Distance learning is the process of obtaining an education while not on the physical property of the institution at which you are being educated. In recent years distance learning has experienced a surging popularity as more and more students discover the convenience of fitting these into their life's schedules.
Although it sometimes seems that distance learning is a relatively new concept, it has been around for well over one hundred years. The first known correspondence class was a class in shorthand taught by Isaac Pitman in the 1840s. Over 100 years later the University of South Africa became the first established institution to offer correspondence classes in 1946.
The Open University was founded in 1967 in the United Kingdom and became the largest distance education university. Since the founding of the Open University, many other institutions have followed suit. It is now possible to earn an entire college degree without ever stepping foot inside a classroom.
The development of the Internet has increased the number of students able to obtain a college degree through distance learning. All the students need is a decent personal computer, a solid Internet connection, e-mail, and the ability to attach files to their e-mails.
There are many reasons that students now choose to obtain their degrees through distance learning. Many students like the fact that they no longer have to commute back and forth from home to class everyday since, as the gas prices rise, they are able to save money. Students also enjoy the fact that they can complete their classes at their convenience, so that classes don't interfer as much with their social lives and current careers.
Students who are also parents no longer have to worry about scraping up the money to not only pay college tuition but also day care fees as much of their distance education allows them to stay at home so they can watch their children as they study. Additionally, physically impaired students find that distance learning allows them to take classes without having to worry about accessibility.
As in everything, where there are advantages to distance learning there are also disadvantages. Often the cost of the technology is quite expensive for both the school and student. In the student's case, it is imperative to make sure they own a reliable personal computer which can sometimes cost several hundred dollars. On the school’s side, the technology required to teach students through distance learning is often expensive, which means an increase in tuition costs and fees.
Both the teachers and students must be prepared to make some sacrifices when it comes time to complete examinations. In some situations, not all online classes are totally online. Some schools require you to still appear on the campus to take tests and exams.
Many high schools are now becoming involved with distance learning and are offering such programs as part of their curriculum. Distance learning allows these high schools to share resources and information with other schools and offer a larger earth class option for students with special means and wants.
Sadly the increase in online colleges and universities has also brought about an increase in diploma mills. Diploma mills are schools that offer a college degree in exchange for a one-time lump-sum payment in life experience. Unfortunately, after students pay their money and receive a degree, they learned these degrees really aren't worth the paper they were printed on. Students can avoid falling into the diploma mill trap by checking with the Council of Higher Education Accreditation and making sure the school they are considering is on the approved list of colleges.