Getting your education online provides some incredible benefits, but also some unseen challenges. When you understand these differences, it will be easy for you to make a choice regarding using this option. So far, distance learning has been selected primarily because there really aren’t many other good options for people who travel and must keep their employment. In those cases, alternatives are few and far between, so exploring upside and downside is like….Yea, so what!
But for those who have a choice, it is important to look at all the factors. First the upside to Distance Learning:
- Keep Your Job-and also keep money coming in. This is the most important factor cited by those using online education. Students do not have to interrupt their careers, and they can absorb the financial impact much better.
- Choices-at last count, there were 179 institutions providing accredited online education. That’s a long way from Phoenix University which was a trailblazer in this industry. Many of these colleges and universities are recognizable for their superiority in the traditional standard education campuses. This means the overall quality of the education will continue to rise, and the perception of a degree obtained in this fashion will continue to improve.
- Less Cost-The only real costs outside of credit hours for online education is a computer and internet connection. Housing, additional cost of facilities, on campus food, travel to and from are all costs that are not incurred in online education.
- Flexibility and Convenience-You choose when to take classes, which means you do not have to fit into the university schedule. You also set the pace at which you want to progress, going slower or faster than a standard curriculum. Setting the pace also includes the speed at which you complete each subject.
- Elimination of the classroom-The classroom has its good points, but it also forces everyone into the same mold. And the classroom environment is only as good as the attendees allow it to be. NOTE: some online programs do require a physical presence at various points, so it is wise to check out what the requirements are in any program you are about to commence.
- It is all self-directed-While this allows the flexibility needed to balance job, family and school, it also has the potential to be a negative factor if you are a procrastinator, or have trouble setting and keeping your focus.
Now the Challenges or downsides to Distance Learning:
- No social interaction-This can be a lonely program with no fellow students to bounce ideas off, or to just commiserate with. You won’t even be able to look at a hot chick!
- No instructor interaction-This too can be troubling. The good instructors force students to think and view issues from multiple perspectives. This will be a real challenge to some folks pursuing Distance Learning.
- No other traditional support functions-No library, no laboratories, no group think tanks. Most all of the students’ resources will likely come from the internet, which gets better and better. Come to think of it, I go to the internet almost exclusively for “library searches” now.
- Less credibility to your sheepskin-This is changing slowly, but you will encounter some hiring decision makers to “debunk” online learning and discount it severely. This situation is much better today than even 5 years ago, but it still has a ways to go.
- No campus atmosphere-And I say, who cares! If I’m already in a career, I’m likely beyond needing the student cheering section at the football game.
- It is self-directed – just as this can be a positive and a blessing; it too can be a black hole for people who just can’t stay on the mission. With no one setting the deadlines, it will be all up to you, baby!