In this brief article, I expose some of the most common and deadly misconceptions about distance learning. And you want to read this. Why? Because if you do not consider the new trends and potential of distance learning, you may be ignoring or discounting vital opportunities to increase your career skills, complete your degree, or expand your professional relationships. That is correct, some of these myths are deadly for you, because even though the means to breathe new life into your career are sitting in your home, you are have decided to ignore them. Let’s change all that together
Join me, as we explore these 7 Myth Busters of Distance Learning and open the doors of opportunity and empowerment that are waiting as close as your laptop, cell phone, and iPod.
1. You need to be connected at the same time in order to participate in distance learning. Many people have this idea because they may have participated in workplace webinars: lectures or seminars delivered live over the web. However, webinars are only one of many ways to provide distance learning. A more popular format is to use non-simultaneous deliver (or asynchronous as we call it). This format enables participants to sign in over the Internet to do their work whenever it fits it into their day. Wouldn’t you like to pick the time when you learn? Another great benefit of non-simultaneous learning is that it overcomes time-zone conflicts when you worldwide groups.
2. Distance learning is boring and usually canned. This statement might be the case if you are only reading test, or watching video, but haven’t you been to a boring lecture? Too much of any one instructional mode can make it hard to keep people’s interest. Today well-designed distance learning courses include not only video, text, graphics, audio, and pictures, but also user created materials in all the same formats. A great course will not only provide learning in a varied format addressing multiple learning styles and learning intelligences, but it will also engage learners in active participation! Student podcasts, videos and online role playing are just a few examples. Learners also post or lead subject focused discussion boards and solve group simulations. Distance learning can provide a dimension of making learning meaningful and active.
3. I don’t like this “at your own pace stuff” of distance learning. Again, distance learning comes in so many modes now that you can have a completely instructor-led course, or one that includes partial independence combined with direct oversight. In some content areas, participants might also be in private learning sessions, just you and the teacher, or with groups. Although usually more expensive, if private learning or tutoring or a specific time frames fits you best, a private vs. group class might be a real perk and incentive.
4. Distance learning is much easier than traditional classes. This concern is raised mostly in relation to academic degrees and cannot be more wrong. In fact, students need to work harder, especially at first, with online courses. They need to shift to being responsible for their learning and invest more time in being self-disciplined, scheduling their outside classroom study (there is no IN classroom time!), and tracking their deadlines. For certain people it is a breeze to adjust, for other people they have to focus on developing strategies for online learning success. But once they do make the effort, learners taking responsibility may begin to soar with the possibilities ahead. Now, doesn’t that lesson have a lot of good cross-benefits to it? Hmmmmm.
5. Distance learning creates greater social isolation. I think most people who state this myth, do not use social media. Otherwise they would have a better idea of the extensive interactions in distance classes. The discussion boards, peer emailing and dialogue, and group projects stampede over the amount of interaction in a traditional classroom. I always say face to face classes by necessity are required to play “Beat the Clock”; therefore, time for student interaction is limited. In contrast, distance classes can expand as much as the students want to invest in them. Isolating? Not in our experience- we have to sometimes hold them back!
6. Teachers do not need new class preparation: Teaching distance learning is just like teaching traditional classes. This is a very dangerous myth, because teachers and learners will be disappointed with the results if it is followed. While distance learning will build upon principles of great teaching practice, many specific issues have to be addressed that are different or new. For instance, because of being part of a global classroom, cross-cultural communication may be prominently required than usual. Also whether classes are delivered in same time or not, a distance audience means different dynamics. It can be powerful and lively, or fraught with problems, but don’t try to head into this format without preparation.
7. No student orientation is needed. Students use the same skills as a traditional class, just plug n play! Many organizations have struggled by following this approach, and so have their participants! From technical support, to study skills, time management to registration, needs to processes, people need to break away from their assumptions and rethink the needs of the distance learner. When they are addressed, the approach unleashes a vibrant, global classroom.
Next Steps. Hopefully, this brief article has raised some new questions for you and challenged some of your assumptions or prior opinions. Consider signing up for a distance learning course which has developed a good reputation. Give virtual learning a try for yourself and reflect on how this experience can be helpful for you, your family and colleagues to meet personal and professional learning needs. From academic degree completion, to language learning to prepare for your next trip to Spain, or strategies to restart your dream career, the opportunities may be as close as that computer, iPod or cell phone, if you give it a chance and follow the tips above.