Distance Learning – Pros and Cons

There are many distance learning pros and cons and they can make a big impact in your organization’s learning strategies. Like all the other methods used for corporate learning, it’s important to keep in mind that distance learning is only suitable for certain types of personnel. So in order to make the most out of this learning method, it’s important to recognize its strengths and weaknesses, and set up the right training policies accordingly.

Defining Distance Learning

It’s important to remember that distance learning is not always synonymous with online learning or e-learning. Although both teaching methods do share a lot in common, it’s also important to remember that distance learning is designed for personnel who are always traveling around. In contrast, e-learning may be used by any type of employees, regardless of whether they’re always on the go or working at a specific location.

Moreover, this key difference is further complemented by a whole range of other features which help to make distance learning a viable alternative to other forms of employee training:

1. Distance Learning relies on a secure, but accessible network of lecturers and educational resources.

2. Distance Learning was developed for personnel who are traveling from one place to another.

3. Distance Learning is a flexible learning process, wherein personnel and trainees are allowed to change their learning schedules on a regular basis.

4. Distance Learning involves the use of effective communication tools, such mobile devices and special software designed to make e-learning more convenient.

5. Distance Learning may be used as a secondary learning method for personnel who are already undergoing traditional classroom learning.

Keeping these features in mind can help an organization understand the strengths and limitation of distance learning, and whether or not it’s a good training methodology for their own personnel.

Distance Learning Pros and Cons

Now that we’ve covered a few essential pointers about distance learning, it’s time to talk about its pros and cons. It’s important to remember that like all learning methods and strategies, distance learning has certain structural features which define its strengths and weaknesses.

For organizations which use or plan to use distance learning to engage their personnel, it’s important that such features be considered in the right context. Some organizations, such as travel agencies or marketing firms for example, are structured in such a way that they can easily adopt distance learning without too much trouble. On the other hand, there are also companies, like those that rely on a highly localized workforce, which are simply incompatible with distance learning strategies. So before you or your organization decide to adopt distance learning, it’s important to consider the pros and cons first.

The Pros
The most important feature of distance learning is that it is designed for personnel who always need to travel or who, for one reason or another, cannot take part in classroom lectures. However, it’s also worth remembering that distance learning has several other features which are often overlooked, and these tend to offer the most benefits to organization and their trainees.

Flexibility – With distance learning, a trainee doesn’t need to put his or her life on hold in order to learn new skills or gain additional qualifications.

Portability – Distance learning modules often incorporate learning resources which are either online or are easily portable.

Transferability – Distance learning often involves multiple instructors and learning materials. For example, if for whatever reason you are forced to stop learning a particular course, you can pick up where you left off later on with a different instructor or coursework. So there’s nothing to worry about.

Equivalence – Distance learning courses often grant the same qualifications and certificates that traditional classroom learning courses offer.

Accreditation – Most distance learning programs are often accredited by various educational and corporate bodies, which means that they offer the same type of qualifications as traditional learning methods.

Support – Finally, it’s worth mentioning that most distance learning methods include online support services as well as online access to major archives and libraries.

The Cons 

The weaknesses of distance learning mostly involves the fact that it is not a conventional learning method. This unconventional approach may be the most defining feature of distance learning, but it’s also a feature that many trainees have a hard time adapting to. In other words, because Distance Learning is a bit different from what many people are used to, it becomes a relatively difficult learning process to adapt to.

 Lack of Imposed Discipline – A flexible learning schedule is useful for personnel who are always traveling around, but this strength can also be a weakness. For one thing, flexible learning schedules do not exert the same level of discipline as conventional classroom methods. So trainees may be less inclined to exert as much effort into their work as a result of the flexible training regiment.

Loss of Team Interaction – Of all the various distance learning pros and cons, classroom socialization is probably the greatest weakness of distance learning. Although some online classrooms do encourage trainee interaction, this is not an easy thing to do, especially if the personnel are distributed across vast distances, and don’t have the same schedules.

Over-Reliance on Online Resources – Finally, it’s important to remember that a lot of the materials used for distance learning are found on online databases. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if trainees or instructors lose their internet connection, or if the online database is compromised, then the learning process will be disrupted as well.

Conclusion

Distance learning offers a lot of great opportunities for organizations, but it’s not perfect either. Like all other forms of corporate learning, distance learning should only be applied on certain personnel. They should also be implemented in such a way that their structural weaknesses will not impede each personnel’s training progress. This takes quite a bit of work, but it is doable with the help of the right information. By learning about distance learning pros and cons, you’ll be able to optimize your company’s own distance learning program without too much trouble.

Jason Silberman
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog
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