What Is Distance Learning and Why Is It Important Now?

Because of the COVID pandemic, being in closed areas in groups has turned into a big problem. While children are less likely to catch the virus than adults, they can still be carriers and put others at risk. Due to that, a worldwide need for social distancing and self-quarantines or enforced quarantines arose. According to UNESCO, 87% of the world’s student population has been affected by this new development. Many people are at odds with what to do at home, or what to do with their children. For that reason, distance learning has become a rather popular concept these days. But what is distance learning?

That’s what we’re here today to discuss.

What is distance learning

The thing is, distance learning has become very vital even before the COVID pandemic, which today practically made it a necessity. In fact, here are 6 Reasons Why Universities Need Elearning Programs with or without this virus spread. Now, let’s go back to explaining what distance learning is.

What is Distance Learning?

Distance learning is one of the terms used to refer to the process of learning where the teacher and student aren’t physically in the same location. Alternative terms with the same meaning are online learning, remote learning, and elearning. What this basically means is that the student and teacher are in contact but at a distance. Whether the learning process takes place through video calls, online coursework or mobile apps, they all fall under the same umbrella.

The teacher here doesn’t necessarily need to be a real person but can be the coursework provided in video, audio or written form.

Types of Distance Learning

The good thing about distance learning is that it’s very versatile. The learning process can be done on a myriad of different platforms, websites, and both PC and mobile applications. There are various methods of learning, and we’ve brought you the four most popular ones.

Online Course Materials

The most common elearning or distance learning method is via online course material. The material itself can be provided by tutors, online teachers, or even universities. Like in the case of edX and Coursera. The material found is provided by famous worldwide colleges and universities, such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford University. On websites such as these, there’s usually fixed coursework depending on the subject of choice. For the students, the process will be simple.

  1. Create an account
  2. Choose the course you want
  3. Enroll in the class

There are usually enrollment types, based on whether the course is free or not. The course provides students with a syllabus, videos, reading materials, assignments, forums, and tests in order for them to be fully informed on the subject. Basically, it’s like taking a college class, only online.

Video Conferencing

For those who prefer to chat face to face with a tutor, video chatting or video conferencing might be the ideal method of learning.

Video Conferencing

The gist of it is, a student heads to a website that offers tutoring services on any given subject, chooses their tutor and preferred rate (unless it’s fixed), and books a session. If they like the tutor and feel comfortable with them, they can make their sessions more regular. If not, then they’ll have other tutors to pick from. Most of those websites allow students to rate teachers, so they’ll be able to know which ones are good and which ones aren’t.

Video conferencing is particularly ideal for young learners as well as language learners. Websites such as iTalki and Rype are good examples of such sites where a student can hire a language tutor.

Elearning Apps

A very quickly spreading educational method happens to be elearning apps. What makes them very handy, is the ability to access them on your PC or your phone. These apps can be rather immersive if well done and include a whole lot of information for you to take on the go.

Elearning App

Elearning apps are relatively easy to build and very widespread. They mostly consist of interactive activities or interactive ebooks, only they’re exported in an ebook or web app format. All you have to do is find the right one from the app store, download it, and voila! You’re set to start learning.

Memrise and Duolingo are a couple of examples of such apps.

Self-Learning

Self-learning is also a very common learning method. However, it’s without the structure the other methods might provide. The student gets to choose the material, the learning aids, and the hours they put in.

Basically, when it comes to a particular subject, they research it and accumulate the material they’ll need. It can include books, videos, audio. Basically, it’s whatever helps them learn best.

They can also opt for online classes that are a little less structured and accredited than edX and Coursera, such as with Udemy and Skillshare.

The Benefits of Distance Learning

Needless to say, there are a lot of advantages to being able to study online rather than have to head to school or class on a daily basis. Here are just five of those advantages.

Flexibility

Not having to go to school every day or be restricted to fixed learning hours can be a great help to those with other obligations. Whether they’re getting a degree as they work, or are stay at home moms who want to further their knowledge, online learning can be a blessing.

They can study whenever they’re free and for however long they want. Or as the case may be now, they’re basically stuck at home, so might as well make use of the time.

Comfort

Being able to study from the comfort of one’s own home makes the learning process less daunting. It gives learners one less thing to have to worry about when it comes to going to class, finding a seat, and being crowded by other people.

At home, they can choose where they want to study and change seats whenever they’re bored or start feeling sore from sitting in one place for too long.

Easy Access

With the internet being practically everywhere, getting your hands on the material is an easy task. All of your coursework is one click away. You can also find supportive learning aids or can join forums to talk to other students and share material together online. Even contacting your teacher and getting information is easy.

