distance learning If you have ever given any thought to going back to college to earn a degree, but do not feel that you would have the time, money, or ability to do so, take a look at distance learning. Distance educational entails using current communications technology to provide instruction and interaction between an instructor and students when they are separated by any given distance. What that means is that no matter where you are in the world, you can be a student in a distance learning degree program at a college or university anywhere in the world. Distance is not an issue. Distance education has the capacity to provide many different types of people with a myriad of educational opportunities. Older adults can fulfill an ambition to go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree, or return to earn an advanced degree such as a master’s or doctorate degree. Distance education provides those with full time work and family schedules the chance to go to college, and it is ideal for those who might be restricted by a physical disability. Distance learning also provides established workers the opportunity to update and reinforce their knowledge within their current career field, broadening their scope of information and providing more opportunities for advancement and promotion. The benefits of distance learning seem to far outweigh any drawbacks, but a successful distance learning degree program is dependent on the school, the faculty, and the student working together to make the experience as enriching and valuable as any traditional college experience. You might be concerned that you won’t receive the same quality education as you might in a traditional classroom setting, or that you won’t learn as much, especially in a graduate degree program. That is a valid concern. Distance learning has been shown to provide students with an equally effective and valuable education as traditional students receive, provided that the various available instructional methods are used in a way that stimulates the learning process and the interest of the students. There are several instructional methods currently in use with distance learning. There is a component for every type of learner that will help to facilitate the learning process and enrich the online experience. One method that is used is the medium of voice, which includes telephone communications with instructors and classmates. This really helps to ease the isolation that can be felt in a distance learning degree program, and reinforces any course content that has been relayed. Video is often used in a distance learning classroom, usually in the form of slides and streaming video lectures. This is advantageous for the student because this data is saved and made available for use at any time, whether to print out slides or to review lectures online. Other types of instructional media that are used in distance learning include discussion boards, email communications, and chat rooms (for classmate interaction as well as “lectures”). All of these methods help to facilitate communications between students and instructors, as well as encourage class participation. For distance learning to be successful, it is important that the faculty of a college or university be willing to adapt their teaching styles in order to fit with the technology and educational format. They have to be willing to deliver course content is a variety of media, as well as facilitate classroom chats, and have open lines of communication. Faculty must also be open to the idea that their students will be spread far and wide, in different time zones, countries, and cultural setting, and should be prepared to adjust assignments and expectations accordingly. Ultimately, though, the individual success of a distance learning degree program lies with the student. Being a successful distance learner requires the motivation to get the assignments done, make the effort to communicate with classmates and instructors, and attend scheduled lectures and chats. Because there is freedom in the format, responsibility is a key factor in getting a valid and valuable education online. Without the drive to do the work, there will be no benefits earned for the student.