Technology is changing the way we do nearly everything, from driving our cars to experiencing (virtual) reality, right down to the way we learn and teach.
Find selected articles and webinars that dives into the e-learning waters by addressing a spectrum of issues including the nature of e-learning, the role of technologically-informed teaching and learning in library work, and the resources that are needed to make e-learning happen.
Available only in English.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Distance and e-Learning
Despite its numerous drawbacks, distance learning still provides better learning options for students wishing to enjoy greater convenience and flexibility in pursuing a course. The greatest benefits of distance education is that it allows students to access numerous learning tools using minimum financial resources
Considering online education, e-learning or taking any course or program via online learning, it's worthy to note that this is all regarded as distance learning and there are a few aspects that one need to be aware of, primarily the advantages and disadvantages of distance learning.
Contrary to what many people believe, the value gained from the advantages far more outweigh the disadvantages.
Advantages of Distance Learning
- Greater Flexibility
With distance learning programs, students can pursue and complete their desired courses from anywhere with the use of computer and internet connection. A larger percentage of those that enroll for distance education are actually persons who are working. Distance education allows such students to find convenient time to study without interfering with their already busy schedule. One can study after work, in the middle of the night or during weekends. Learning materials and instruction can actually be obtained online at any time. So working students can learn as they earn.
- No commuting
Distance learning takes place online, which means students don't need to spend money and time commuting to and from class venues. Students can take lessons and complete assignments from the comfort of their home. Most institutions that offer distance learning programs deliver lectures and tutorials through online video conferencing. That means students don’t have to be stuck to the classroom. One can actually enjoy class sessions from the comfort of their living room couch, bedroom or garden. Video conferencing solutions like ezTalks Cloud Meeting offer innovative whiteboards and screen/file sharing options that make classes more interactive. Its full HD video and audio experience duplicates the real-life class scenario that makes online lectures more meaningful.
- Significant Cost Savings
The cost of online-based education programs is generally lower compared to those offered in brick-and-mortar institutions. Undertaking an online course or program also eliminates the costs associated with commuting, renting an apartment and/or getting meal plans. That means distance learning an economically viable option for both students and parents. Apart from the convenience of pursuing a course from home, students will have a perfect opportunity to save more on their studies.
- Convenient Learning
For most of the working class students, going back to the classroom is rather intimidating. Asking questions about a hard concept about a given topic can also be embarrassing for shy students. But that's not the case with distance learning. A disciplined and self-motivated student can learn at his or her own pace. Online education combines the use of tutorials, eLearning materials and video conference class sessions to deliver knowledge to students. That means learners with different abilities can have the opportunity to understand the course in much detail.
And more on advantages for the learner
- Distance learning does not require commuting. This saves you money and time that you would otherwise spend on travel back and forth to school. You can schedule learning around other aspects of your personal and professional life.
- You can complete most of the classes at your convenience. Most of the classes are asynchronous, which means you don't have to attend a lecture at a particular time and place. You can review the assignments and do your homework during off-hours or from home.
- Live anywhere, study from anywhere while pursuing the education of your choice. You don't have to live in the same city or the same country to attend the learning institution of your choice. You can study wherever you have access to a computer and Internet connection.
- Gain extra knowledge. You can transfer the computer and Internet skills that you'll gain in the process of your distance learning experience to other facets of your life.
- Self-paced learning. For slow and quick learners. This reduces stress and increases satisfaction.
- Accessibility. Online classes address physical accessibility issues that some people with limited mobility encounter when taking traditional classes. You don't have to worry about gaining access to a classroom or sitting on uncomfortable desks. Instead, you can use your comfortable furniture in your home while enjoying free movement and a chance to further your education.
Disadvantages of Distance Learning
- Lack of Social Interaction
Learning in a brick-and-mortar institution presents students with the opportunity to meet and interact with people from different locations on a personal level. Distance learning only limits students to classes and learning materials that are based online. Though students can interact through chat rooms, discussion boards, emails and/or video conferencing software, the experience cannot be compared to that of a traditional campus.
