Increasingly, students are earning their college degrees from the comfort of their own homes. Distance learning -- or online colleges -- provides accessibility, flexibility and freedom to students. However, it also provides less structure and support than traditional on-campus colleges. Therefore students must exercise greater discipline and time management to succeed.
Flexibility and Accessibility
Studying from home means there's no commute to reach the campus. This saves students time and money in terms of traffic, gas, parking and public transportation fees. With distance learning, submitting assignments, listening to lectures and participating in class can be as simple as logging in to the campus website. The flexibility of this learning model is particularly beneficial for non-traditional students who work full-time or have children at home. The University of Illinois notes that "adult learners in particular find the online environment a convenient way to fit education into their busy lives." Deadlines for online coursework are often weekly rather than daily, allowing students to set their own schedules for school.
One of the challenges of online learning is the abundance of distractions that are not necessarily present in an on-campus learning environment. Working online offers online distractions such as social media, web browsing, email, chatting and video sites. Working at home offers distractions such as chores, errands, family responsibilities and the telephone. Therefore, students who participate in distance learning need self-discipline. For example, to avoid being tempted by online distractions, students can sign out of social media and e-mail while doing coursework. To avoid daily offline distractions, students can go into a separate room or set a specific slot of time that is strictly dedicated to completing schoolwork.
For some, the absence of a regular meeting schedule leads them to procrastinate in their schoolwork. Iowa State University warns that "learners with low motivation or bad study habits may fall behind." In order to succeed in distance learning programs, students must properly manage their time, devoting a specific amount of time each day or a few times a week to schoolwork only. Creating a daily schedule allows students to monitor the time spent on distractions and can provide students with a study schedule to prevent them from falling behind.
A key element of distance learning is consistent access to functioning technology. To participate properly in online classes, students must have access to a computer and a fast internet connection, and they must have the ability to type. Iowa State University states that "managing computer files and online learning software can sometimes seem complex for students with beginner-level computer skills." Most schools, however, provide manuals and technical guidance and support for students struggling with software related issues.
Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.