Distance Learning v. The Traditional Classroom

Distance learning gives you greater freedom (Photo by Anastassia)

There are a number of differences between logging on to your class and seating yourself in front of a teacher’s focused gaze. The intervention of the computer changes the entire dynamic involved in the transfer of information. We are often warned that jokes and sarcasm don’t play well across the internet. That is because they are read out of the context of facial expressions and tone of voice that can moderate their effect. The same is true when comparing the traditional classroom with distance learning.

In the traditional classroom, the teacher can tell whether the class is following his explanation. He can slow down, repeat a lesson, illustrate a point on a whiteboard, and see whether he is getting his ideas across.  Humans are great mimickers, adjusting the expression on their faces to match that of whoever is speaking. This reflection enhances the learning capability of the student by giving him some indication of what the teacher is feeling: a smile indicates that the subject is light; a frown conveys heaviness or seriousness; raised eyebrows show that a question is in the air. Communicating through text over the internet disrupts this added learning ability. In distance learning, the ability to read and understand the written word quickly and accurately replaces that face-to-face interaction. This means that the teacher has to be much clearer to get his message across, and the student has to work harder to get that message.

The reverse is also true. The student must choose his words carefully, whether he has a question or is offering a response. For this reason, students should always attempt to use standard English words and sentences. Texting abbreviations are great when chatting with friends, but have no place in the classroom environment. The requirement of spelling out words and understanding proper grammar can make taking classes online more challenging. If you do not already have decent typing skills, you might consider starting your distance learning experience with typing lessons and a refresher course in grammar. Taking these classes may put off your college graduation date a bit, but may prove to be time well spent in making life much easier.

Another major difference between distance learning and on-site learning is time management. It can be a great motivator to get your homework done when each day you don’t know whether the teacher will be calling on you to share your thoughts with the class. It’s much more freeing, but also creates a greater responsibility, when your class meets only once a week, or not at all. The motivation then all comes from you. It is difficult to stay focused when the car breaks down, the kids have colds, and the boss sends down a project that must be done ASAP. When those sorts of things happen, it is easy to set aside homework in favor of the current crisis.

The good news is that learning to manage your time now will provide a great benefit in the future. College graduates tend to have careers that require them to be very autonomous. They must set their own priorities, adjust their own schedules, and plan their projects months in advance. Learn how to do those things now, and you will be ahead of the game in your new career.

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