Traditionally, most people find the norm in education to involve lectures in physical classrooms. Tutor-student interaction is perceived as being only physical. With innovations, virtual learning has been introduced with varying degrees of success. However, lots of students, and potential students, find virtual learning both difficult and inadequate. To this group, combining student life with work and other commitments is no small feat. Self-motivation and managing distractions represent significant challenges to the distance student. Again, this is largely due to the traditional expectations that learning should be restricted to the four walls of a physical classroom.
As a first-time distance learning student, my experience thus far and from an informal interview with a friend (also on a distance learning program) has been informative. With the flexibility we have, study can be self-paced and the ability to interact with classmates from different parts of the world without having to incur travel costs or work capabilities make it more interesting and enlightening. The key, however is “motivation”. Some students are supported financially by employers and family, but what all distance-learning students must have in common is a passion for their subject and a commitment to self-studying.
While circumstances and situations differ, it is important to take advantage of the benefits that learning across borders poses such as increased networking, collaboration and ideas sharing thus initiating an exposure to innovative and unique perspectives.
My experience of distance learning has been exciting and enlightening. I have got to know people from various countries and continents, identified with them (despite cultural differences) in terms of motives for registering, collaborated on ideas discussed, and built friendships that transcend the virtual environment.
Prior to my studies with UOL, I perceived distance learning as one sided, involving one student to a tutor and minimal tutor-student or peer interaction but the reverse is actually the case. Clarity has been provided on coursework attempts and recommended readings are easier to follow through because discussion forums are introduced. Also, current and previous students have established chat platforms that enable ideas and resources to be shared. The distance learning platform feels like a community and my interest in foreign languages has been rekindled as some coursemates readily provide support beyond the academic expectations.
One limitation to distance learning is encountered by students in locations with poor or unreliable internet connection as they are unable to effectively and efficiently harness the numerous benefits it offers. This highlights the need for adequate consideration of internet availability when deciding to learn in this way.
The organisation of module activities via the timetable established at the start of the semester makes it easy to plan and coordinate personal responsibilities and activities to accommodate the study schedule, which is a significant advantage of distance learning. The knowledge I have gained has been unparalleled, and I owe much of this to managing my time effectively. This is why it is such an important aspect of distance learning.
Edidiong studies the MSc in Professional Accountancy via distance learning in Nigeria.