The Growth of Distance Learning #eLearning

Distance Learning is growing, in part helped by the 2012 UK fees situation. The below infographic (click to view full version) is worth a look:

INFOGRAPHIC: The Growth of Distance Learning
Click to view full Infographic

Benefits of Distant Learning (DL) programmes, as described by the infographic (and analysed by me below):
  • Mobility: “Students who have family and career obligations no longer have to worry about commuting to a campus. With online courses, and place with an Internet connection becomes a functional classroom.”

It is not just those with family or work commitments now that makes DL or eLearning attractive, it is those who can’t or don’t want to pay for the full UK degree education and would rather take longer to get it AND earn at the same time.

  • Affordability: “Online courses reduce costs associated with maintaining classrooms and holding lectures. These savings are passed on in the form of lower prices per online class.”

I don’ agree with this: administration of online courses can sometimes be more than for campus-based ones: DL students often need more contact detailed and personal contact time (phone, email, discussion boards, etc). I also find it very worrying when someone says things like “savings are passed on” like this, it implies that you can run the course with fewer staff, or even that the academic who created the course is not required to run the course and engage with it and the students.

  • Flexibility: “Online learning enables students to review lecture materials and core reading assignments at their own pace, rather than just during the length of a lecture.”

This is not the flexibility I attribute to a DL programme: I consider DL flexible as the student is able to assign time to the course and their study so it fits around their current available time and family/work/social commitments. The flexible described on the infographic is available to all students, as they, on-campus or off-campus students, are all encouraged to view and review their learning materials “at their own pace”?

  • Acceptance: Research performed by the Society for Human Resources Management in 2010 finds that 87 percent of employers agree that online degrees are viewed more favourably then five years ago.”

OK, but research in 2010 is not necessarily applicable to today’s students, or to today’s market for University students.

I believe the “earn while you learn” approach by students will take off – students wont pay the increased fees for 2012 (applications down 8%), but may be willing to pay lower fees for the same  or similar course but on a part-time online format and delivery.

What are your views on distance learning, eLearning, etc, and where the UK market is heading?