Distance learning, just like traditional learning, requires commitment, sacrifice, and drive, and has some potential down sides for students. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about starting an on-line education program. For Part One of this blog, click here.
Lack of Support and Feedback – Related to the topic of isolation is a similar, but different, topic of support. On a campus, a student can simply walk to the guidance office, or to the office of the instructor. They may have to wait, or come back another time, but the point is there are physical resources a student can pursue. In an electronic campus, the student still has access to guidance counselors, instructors, tutors, and in some cases librarians, but can only reach them by sending an e-mail, or by making a phone call. And then they must wait for a response. This can be frustrating and alienating, and can potentially affect a student’s school performance. On a similar note, a student may also feel there is a disconnection between themselves and their instructor due to a lack of feedback. If there is too long of a delay, the student could possibly lose precious time on an assignment. The forms of long distance communication are impersonal by nature, and it’s possible that it can impact how a student does in a particular course.
Are the Courses Strong? – A college degree represents a scholastic achievement; it shows the world that someone has mastered one discipline enough to have a complete and well-rounded education in one area or another. Without that achievement, the degree is nothing but a piece of paper. It may open doors for you, but it won’t keep them open. So one thing a student needs to look at and research is the depth, or strength of an on-line program and its courses. Does the program adequately prepare you for a career in your chosen field?
Example – a student enters a program for Behavioral Science, and spend two years fulfilling all the requirements for the degree. After taking all the courses (psychology and sociology courses mostly) and getting good grades, the student graduates and receives their degree. Armed with a degree, the student sets out to find a job involving behaviorism, only to find out that they cannot get any job in their field with passing a state-required exam. The student discovers they are completely unprepared for the test, they do not get certified by the state, and now cannot use their degree to get a job in that field. The student can proudly claim to be a college graduate, but having that degree does not help them.
DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. A college education is a huge commitment of time, money, and effort. Make sure it is worth your investment. A weak program may not give you the results you want, even if you graduate.