In general, distance learning covers all those methods which involve education without the need to attend college. Correspondence, open learning, and e-learning all come under the ambit of distance learning.
However, lately, distance learning has started being used as a synonym to e-learning.
This scheme of learning was generated a couple of decades ago by the prestigious University of London which was the first University to offer distance education courses since 1858. The system was initially introduced to make higher education trouble-free for the students residing in remote areas.
But now, this mode is preferred by a large number of candidates, irrespective of their location, age, and financial status.
Now distance learning has evolved to a stature, that many of the employers have started recognizing Distance Learning degrees as equivalent to regular college degrees.
Source: the guardian (England’s leading newspaper)
Though, this report was limited to the status of distance learning in England; with the advent of globalization, India is not untouched by this phenomena.
In India, every year approximately 30-40 lakh candidates pursue higher education through distance learning mode, and this number is increasing at a rapid pace.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), the courses designed to offer online lectures to widely scattered students, are the recent advancement in Distance Learning.
The knowledge imparted by online distance learning courses, in most of the cases, is being considered equally important as compared to face-to-face learning.
Source: Survey conducted by Babson Survey Research Group in 2011 to find out the state of Distance learning in the United States.
Distance learning is restructuring the education system to a great extent. It has its positive and negative aspects, though, arguably, there are more positive aspects than negative. The best part is, it has outstretched the radius of higher education to a sizable extent.
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This structure of education is now preferred not only by the remotely located underprivileged candidates but also by a lot of urban candidates coming from different walks of life.
Those who couldn’t complete their higher education, for any possible reason, can fall back on distance learning at any age. Students who have financial limitations can resort to this mode of learning, for it is considerably cheaper than the traditional style. Working professionals who wish to ascend the ladder of their career rapidly with the help of higher education can also look up to this form of learning.
Another significant advantage is, the students desirous of pursuing higher education from any international organization can consider distance learning for a hassle free (as there is no requirement to apply for a visa) and affordable education.
Distance Learning is more flexible, personalized and cost-effective as compared to traditional classroom learning. Besides, it lets a student learn at his/her own pace, view a lecture over and over again if the concepts are not clear, save the time and energy that would be invested in commuting to and fro the class.
The virtual classroom set-up of distance learning deprives the students of the healthy competition that is the key advantage of real class. It also deprives the students of the discipline, and punctuality taught by a real classroom. The face-to-face interaction with the professors would also be certainly missed in many cases.
Sure, distance learning is the most flexible means of higher education, what is equally undeniable, is that in certain cases, it might fortify procrastination as there are no classroom tests or interactions. For those who are not actively involved in any other job or activity, the learning process would become sluggish, unnecessarily.
Also, not all the courses are available through distance education mode. Though new courses are being added rapidly, some highly practical oriented courses like M.B.B.S., B.D.S., Engineering, etc. are hard to be entirely brought under the ambit of distance learning.
In India, there are many universities and colleges providing distance education. Some of these are not recognized by UGC (University Grant Commission), the apex education regulator of India. Studying with such organizations can cause impediments in a candidate’s career. However, the government is contemplating over this issue, and they are hoped to come up with a solution very soon.
To sum it up, like any other thing in the world, distance learning also has both pros and cons. However, over time, it has served as a means of higher learning among those who would have never studied further had there been no distance education. Distance education has played a significant role in the growth of higher education.
It is certainly a promising option for those who are matured enough to keep themselves motivated and disciplined, and because of their financial condition, career, or location, it is not possible to study through the regular mode.
Though there are certain setbacks with this style of learning, with the rapid advancement in technology soon many of these issues will be eliminated.
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