Online learning and distance learning are becoming more and more prevalent in the United States.. Some schools are dedicated to distance learning specifically, and many traditional schools offer some or all of their courses online. Technologies like PC to Phone Calling make this process easier. In 2011, the Pew Research Center reported that more than 75% of the nation’s colleges now offer online classes, and 51% of college presidents say these classes offer the same value as face-to-face learning.
Not all online classes are part of distance learning programs – many schools only offer online classes on on-campus students. However, distance learning is also growing, with the Instructional Technology Council reporting that from 2011 to 2012 student demand for distance education at community colleges grew far faster than demand for on-campus education.
Benefits of Distance Learning
Virtual classrooms offer a host of benefits for both students and teachers. Here are a few of the most notable:
- Accessibility. Distance education gives unprecedented access to disabled and homebound Americans. Where many schools struggle to fully meet ADA requirements, distance education gives ill and disabled students the ability to attend classes and earn degrees without leaving their homes.
- Flexibility. Students can create their own schedule when they are taking online classes. If a student chooses to review test notes during the night while working during the day, distance learning can accommodate that. In addition, non-traditional students returning to school can work around family obligations and other needs.
- Individual Attention. Students and professors can interact one-on-one, often more privately than a face-to-face class allows. Many times a student won’t ask a question for fear of looking foolish, but email allows direct and private communication. In addition, no matter when a question arises, it can be asked right away, instead of trying to remember in class the next day.
- Skill Development. Distance education gives students technology skills that are coveted in the business world. In addition, learning how to form groups and work together remotely is a great asset that is highly applicable in today’s international business environment
- Expense. Online credits are often cheaper than face-to-face classroom credits, making them a good choice for budget-conscious students. Since these credits will transfer to other schools, those pursuing a two-year degree may focus on online courses to save money before transferring.
- Ecologically sound. With less travel and commuting, distance education and online learning are kinder to the environment we live in.
The Future of Distance Learning
Distance learning is definitely the wave of the future. Students lead increasingly busy lives, and many working Americans are finding that they need a degree just to compete in today’s complex world. This means that not only are traditional students moving toward online learning, but the demand from non-traditional students is growing. Community colleges have been on the forefront of distance learning – in 2010-2011, Ivy Tech in Indiana had 79,000 different students in 300 online credit courses. 82% of community colleges offer online courses, compared with 79% of research universities and 61% of liberal arts colleges.
Technology will continue to play an important role in distance education. Today’s internet and telephone technologies are deeply interconnected, and the days of chat-only rooms are quickly fading. PC to phone calls, live video chat, and a host of other technologies will make distance learning connections more personal than ever before. You’ll truly get to know your professor and classmates beyond the text of a chat room or bulletin board.
Whether young or old, Americans today face stark realities in the job market. Having a degree is no longer optional, and as education needs increase, so will demand for distance learning. Many of those seeking an education are already employed and need to brush up on their skills and finish their degrees. Even those of a traditional college age are increasingly tech-savvy and looking for a flexible schedule. New technologies will bring distance education into the same personal realm face-to-face education enjoys. The days of distance learning are only beginning, and the future is bright.