Distance learning has grown considerably in recent years, as more people take the opportunity to learn new skills without attending a college or university. Since the pandemic forced many institutions to close their doors temporarily, online learning has boomed.
The beauty of online courses is they can take them entirely in your own space and at your own pace, so you can be earning a degree while working a 9 to 5 job. Or you can choose a blend of online and classroom study to enjoy on-campus benefits as well.
Pros and cons of distance education
So what are the advantages of studying online?
- Flexibility – you can set your schedule and study from anywhere, at any time, and your own pace. You can also learn and earn at the same time and pay your way through college.
- Accessibility – you can choose to study at any educational institution globally because there are no geographical boundaries on the Internet.
- Affordability – studying online saves on costs like fuel, parking, and books. Many online courses also have lower tuition fees and can be completed at your own pace, meaning lower education costs if you graduate early.
And the disadvantages?
- Questionable quality – online ‘diploma mills’ have given distance education a bad rep in the past, and employers do not recognize some online qualifications.
- Self-directed learning – this type of learning only works if you have a lot of self-discipline and internal motivation and can work without the need for supervision.
- Lack of feedback – online courses offer less individual attention and interaction with tutors than classroom courses and make some people feel isolated and unmotivated.
Tips for successful online study
Despite the apparent drawbacks, distance education can work well for most people providing they go about it the right way. The following are a few things to keep in mind.
Have the right technology
Because you are studying solely online, make sure you have suitable hardware, software, and Internet connectivity.
“The biggest users of data are video streaming services, video games, and music … A 25mbps download speed is enough to stream video for one person or have a couple of people using the Internet in the household at the same time. A 100mbps download, meanwhile, is for people that want to enjoy 4K resolution streams, download large files quickly (like video games), and have a home office setup.”
Source: Aussie Broadband
Have a study space
You will need a dedicated study space where you can work without interruptions. Ideally, it should have a door that you can close, a desk for your computer, and a chair. Make sure it’s comfortable because you will be spending long hours in it studying.
Study at the correct times
Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, try and schedule your study for when your energy levels are highest. And make sure you take regular breaks for the sake of your health.
Get some support
Distance learning can be isolating, so seek out other students for mutual support and encouragement. Most educational institutions have online forums where students can socialize, compare notes and share successes and problems.
Distance learning students often hold down full-time jobs or support families and have many commitments calling on their time. It can be easy to succumb to these at the expense of your studies, so have set study times that you strictly adhere to and take care of everything else outside of that.
Make use of resources
If you’re studying through a college or university, they are likely to have on-campus resources you can take advantage of. Check their website for services such as student support, careers advice, technology training, and study techniques, all of which can be useful when you’re studying online. In addition to this, there are plenty of resources online that you make use of – for example, Practice Quiz has test questions for a range of subjects that you can work through in preparation for your big exams.
It’s a hard road you’ve chosen, and you’ll need every bit of motivation you can muster. So reward yourself for those little successes, such as getting a high mark, and promise yourself something substantial when you finally graduate.
Studying from home is similar to working from home in that to be successful, you have to treat it as a paying job. Foster the idea that your home is a place of work during study times and behave as you would if you had a supervisor looking over your shoulder.
If you succeed with your online studies, it will be because you want it badly enough and have persevered through good times and bad to get it. Because it’s a solo event at the end of the day, and you’re the only one who can make it happen.