Advantages and Disadvantages of Distance Learning
|A big advantage of distance learning via Internet is that this type of instruction can be used by several groups of people who need instruction: pupils, university students, employed persons as well as those who want to re-enter their jobs after time away.
A student who cannot go to school due to an illness has the chance of following the instruction at home and therefore has no disadvantages with respect to his fellow students.
The same principle applies to a university student who spends a semester or one year abroaddistance learning enables him to “attend” the courses at his home university. Employees are able to increase and update their specific knowledge at their place of employment. Perhaps they even have the opportunity to graduate from a university, without being constrained by schedules. “Flexible time management” is especially important for mothers who want to work in their former jobs after their maternity leave, as the job market often changes drastically within a short time. They have the opportunity to further their professional skills while their children are in kindergarten, school, or in bed. Students who are too far away from a university or disabled persons now have the possibility to study as well. Furthermore, people from different social, cultural and economic backgrounds can be brought together. The fact that the courses are available at almost any time and in almost any place means that far more people can make use of them. The participants can work according to their own needs and concentrate on the contents they really need or have to learn. Thus, the learning process as such is improved and motivation and memory are enhanced The computers used for distance learning increase flexibility and interaction. Furthermore, the costs for permanently available educational establishments can be saved. Another advantage is the fact that 'guest speakers' who cannot go to the courses can thus be integrated. Since the entire course, including the interaction between students, is independent of the presence of a conventional teacher, it can be continuously monitored and improved by other teachers and consultants. In comparison to common methods of studying, distance learning requires a substantial degree of maturity and commitment from students. The lack of these prerequisites could prove to be a disadvantage.
Sometimes, students have difficulties determining which contents are important. Additionally, many of them need help organizing their studies and schedules. One has to bear in mind that the success of a course depends on the equipment used for learning. If the equipment is inadequate, the course can fail. Some students have no or only insufficient access to the necessary computer equipment or they lack the essential computer skills and consequently the necessary motivation to work successfully.
As a result, certain students might avoid taking part in these courses or they concentrate more on their technological problems instead of focusing on the learning matter. Often, students with better computer equipment are more likely to succeed. As far as the relationship among students is concerned, it has to be considered that distance learning lacks the motivation resulting from the contact but also the competition among students. The same applies to the interaction between students and teachers. The offered courses are often not flexible enough to include unforeseen details of the subject, difficulties with understanding or students’ reactions. Spontaneity falls by the wayside. Distance learning provides a new challenge for the teacher: his teaching method has to meet the needs and expectations of many different participants. The teacher also has to develop an understanding for the capabilities and needs of the students without personal contact and direct working experience with the participants of the course.