Adapting to Distance Learning

There are many differences between online and distance learning. Learn more about the pros and cons of distance learning.

While many schools and universities utilized distance learning in the past, it has received even more attention since 2020 due to Covid-19. During quarantine, schools were forced to shut down, resorting to either distance or online learning. Even moving into 2021, there are still many schools choosing to teach from a distance as opposed to in person.

The terms distance and online learning are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences between the two methods. With online learning, students attend classes in a digital setting. Lessons are taught in real time, so you can interact with your teacher and other students. Classes have a set schedule, like at a traditional school. With distance learning, classes do not occur in real time. Instead, teachers send their students all the material they need, including assignments, reading material and prerecorded video lectures. While there are deadlines, students choose when they attend classes and complete assignments. There is still some communication with the teacher and other peers, but it takes place over messaging apps, discussion boards or email.

Benefits of Distance Learning

The biggest benefit of distance learning is convenience. Distance learning is commonly used by students who are also working or taking care of family members during the day. While universities often provide night classes, these classes are normally limited and may not be applicable to your chosen major. Distance learning allows you to complete your courses at any time from any location.

Distance learning is also great if you prefer to set your own pace. Some students prefer to get all their work done over the course of a few days, leaving the rest of the week open for other activities. It is also helpful if you learn better by completing the work right after listening to a lecture or reading an assignment, allowing you to work while the information is still fresh in your mind.

Some students also enjoy how distance learning makes them rely primarily on their own abilities. Instead of asking your professor questions, you are motivated to look up the answers on your own. Many students feel this offers practical, real world experience, since you cannot always rely on someone being there to guide you at work.

There are also benefits for the schools. Class size is not as much of an issue with distance learning, since the teacher does not have to attend classes in real time. It is also less expensive to host distance classes. Teachers also benefit from the convenience, creating materials ahead of time to send out to students.

Disadvantages of Distance Learning

Some of the benefits associated with distance learning are also disadvantages. Distance learning is difficult for students who prefer asking questions and directly interacting with classmates. Another challenge for some students is completing the material on time. If you are not self-motivated, it is easy to let your assignments build up, leaving you scrambling to complete them on time. Some students also get overwhelmed with the freedom, trying to force themselves to complete the assignments as quickly as possible, only to push themselves too hard and burn out.

Some subjects are also difficult to teach through distance learning. There are many subjects that require practical application. It is not always possible for a teacher to highlight these subjects through a prerecorded video, especially for lengthier demonstrations.

Another issue for students is you must be comfortable using technology on your own to make the most out of distance learning. With online classes, you can at least ask your teacher or interact with students for help. While these options are available with distance learning, it is harder to troubleshoot through email or messaging apps.

John Hopkins University

John Hopkins University has always placed a greater emphasis on self-development for students. As a result, it has a wide range of distance learning programs available, with many classes focusing on business, social and computer sciences and engineering. It also offers more options for international learners. John Hopkins is one of the few universities with robust medical classes for distance learning.

Indiana University Bloomington

While many students find it easier to schedule around distance learning, there are some students who are frustrated with the length of the program. Students who quickly complete their assignments are stuck waiting for the next round of assignments. Bloomington is great for distance learners who want to fast track their education. There are numerous programs you can complete within six- or eight-week periods. There are even specific programs designed for students who are already working in their desired career, allowing them to quickly complete their course and advance in the workplace.

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech focuses on a wide range of subjects for distance learning. Many schools only have bachelor programs available for distance learning, but Texas Tech also has master’s and even several PhD distance classes. The university has a small handful of accelerated programs as well. The school also runs a hybrid program for certain subjects that require practical, in-person demonstrations.

Trine University

Trine University is known for excellent business, analytics and technological distance programs. Trine is one of the colleges best equipped for distance learning. New students must complete a four-week orientation to prepare them for distance learning. Trine also focuses on accelerated learning programs. Most options require eight weeks to complete, but there are six-week courses offered during the summer semester.