In the past decade, distance education has become an increasingly popular way for colleges to provide access to their programs and for students to learn about topics and get degrees they might not otherwise be able to pursue. Instructors from grade school to college are using the potential of distance learning to teach students from all around the globe and allow them to work collaboratively on projects, degrees-focused content and educational enrichment.
So what exactly is distance learning? Distance learning occurs when there is a separation between the instructor and the student, usually due to geographical or time concerns that prevent the student from attending an on-campus course. Often, electronic means are used to bridge this gap and distribute educational material though distance learning programs using printed and mailed materials have existed for well over a hundred years. These programs have usually been specially designed to help best meet the needs and requirements that arise when learning is taking place outside of a traditional classroom setting.
The majority of distance education today takes place using the Internet, now readily accessible for the vast majority of students whether in their own homes or at facilities such as local libraries. These electronic means are used to distribute the learning material, keep students in touch with teachers, and provide access to communication between students. Of course, distance learning can use other technological formats as well including television, DVDs, teleconferencing, and printable material, but the immediacy and functionality of Web learning has made it a first choice for many distance learners. Online programs often take advantage of a number of emerging technologies to make keeping in touch and effectively communicating ideas easier and more efficient than ever before and students may find themselves using interactive videos, e-mail, and discussion boards to complete their lessons.
Distance learning makes it much easier for some students to complete a degree or get additional job-training while balancing work and family commitments. Because the hours when class work can be completed are flexible, as most distance learning programs allow students to work at their own pace and on their own time, many students can complete their work during times when they are free, rather than scheduling their lives around a set classroom time. With more flexibility comes more responsibility on the part of the learner. Students must learn to work well independently and without the constant guidance and monitoring of an instructor, making distance learning a challenge for those who are not easily self-motivated.
Distance learning is also a great tool to help reach students who are in geographically remote areas and may not have readily available access to educational facilities or who want to explore opportunities not offered by their local schools. Of course, schools are not the only people who are taking advantage of distance learning, as many businesses have found it a valuable tool in making employee education and training quicker and more cost efficient.(http://www.distancelearningnet.com/what-is-distance-learning/)