Distance learning is the delivery of instruction and the fulfillment of course work from remote locations, allowing instructors and students to interact without being in the same place.

New technologies have made distance learning an increasingly popular option for institutions and students alike. The Internet, e-mail, video conferencing, and other interactive systems allow schools to experiment with unique modes of teaching and learning, use resources that do not reside on their own campuses, and attract faculty and students who are far from campus or cannot travel to campus very often.

Distance-Learning Advantages

A distance-learning program will cause little disruption to your professional life. It is a good option for people who seek to enhance their careers or who need specific training (for instance, to maintain professional licenses or to update or broaden a skill set).

Seasoned managers often cannot afford the time required by a full-time MBA degree and may not need the credentials from such a program. Distance learning can offer them exposure to new knowledge and theories.

These are some other potential advantages:

  • Distance-learning programs require less time commitment overall than other types.
  • They offer more geographic flexibility.
  • They offer exposure to a diverse population of students.
  • They offer access to faculty in many different locations.
  • Class work can be scheduled around personal and professional commitments (although the flexible schedule can become a disadvantage for students who benefit from more structure).

Distance-Learning Limitations

Distance learning is not for everyone, because it offers limited contact with fellow classmates and faculty. Distance learning does not offer the networking opportunities on-site learning does, making distance learning a poor choice for career switchers. It is also not a good choice for someone who works better in an interactive environment.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Conventional student services, such as career placement, may be limited or nonexistent in a distance-learning program.
  • Not many distance-learning programs are available. Choices are limited because the technology and form of learning are relatively new.
  • Scholarship money may not be available, because you can work throughout the program and spread your expenses over a longer time period.