Online Learning

Distance Learning Courses

Distance Learning Courses Growing Rapidly, Most Opportunities Yet

For busy adults and working professionals who would like to continue their education or earn their degree, distance learning programs can provide a much needed alternative to the traditional university or classroom setting. In fact, distance programs have enabled thousands of adults just like you to earn their degrees without ever having to set foot inside a classroom.

Distance learning courses are designed to help busy individuals master the skills and education they need without having the restrictions of a traditional class schedule. This type of learning program can almost always be completed from the comfort of your own home and you can complete the course work whenever your schedule allows it. For working professionals, this can make the difference between earning their degree and never being able get a higher education.

Distance learning courses can be traced back to the correspondence courses of the 1700s. In 1873, Anna Tinkner started one such school in Boston to provide an education to women in all classes in their homes. Though the program was low profile, thousands of women were able to pursue educational goals while caring for their homes and families through this program. It lasted 21 years.

As the economy continues to change and people become more concerned about their financial well being and job security, it is increasingly important to gain the education and job skills you need to remain competitive the an ever-changing job market. The problem for many working professionals, however, is that to get the continued education that they desire or need, they need to have time to devote to classroom study. The good news is that as the needs of people change, the education system is changing as well. Aside from the traditional classroom learning setting, distance learning courses are now available to everyone. In fact, many working professionals have found that they can work at their current jobs and still participate in distance courses to get the skills they needs or to complete their degree.

Many colleges and universities are entering the competitive market for online students as a way to gain more students without increasing their budgets the way that adding classes in a classroom can. In order for distance learning courses to be effective, they must use teaching methods that are appropriate to the learning tasks at hand. And most of them are doing a good job—study results consistently show that distance learners perform as well or better than students who receive their education in an online classroom.

Cutbacks in student aid may slow the growth of post-secondary education over the next few years, but new legislation that lifts restrictions on financial aid to online learners may help online colleges and universities to keep their enrollment growing at a higher rate than traditional brick and mortar schools. Only one-half of all institutions reported that demand for their face-to-face classes were up due to the recession, but three-fourths of those institutions reported that the recession increased the demand for their online classes, according to the Sloan Consortium.

The competition for online students is tight among institutions, according to “Lessons from the Cyber Classroom: The Realities of Online Learning” by Rend M. Palloff and Keith Pratt. Many smaller institutions want to get into online classes to boost enrollment, but do not have the funds to initiate the programs. A full two-thirds of all for-profit institutions reported to the Sloan Consortium that online learning was a critical part of their long-term educational strategy.

Since many online students are adults, many online programs adhere to Malcolm Knowles' Principles of Adult Education. According to Knowles, there are five principles for teaching to adult students. First, adults must understand why something is important to know. Second, they must have the freedom to learn in their own way. Third, the learning needs to be experiential. Fourth, the time needs to be right for them to learn. The final principle is that the adult learning process should be positive and encouraging. Schools that adhere to these principles of teaching are the most successful.

The Department of Education does not grand accreditation to schools, but you should look for distance learning courses that are accredited by reputable granting bodies that are recognized by the Secretary of Education. A degree or certificate from an accredited school will carry more weight with future employers. The perception of online educations has also improved greatly in recent years. 85% of recruiters feel that degrees earned online are viewed more positively than they were even 5 years ago. This is especially true in high-tech fields, such as engineering and information technology.

Another reason for the popularity of online degrees is the speed at which students can graduate. A bachelor's degree is usually earned in four years from a traditional school, but students can get the same degree in only 18 months online. Master's degrees are also popular online. An MBA is one of the top three most popular degrees earned online, granting a lucrative and fulfilling variety of opportunities.

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