Going The Distance: How the Internet has helped changed the Distance Education landscape

by Adam Johnston

The Internet has changed many industries, including music, and entertainment. Education is no different. While the idea of distance education has been around for a while, the Internet has helped changed its dynamics.

What is Techtarget.com defines distance education (or e-learning) as “a formalized teaching and learning system specifically designed to be carried out remotely by using electronic communication.”

E-learning can be delivered in many formats including: MP3’s DVD’s CD’s teleconferencing, and computer centered technology (for example, blackboard).

E-learning continues to grow. A recent study released in September 2015 by Reportlinker suggests an increase from $165.38 US billion  in 2014, to $243.8 US billion by 2022. According to the report, much of this growth is supported by the rise of mobile phone use, advancing broadband use, flexibility in learning, and easy access. Thanks to improvements in e-learning from Internet technologies, consumers do not have to look at staying within geographical limits in order to fulfill their educational needs. Now they can go global.

There is many positives to consider when doing a distance education program. First, it allows for more flexibility for students. LearnDash.com noted flexibility as one reason why more are going this route. People have lives. They work 9 to 5. They don’t want to commute to a night course. Yet, they want the same high level of education. E-learning allows working class people to go after a degree, thanks to Internet-based learning. The average online learner is 34 years old, according to Education Today.

Another advantage of online learning is it can reduce paper use, and our carbon footprint. Quizzes, papers, now can be written, sent, and marked on word document processing software. Compare this to printing out your paper for your final essay in a regular class, or the amount of trees cut down for tests in a non e-class.

A big plus for distance education is more choice. With e-learning, geographical boundaries are eliminated. Want to get a college certificate in social media? Many Canadian online college programs exsist, including Algonquin College’s Social Media certificate program. Not happy with the choices for masters programs in Manitoba? You can look towards other schools, including Athabasca University who offers many unique post grad programs.

However, despite many advantages, there is some concerns for potential students who go the e-learning route.

For starters, students must meet the technical requirements, according to Optimum Sourcing.com.  Students must check with their school in order to make sure they have the requirements for a successful transition from a traditional classroom setting, to a virtual classroom.

Second, e-students need to consider is being disciplined. While you may have the convenience of not having to commute in between school and home, consideration must be taken in allocating time for various tasks. Unlike in class lectures, where you sit and hear a professor lecture, many e-courses consist of readings, posting about the readings on message boards, and responding to those replies. Planning ahead of time will not only save time, but ensure success within your e-learning course.

Finally, while learning online provides a chance to connect with other students around the globe, Optimum Sourcing.com also suggests isolation may occur. There is no face to face contact between student and instructor. Rather, any questions regarding tasks are done by email, which may often not get resolved right away.

Despite some of these concerns, e-learning provides tremendous opportunities for those who are looking to expand their education, without landing a foot in real classroom.

Adam Johnston is a freelance writer who covers technology trends. He has written for CleanTechnica, SolarLove and MicroGrid Media. Got a comment? You may contact him at adamjwpg@mymts.net.

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