study around one’s work, social or family commitments.
As a ‘distance learner’, you don’t have to worry about being at lectures and tutorials at times that may not fit in with your other schedules. Besides the freedom to study from home, at the office or any library within your reach, a student gets an opportunity to learn at his own pace.
While classroom learning allows you to listen to any class lesson only once, in a distance education course the learner is able to re-play a portion of the audio or video tape or re-read a particular module that he or she is not clear about.
In classroom learning, the time spent on each module in your course depends on your lecturer, but with distance learning, you, the student, have the freedom to decide the amount of time to be spent on any particular module. Distance education programmes offer learners the flexibility to spend time according to their requirements.
Apart from facilitating greater learner-facilitator interaction, the programme allows one to have access to relevant educational resources and experts at a global level through internet communication. In this way, this mode of learning has the potential to equalise access to education.
Though universities and colleges provide distance education courses at lower costs than they do for full-time ones, they ensure that their programmes and qualifications are of the same high quality as campus-based programmes.
However, one of the disadvantages of distance learning is that some courses that one would like to pursue may not be offered through this type of education. For example, a person who wants to study nursing has to work directly with patients, so offering it through distance education may cause it to lose its relevance.
Also, instructional design for certain activities may be extremely demanding on the part of the instructor. Also, some employers simply do not accept what they view as ‘online qualifications’.
But it is true that the advantages of distance learning far outweigh the disadvantages. Therefore, by fully embracing it – together with class-based courses – the education system can fully and effectively deal with the rapid social changes that are creating uncertainty and complexity in today’s society. It is vital in our endeavour as citizens to attain socio-economic development.