For most of the history of university instruction, learning has taken place in a lecture hall or laboratory setting, with the professor (or a teaching assistant) present to give face-to-face instruction and feedback to the students. However, with the advent of the Internet, a great deal of learning can now take place online: students can watch videotaped lectures at their convenience, and instead of taking part in face-to-face discussion sessions, they can instead participate in online live-chat sessions or respond to forum posts by the professor and other students. It also makes assignments easier to submit, as students can simply upload files instead of printing out papers and bringing them to class. While both types of instruction have their advantages and disadvantages, distance learning is preferable for students who have families, who cannot accommodate a traditional university schedule, and who have to pay for their college as they go along, one semester at a time.
Older students with families can attain degrees through distance learning that they would not have been able to manage with a traditional class schedule. In my own situation, I have three boys – and one of them has special needs. I would not be able to care for them adequately if I had to attend a traditional class schedule. The flexibility of distance learning allows me to take part in their school activities and be available for them in case of emergencies. I can still read and view the class materials, and I can still demonstrate my learning through completed assignments.
Students don’t have to have children of their own to need a schedule other than the traditional university format, though. Students who are not quite ready for a 12- or 15-hour schedule of classes can start out with fewer hours per semester, and handle all of their classes online while working, or while receiving remedial help from tutors when they would normally be in a traditional classroom. That way they can receive instructional support in addition to the classroom materials, instead of falling behind and doing poorly in their classes. Also, students who lack the transportation to get to class, or who live too far away from an affordable college or university, can use an online university to attain a degree.
With college costs rising each year, many students have to pay for their semesters one at a time, either with or without the help of college loans. In order to secure the sort of jobs that will help them pay for college, many of them need to work at a time when classes are in session for traditional colleges. As a result, the flexibility of a distance learning based university can give them the ability to work the hours they need to, while also completing all of their assignments for their classes. This can help them graduate with less student debt while building the employment experience they will need to have a solid resume after graduation.
Distance learning is becoming a preferable option for many university students who would like to attain a degree but have barriers keeping them from attending college in the traditional format. As long as the school is accredited, and has a reputation for academic excellence, there is no reason why students should think twice about taking distance classes. In my own experience, distance learning has made the difference between having a degree and still waiting for my chance.