Have you considered distance learning education as an alternative to earning higher qualification?
Distance learning is a formal education process where the students and the instructor are separated by time and distance. Distance learning programs that require a physical on-site presence for any reason (including taking examinations) is referred to as hybrid or blended online course. In essence, distance learning often includes courses and programs combined with online and in-class instruction (with reduced in-class seat time for students). Advancement in technology has resulted to 100% online distance learning programs by some universities.
Distance learning Technology
Courses and programmes are offered through the use of information technology (computers and the internet). This may involve communication through internet radio, live streaming, telephone, Web conferencing, videoconferencing, Educational television, web-based VoIP, downloadable materials in form of CD-ROM and written correspondence and combination of various computer technologies.
The combination of advanced technologies and the internet are continually influencing our society and provide enormous opportunities for businesses and individuals to extend their limits and reach for their goals. People now have the opportunity (option) to work and learn comfortably from home. Ordinary people can run successful high income home-based Internet businesses. You only need a computer, access to the internet and the drive to achieve your dream. While distance learning education may not be the right choice for some people, this education process is gaining enormous recognition all over the world. With many schools in USA, UK, Australia, Africa and other parts of the world offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs and even doctoral programs, online learning is becoming a very popular and influential way to pursue higher education.
An overview of Distance Learning in recent years
In the 2006-07 academic year, 66 percent of the 4,160 2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting post-secondary institutions in the United States offered college-level distance education courses. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there were a total of an estimated 12.2 million enrollments (or registrations) in college-level credit-granting distance education courses in 2006-2007. Of these enrollments, 77 percent were reported in online courses, 12 percent were reported in hybrid/blended online courses, and 10 percent were reported in other types of distance education courses.
In 2006-07, there were approximately 11,200 college-level programs that were designed to be completed totally through distance learning; 66 percent of these programs were reported as degree programs and the remaining 34 percent were reported as certificate programs.
The 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning reveals that enrollment rose by almost one million students from a year earlier, in the United States. The survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities in the US finds approximately 5.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2009.
This represents the largest ever year-to-year increase in the number of students studying online.
Distance learning online, once considered an alternative method of education reserved for special populations and need, is graduating from a mere alternative to a standard education process. In 2006-2007, the majority-66 percent-of accredited colleges in the US offered online distance courses.
What’s more interesting is that recent studies show that “Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction,” according to a 2009 study from the Department of Education, United States.
Who is Distance Learning for?
The internet has certainly made distance learning a possibility and 77 percent of all higher education courses are now delivered online, according to a 2007 study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the United States. Distance learning education is most suitable for working class prospective students who desire to pursue sub-degree and degree (undergraduate and postgraduate) programmes while retaining their regular jobs. Some companies enroll their staffs to distance learning programs to acquire necessary skills to boost their productivity. Anyone who wants to learn extra marketable skills like web and computer related skills can also go through online learning programs.
The above statistics are quite encouraging and one may want to get enthusiastic about distance education. However, there are some factors that should be considered before deciding to go for an online learning program.
Choosing the right Online School
The advent and wide growth rate of online education has giving rise to business opportunities for education investors. Several mushroom online schools are available on the internet. To get the benefit of distance education, prospective online learners should be careful at selecting an online school, so as not to waste their time on a near worthless online degree. There are several for-profit and not-for-profit online programs and universities, but to make the right choice, you must consider the institution’s accreditation from an authorized national body. The better choice is to choose an online course from a widely recognized University.
Do employers care if a qualification is by Traditional or Distance Learning?
This is the first question to ask before choosing a course or school for online education. Some courses are better achieved through tradition education than online, and some universities degrees will be better accepted by employers than others. The main issue with obtaining distance learning degree is its level of acceptance in the Job market. While employers in the US or UK would more easily accept online learning degrees from accredited schools (not without some skepticism though), employers in developing countries are less likely to accept such qualification with open arms. The problem is mainly due to such employers not being knowledgeable of the advancement in technologies associated with distance learning and how effective this education process has become. Some employers will be more concerned about the institution that offered the online degree: is it a well-known university or just an investment that awards some diploma-mills?
Benefit of Distance Learning Education
There are lots of benefits of attending an online university education. Students have the option of combining practical experience from their work place with school work, other than the campus illusion that life is easier than it really is. Though distance education is yet to be widely pronounced in Nigeria and other African and developing countries, compared to the developed world, it is a system that
has the potential to reduce the rate of illiteracy and (consequently) poverty in this regions. People will no longer consider age and the fear of late education as an excuse to remain uneducated. Other advantages include:
1. Distance learning education can assist in meeting high demand for education and learning. It accommodates individuals and businesses of diverse needs due to its flexibility to accommodate other personal day to day responsibilities and commitments.
2. It reduces the demand on institutional infrastructure and in turn, cuts down the cost of running higher institutions. Students have a lower education cost to worry about.
3. It saves time and process of enrolling into study programs compared to the traditional method which comes with lots of head ache.
4. This education process brings learning to the door steps of anyone that is willing to learn, regardless of age, and status.
5. A student from anywhere can obtain a qualification from a highly reputable University from any part of the world without living their country.
Disadvantage of Distance Learning
Like everything that sounds good, there are disadvantages to attending distance learning programs. The major of which comes with, “how will the qualification be treated in the outside world”? Will employers accept qualifications achieved through this process? Am I as likely to get a job as the graduate that went through the traditional on-campus education? Judging from the level of unemployment in the country, very few people are willing to go through a career with some controversy. Life is rather too short for that. Some employers will want to remain resistant to this innovation and, quite understandably, some job responsibilities will require a candidate that went through a tradition higher institution. The blend of campus life (interaction with other students) with schoolwork is considered to make up a University education. Pursuing a degree through distance learning seems to take away the aspect of mixing up with other students from the process, which for most people, makes a rather incomplete undergraduate education. In my opinion, considering the impractical-tutoring nature of some universities in Nigeria (for example), the campus experience seems to be the only outstanding factor between a traditional and online learning education (in such case).
Another disadvantage is the poor and inadequate internet access in some parts of the world. And not everyone can afford a personal computer and steady access to the internet. This still makes this method of education restricted from people who can’t afford to.
Before deciding on distance learning as a better choice to acquire your higher education, prospective students consider the pros and cons associated with this method of education. Some courses are more flexible with distance education than the others. For instance, business, computer and information technology related courses can go well with online education, while Law and medical courses may go better with the traditional method of education. However it turns out, distance learning education is a highly considerable alternative to learning and is gaining momentum in the education sector.
How many postsecondary institutions offer distance learning programs? – nces.ed.gov
Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010 – sloanconsortium.org
How Popular and Prevalent is Distance College Education? – geteducated.com