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What Exactly is Distance Learning?

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Distance learning is a major buzzword in education today. In the simplest sense, it refers to using technology to allow students to go to school online versus attending in person on a campus. Many accredited online colleges and universities schools now offer degrees entirely online or through a blended online and on-campus hybrid format. If you're interested in online education, here's a closer look at what you need to know.

How does distance learning work?

You may be wondering how online distance learning works. Schools use different technology platforms to create virtual campuses and classrooms that offer the same types of resources you'd find on a traditional campus. These likely include a virtual library, student advisors, and course materials that include not only lectures but also video and audio recordings and interactive exercises. Students can engage with instructors and fellow students via live chats, forum discussions, email and other avenues. Basically, online courses have all the components of a standard classroom; they just happen virtually instead of in-person.

What are the advantages of online classes?

Online learning offers a number of advantages for students. One of the biggest is flexibility. Instead of having to be in the classroom at a set time each week, students can review materials and participate in the class from a laptop or virtual device anywhere that's convenient, as long as they have an Internet connection. In addition to location independence, online classes also offer students to chance to study around their other obligations including work and family. Whether you'd rather study in the early morning, late at night, or on weekend, distance learning can help accommodate your schedule needs. The other advantage of online learning is the format. All the key lessons, notes, and discussions are typically archived for easy review.

Who takes distance learning classes?

A wide variety of students today are using online coursework to reach their educational goals. From nontraditional students who want more flexibility in their schedules and commutes to younger students who find the online format conducive to getting more done, online courses are increasingly popular. Some students worry that they're not technologically savvy enough to get the most out of online learning. The good news is that the requirements are simple: just a working computer, an Internet connection, and fundamental computer skills are all you need to get started.

If you're interested in going back to school but need more flexibility than an on-campus program can offer, distance learning might be the just the solution you've been looking for.

Considering going back to school to pursue your degree? Download our Back to School Guide.