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What is the future of Distance Learning?

10th August 20

For many of us the idea of education is intrinsically linked with big imposing buildings with endless corridors and musty smelling classrooms. It also means rigid timetables, classes and rules.

It is these ideas we carry with us when we consider training or going back to school to gain a qualification.

However, a growing number of school leavers and mature students are favouring distance learning as a viable alternative.

Thanks to the ubiquity of the internet and a range of sophisticated learning platforms, distance learning is becoming the method of choice for many.

This isn’t to say traditional methods of learning aren’t valid. For many – and certainly for children – it is the ideal approach.

Distance learning instead provides learners with a flexible approach to their studies. This can be particularly advantageous for anyone working full time or caring for a family.

But distance learning is doing far more than that.

Education for all

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Distance learning eliminates a great many barriers to education. A benefit identified by many mature students as it mitigates any feelings of embarrassment or awkwardness.

While arguably no one should feel embarrassed about returning to education, it’s understandable to feel like a fish out of water if the other students are several years younger than you.

Other common concerns are from people who work full time or have family members to care for.

Whether you’re running the house or in an office all day, squeezing a lesson into what is already a busy week, can be tricky.

While many employers are happy to release you for lessons, they will also expect the time back. Considering you’ll have homework and assignments too, that’s a lot of pressure.

Similarly, if you are a fulltime, or even part time, carer it can be difficult to juggle those commitments with the requirement to attend classes and study.

However, if you have a mental health issue or a physical disability to content with too, traditional learning can feel like a non-starter.

Getting to a lesson can be a genuine challenge if leaving the house, under normal circumstances, is already something of a struggle.

Distance learning eliminates that issue entirely. Regardless of your circumstances, you can study wherever (and whenever) is most comfortable and convenient for you.

That means you never have to choose between managing your challenges or your education again.

Because distance learning institutes aren’t subject to the usual term start dates and rigid learning structure you also have the luxury of starting whenever you’re ready.

Similarly, you have two years to complete most courses, so you’ve also got greater flexibility in terms of managing your studies. So, if things do become unmanageable for a little while, you have the option to pause until circumstances improve.

Multimedia Learning

Whereas traditional learning is supported by technology, distance learning is a multimedia experience.

So instead of examples on a whiteboard or reading chapters from a textbook, all your learning materials are digital.

This means no textbooks of any kind. Instead all your learning materials will be online including videos, digital documents, recordings and more.

You can also avail yourself of the internet to broaden you understanding of the module you’re studying.

But don’t forget – technology is continually evolving and improving. A decade ago, a distance learning provider would put CDs and DVDs in the post. Today it can be streamed via even the most modest internet connection.

Within a few years virtual and augmented reality will become a staple. Biology students won’t study pictures of bones, they will be able to see a 3D skeleton and examine it from any angle.

The technology already exists, it’s just a matter of time before it migrates to education.

Without the burden of funding the technology, distance learning will always have the edge over traditional settings.

Simply providing the option is enough. If the student has a VR headset, they can use it to enhance their learning.

Such technology could also create a more social experience for distance learning students too. Student hubs or forums could become VR environments where students can ‘meet’ and support one another.

The biggest compromise with distance learning is the social aspect. An interactive forum could overcome that in a meaningful and helpful way.

Skills for the Future

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One of the key advantages of distance learning educators over traditional schools and colleges is their ability to develop new courses to meet changing needs.

A college course for a mainstream institute can be extremely expensive to develop and deliver. Aside from paying the people to develop the course, there is also the administrative costs and the maintenance of the buildings.

It’s also why their courses tend to be more expensive than their digital counterpart.

However, because of the time and cost involved in developing a course, colleges have to be careful about which courses they offer. Poor uptake can be an expensive problem.

Distance learning providers don’t have the same considerations. Once a course has been developed it is always available.

This is how they are able to offer such a broad range of courses on an ongoing basis.

Significantly, this approach also allows distance learning providers to pivot towards emerging technologies or in-demand skill sets and develop courses.

This means you can find almost any course to meet your requirements which boosts your employability.


learndirect offers a wide range of online learning courses including fully accredited Access to Higher Education Diplomas and A Levels to help you realise your ambitions.

Check out our Access to Higher Education Diplomas today or contact a member of our sales team today to learn more and enrol.

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