- High Chances of Distraction
With no face-to-face interaction with instructors and other students, those who are enrolled on an online program might find it hard to keep track of their course work and assignments. That's because there are no constant reminders about pending assignments and/or deadlines. It only requires one to be self-motivated and focused to be able to complete a course successfully. Hence distance learning cannot be a good option for students who keep procrastinating things or those who aren't able to stick to deadlines.
- Complicated Technology
Any student seeking to enroll for a distance learning program needs to invest in a range of equipment including computer, webcam and stable internet connection. There is absolutely no physical contact between students and instructors as instruction is delivered over the internet. This overdependence on technology is a major drawback to distance learning. In case of any software or hardware malfunction, the class session will come to a standstill, something that can interrupt the learning process. Moreover, the complicated nature of the technology used in distance learning only limits online education to students who are computer and tech savvy.
- Questionable Credibility of Online Degrees
Despite its convenience and affordability, distance learning is still not the best option for many due to lack of lack of quality faculty members. Even when the instructors are fully qualified and experienced, they might not find it comfortable to teach in an online environment. The design and delivery of every course differs greatly. Sometimes the instructor might find little time to talk about trivial details of a given topic, which are otherwise important to helping students understand better a given concept. That, plus a host of other challenges like lack of proper assessment make credibility of distance learning degrees questionable.
As a matter of fact, there many employers out there who do not accept online degrees as they still find stigma attached to distance education. That means students have to evaluate whether or not their online degrees can be ideal for the target job or future learning. This discourages many students from undertaking a distance learning program even when the degree being offered is genuine and competitive in the market.
And more on disadvantages for the learner
While thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of distance learning, pros and cons, one may wonder if there are any distance learning disadvantages. Yes there are several among them:
- Costly and complex technology. Despite the many opportunities of distance education, there are inevitable accompanying costs. Live video communication for example, requires careful planning of the equipment and facilities. For online learning, you must own a computer (with access to the Internet). This required technology is not always available. Some learners may also be afraid (technophobic) of technology.
- Advance planning. Both the instructors and students involved in distance learning may need to make sacrifices at times to get things done in time.
- Hidden costs. If you work for the military for example, and you are on the ship, how do you get your materials? They may need to be mailed in advance incurring extra shipping and handling costs.
- Distance learning does not offer immediate feedback. In a traditional classroom setting, a student's performance can be immediately assessed through questions and informal testing. With distance learning, a student has to wait for feedback until the instructor has reviewed their work and responded to it.
- Distance learning does not always offer all the necessary courses online. Students pursuing a specific certificate or degree program may not have all the necessary courses available through distance learning so it is not suited for all subjects. While you can study a history lesson completely online, you cannot perform nursing clinicals online. Thus physical classroom attendance will be necessary to complete the course.
- Distance learning degrees may not be acknowledged by all employers. Although most employers do acknowledge distance learning, certain employers do not. Students who want to work for a specific employer upon graduation should be sure of that employer's perspective about online education.
- Distance learning does not give students the opportunity to work on oral communication skills. Students in distance learning courses do not get the practice of verbal interaction with professors and other students.
- Social isolation. Most often you'll be studying alone. Distance learners may feel isolated or miss that social physical interaction that comes with attending a traditional classroom. However this impersonality has been lessening with advances and use of communication technologies such as bulletin boards, threaded discussions, social networking, chats, email and video conferencing.
Despite its numerous drawbacks, distance learning still provides better learning options for students wishing to enjoy greater convenience and flexibility in pursuing a course. The greatest benefits of distance education is that it allows students to access numerous learning tools using minimum financial resources. Studying online is even made more interactive with the use of video conferencing software. That improves the ability to acquire and retain knowledge on a given subject.
However, distance education limits social interaction, involves useof complex technology and has a negative perception among some employers. Any student wishing to enroll for distance learning diploma or degree should weigh between its pros and cons to determine whether or not it's a good option. Generally, distance education can be the perfect option for working students.
- Greater Flexibility