Adult Education

Disadvantages in Distance Learning



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Distance mode of learning is relatively a new concept that enhanced its image and the popularity due to the digital technology. Available of computers and fast internet access have made more people trying to 'work distant' as well as 'learn distant'.

As an educationist, I firmly believe the distance mode of adult learning fulfils a vacuum in certain areas of learning for certain individuals. Embarking into this mode of learning might not be the best idea for certain individuals with learning styles and personalities which makes them vulnerable in self styled, self paced learning.

Types of distant learning:

Learning at a distance comprises two roots, the print medium or the traditional mode and the online mode. Some courses make use of both face-to-face class room teaching as well as the distance mode of teaching, thus giving rise to a 'blended learning' mode. Researchers have proved in certain instances the online mode of learning gives a superior outcome than the traditional learning methods. But, things are not always black and white. Considering the negative aspect of this learning mode might help the learners who are in doubt of entering such a course to clear their conscious.

Negative aspects of distant learning:

Even though certain procedures are well respected in educational forums for its efficiency and productivity, certain students can be caught off guard if not prepared. Some of these strategies are,

(A) Student centered learning

An important consideration in distance learning is its 'student centered learning' methodology which has received praise from all academic forums engaged in adult education. The intentions in implementing a student centered learning strategy is,

1. Giving more freedom and responsibility to the students

2. The teachers become guides and only involves in tutoring process rather than feeding knowledge into the students.

3. The students are encouraged to do background reading and analyze the content in arriving at a conclusion.

Although this seems to be the perfect scenario in an efficient and effective adult learning process, for the unprepared students it can be a nightmare. The students of such nature might come across difficulties such as;

1. Unfamiliar learning scenarios

2. Difficulties in identifying the boundaries of learning

3. Unable to cope with the responsibility of learning

4. Mismanagement of the excessive freedom

5. Difficulties in finding the references

(B) Inability to cope with 'virtual interaction technologies'

Apart from its student centered learning strategy, the distance learning counts on the interactions made through its discussion forums for its effectiveness and success. In interacting within a virtual environment, the student might encounter the following which puts them on wrong footing.

1. Poor computer skills and technological know how.

2. Lack of motivation to participate in such forums.

3. Language difficulties

4. Inability to express emotions in text

(C) Poor mode of personalized interaction

When compared to the traditional class room teaching the distance method gives the student limited opportunities in interacting with the teachers in a personalized manner. The inability for the free interaction would affect some students in a negative way, thus harming their performance in a distance learning mode.

(D) Requirement of skilled time management ability

Time management would be something to consider when embarking into a distance learning course. Since fix times are not set, the students would be responsible to manage their times and get involved with the course. Unless students adhere to a routine in self learning process, it's always possible to lag behind. Its worth while knowing that many online students does not understand the commitment they have to make, probably more than their face to face counterparts in being success in such a course.

(E) Lack of instant feedback

Another important consideration in distance learning would be the time taken in providing a feedback to a query. For a student who is used to ask a question directly from the teacher and receive feedback would find it difficult to wait for the feedback for a longer duration. This would pause the learning process of the student. Although the good tutors would do their best to make this gap minimum, you cannot expect a real time feedback in the distance mode, even online.

(F) Unfair recognition for distance mode of learning

In choosing a distance learning course will need extreme evaluation of the course, its accreditations and content. Some of the employers still look at distance learning as a sub optimal way of learning, which is a totally false impression. Therefore some students going through distance learning might receive disadvantageous exclusions in seeking jobs and other avenues of learning. Although it was something to consider in the olden days, distance learning have come a long way in making a positive impression among many employers.

(G) Hidden costs

It needs to be mentioned that the cost in fees and technology requirements are high in the distance mode than the face to face mode. The students are expected to have good internet access and smooth functioning equipment to do the interactions. Unless you have a continuous access to these needs you will find it difficult to cope with the demands in online learning.

(H) Social isolation

In learning through the distance mode can make you lonely. There will be no one to talk to or chat and make a joke and laugh like hell. It's not possible to sing a song, run to the canteen when bored or sleep through the lecture, some times considered adventurous. Therefore you need to be prepared. Expect the worse, as in some distance learning courses even the online interactions would be minimum.

(I) Poor oratorical development

Finally, if you are planning on improving or brushing up your oratory skills by getting onto distance mode learning, think again. In such learning method, you hardly interact vocally.

Although we discussed many disadvantages related to distance learning in adult education, theories are many. Some strategies can be adopted in making these disadvantages disappear. Therefore, to reap the maximum benefit out of distance learning, be prepared.

More about this author: Dr Pandula Siribaddana

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