What is the difference between remote or distance learning and classroom learning?
Distance learning is the process of taking courses online from a college or educational organization located anywhere. The distance makes no difference, and the quality of education should be similar to that of a classroom environment, as long as the educational institution is certified by an appropriate licensing board.
The process can be synchronous - where teacher and all students are online at the same time, or asynchronous - where teacher and students can be online at different times, at their convenience. The exception is during "chat" times when students must be online together to communicate with each other in real time.
Both classroom and remote environments have teachers and students. Students may be given assignments including term papers and other writing assignments. Students may be tested. They may be asked to create or join teams with other students for group projects.They can ask their teacher questions. They can give their opinions on subjects raised by the teachers or other students.
The difference between the two environments is physical presence. A classroom offers the chance to not only hear the teacher and students but see their smiles or expressions of confusion, anxiety, or anger. Being physically with other students provides group motivation to achieve and provides opportunity to seek immediate help from others.
The remote environment, on the other hand, depends on each student to independently motivate himself or herself, to receive weekly teaching and assignments, to login when required, to do the assignments during the week, to communicate with other students if asked, and to learn enough to pass any tests or exams. This requires independence and self-motivation, time management, and the ability to block out the distractions from home.
Another difference is the source material used. Classrooms often use textbooks and other sources available from the school library. Remote students often use textbooks as well, but they are more likely to also have to master the art of using the Internet for research and additional sources of information.
The difficulties of the remote environment are offset by the convenience of using the system at your discretion. Generally, you can sign on as a student at any time, within some general restrictions.
No one knows what the future will hold, but it appears that more and more colleges are now offering remote courses as part of their curricula. Some high schools and vocational schools are also adding remote courses. Community centers and government organizations, too, are looking to add remote opportunities for learning.
Remote or distance learning is now the subject of colleges wishing to expand their curriculum offerings through development of learning networks. But many are trying to do this without incurring high costs. The answer for these colleges is to unite to form an alliance to share research and developmental costs. One regional example of this is a group of colleges in New England who have already formed such an alliance.
From the growing number of college and community offerings via this method, remote or distance learning is definitely becoming a popular alternative or complement to classroom instruction.