Distance and Online Learning for Students

Distance education has been a method of learning for individuals wanting to study at home for at least one hundred years, starting with correspondence learning (home study) via postal mail. But new information and communication technology (ICT) has made e-learning (e learning or online learning) possible, in which learners participate in interactive learning using audio and video-conferencing, email, chat and computer-conferencing. The distance learner can now have almost the same instructional contact and interaction as the student on campus.

Distance Learning = Active Learning

Globalization has made an enormous difference to the way we live and work, and I don’t just mean the impact of petrol prices on our driving habits.

Communicating with someone on the other side of the world is just as easy as communicating with someone next door. People change jobs more often than before, and jobs change just as frequently. And all these changes underscore the importance of education in this globalised, competitive, technology-driven, knowledge-based economy.

Living and working in today’s world demands that we know how to acquire knowledge and that we have well-developed critical thinking skills, excellent communication skills, and a desire for life-long learning.

And these are precisely the skills and attitudes that you should seek to develop in yourself. You shouldn't only acquire knowledge – you should also acquire the skills to acquire knowledge. In particular, distant learning requires that you develop these skills.

If you are learning by distance, the mode of learning that you will be using in your distance courses will vary according to the programme you have selected. In some programmes the mode will be mainly print materials. In other programmes it will be the online mode. And in some programmes it will be a blend of these modes.

In effect, the print and online materials replace the lectures that students get in a face-to-face course. But it usually does more than those lectures – the courseware often includes questions, exercises and further reading so that your learning can be active rather than passive. And that is the key - successful distance education requires ACTIVE LEARNING.

Studying Online: What it Means

Most people's experience of learning is in a classroom (of a school, college or evening class). The teacher is there to give guidance and direction on what to do. Activities include reading books, taking notes, answering questions and working with other people.

Online learning is completely different. All the direction is provided by the course materials. Activities such as reading, note taking and answering questions mostly take place at the computer. Working with other people is done using email, conferencing and other electronic tools.

So we need a new set of skills for online learning. These include:

* running software and manipulating windows;
* reading and taking notes from the computer screen;
* managing computer files and formats;
* navigating the online course;
* managing your time online;
* communicating with other learners through email, conferencing, etc.

(Taken from the Open University UK online course "Living with the internet: learning online".)

Learning Styles

Imagine you are going to learn a new task. It could be following a new recipe or learning to use a new TV remote control. How do you approach the task? This characterises how you learn, i.e., your learning style.




Health Issues

Studying at a computer can affect your body. In particular, it is known that working at a computer has several health risks...

Free Course

I recommend that students new to online learning take the Open University UK online course "Living with the internet: learning online".

Article 3-2-1

Three things to do, two things not to do, and one "no-no" if you want to be effective in learning online"