Time-Saving

With no strict study-hours to abide by or time wasted getting dressed or braving traffic, online learners can study more efficiently and quickly. Their questions will be easily answered, and they can study at their own pace. If they’re quick learners, this will mean they won’t be forced to wait for the rest of the class to catch up. They’ll study as much as they can whenever they can.

Save Resources

Another added benefit to online learning is how much it saves on resources. In the case of tutoring and training, it will save on costs. Whether it’s renting the actual location or buying the equipment needed for the classroom, there’s a whole lot of money being spent.

That’s not all, there’s no need for printed material to be handed out, as everything will be done virtually. All in all, not a bad deal for the environment either.

The Drawbacks of Distance Learning

While there are many advantages to distance learning, there are also disadvantages that come along with it. Nothing is perfect after all. Here are four of the biggest issues you might face.

Lack of Proper Resources

While distance learning is a great alternative to face-to-face learning, especially with the current situation, it’s not ideal for everyone. Especially those without the proper resources to make it happen.

Not everyone can afford a laptop or tablet or even a smartphone to study on. Besides that, educational institutions might not be able to provide it for everyone, and instructors can’t be expected to either.

Bad Connection

Not everyone has access to a good internet connection. So if students are unable to access the content, it will make the whole thing rather useless. Students from all around the world have been affected by the virus dilemma. It’s sad to see that not all of them are lucky enough to have a handy alternative to resort to.

Lack of Motivation

When studying at home, one can easily lose interest in what they’re learning. After all, in a classroom, students get to see other people, get comic relief from fellow classmates’ antics, and get to see their teachers face-to-face. At home, however, they have to be the ones forcing themselves to study and do it on their own. It makes it a whole lot harder to keep up.

Lack of Dedicated Time

Even though people can learn whenever they want, it’s still hard to make time for it. Sometimes being overwhelmed with day to day responsibilities doesn’t allow for free time dedicated to learning. Especially if it’s without proper structure.

To find out more about online learning’s dropout rates and how to counter them, head to Most Effective Ways to Cut Elearning Dropout Rates.

How to Start Applying Distance Learning

So what can help you get on that bandwagon and create your own elearning coursework or distance learning methods above? Here are three of our top picks to lend you a hand.

LMS

An LMS (Learning Management System) is a software that helps you both create and manage your online coursework. While it’s become more and more popular with companies in helping train their employees, it was originally designed for students.

Through the software, teachers can create very well-structured coursework that can include various materials. From basic course content to videos, tests, discussion boards and rubrics for teachers and educators.

LMS Moodle
Image Source: https://moodle.com/lms/

Educators can also make use of it to manage and organize said course, who has enrolled in it, gauge the results and how it’s received. This, in turn, will help them better improve it and the learning experience as a whole. A popular (and free) LMS to help you accomplish that is Moodle.

Online Collaboration Tools

Another way to make the switch is by creating a virtual classroom. This can be done with the help of online collaboration tools such as Blackboard Collaborate. With the help of this solution, you can create your virtual classroom for your students, share the course material with them, as well as video conference the whole lesson.

Blackboard Collaborate
Image Source: https://www.blackboard.com/teaching-learning/collaboration-web-conferencing/blackboard-collaborate?

The teaching and sharing of information all in real-time can help emulate the classroom feel, only from the comfort of the students’ home instead.

Ebooks

Last but not least, is to make the switch with the help of ebooks. As you may know, ebooks have greatly impacted the education and the publishing industry as a whole. Hence they’ve become readily available to everyone and even easy to create. Especially with dedicated platforms such as Kotobee.

Ebooks

Interactive ebooks, in particular, make for great learning resources for students. They’re easy to take with them wherever they go and can include all sorts of information and interactive elements to help enhance their learning experience.

In addition to that, there are many formats you can export to in order to suit all of your students’ devices. In fact, with the help of Kotobee, you can even create your own elearning app!

Conclusion

With or without the COVID pandemic, distance learning has gained traction around the world for its ease of use, availability, and convenience. Instead of leaving all your students hanging in this confusing time, it’s essential for you to make the switch and help them get back to learning.

Not only that, with these online teaching methods, but you’ll also be able to give them a far richer learning experience. As a whole, turning to distance learning might be considered as the silver lining of these turbulent times.

 

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  • Anne Martone

    This is one of the most detailed lists about remote learning I’ve met so far!
    I’d also add the tools that can also have general use, but are life-savers for distant learning and are not mentioned here: Skype and Hangouts.
    I won’t recommend Zoom due to recent privacy concerns.

    Also, whether you’re a teacher or a student, Preply is a good place to start. They offer their own video chat solution named Preply Space, and it’s perfectly adapted to the online learning. I suggest you also add it to the list along with italki and Rype.

    • http://www.kotobee.com Kotobee

      We are glad you liked the post.
      Thank you for your suggestions, we will keep them in mind.