What is distance learning?
The term distance learning refers to the attainment of knowledge from outside the normal classroom setting. In today's modern world, instructors can communicate with students through a variety of media: telephone, e-mail, instant messaging, and video conference, to name a few. In one recent case a professor actually conducted an entire course using the popular virtual reality and social networking Web site, Second Life. For thousands of busy professionals who are unable to fit even night classes into their schedules, online learning is the only option that their hectic lives can accommodate.
Is distance learning right for you?
One of the most common concerns students have when considering a distance education is whether they have the self-discipline required to complete a curriculum delivered outside classroom parameters. For some students, actual textbooks and face-to-face interaction are not only comfortable habits, but essential tools for academic success. For others who are used to conducting daily business on the go, learning and communicating electronically is second nature. Analyze your own unique learning process carefully before committing to a distance learning program that will undoubtedly demand more dedicated autonomy.
Research the online learning program
Another major concern for graduate students contemplating online education is whether the resulting certificate will carry as much weight as a"traditional" degree. Many online programs issue standard certification that is regarded equally to those degrees earned in class, but it is important to research the quality and accreditation of any graduate distance learning program you are considering. Employers will rarely honor a degree that is not sufficiently accredited. Be sure that your program is accredited by one of the six following organizations:
- North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA)
- Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA)
- Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWCCU)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)