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Distance learning

Many people refrain from taking continuing education courses because of their lack of time, the inflexibility of the course schedule, or the cost of commuting back and forth to a school campus. If you're interested in taking courses, but you can't take a class on Mondays at noon or you don't want to commute to a school 45 minutes from your home, consider taking a distance learning class. Distance learning has really changed the way education is being delivered, so more people have access to continuing education and training than ever before.

Distance learning
Distance learning is defined as a teaching situation where the student and teacher are in different locations. Many people think of online courses when they think of distance learning. Another good example is using video software to view lectures and finish courses. Because you don't need to be in the same place as your teacher, distance learning can save a lot of wear and tear on your car and money spent on gasoline used to commute to a campus.

Synchronous vs. asynchronous
Distance learning courses can be either synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous simply means you need to be logged on to your distance learning site or have your class video playing at the same time your teacher is presenting material. This type of arrangement does help cut commuting costs, but it doesn't help with your inflexible schedule or lack of free time. Asynchronous means that you do not have to be online or at your video monitor at the same time as the teacher. Generally, online courses are asynchronous because you can usually log in to your class portal and access lessons and other materials at any time. This is ideal because it helps you combat commuting costs and you can fit it into any free time you have. If 2:00 in the morning is the only time you have to take a class, asynchronous classes are for you.

Distance learning lends itself better to some courses than others. Lower-level courses such as Introduction to Business and General Management are much easier to take online than a scientific course or math course. Many science courses also require a laboratory credit, so taking science classes online is not always possible. Math courses may be better in person since you have the teacher right there to explain concepts to you. Most lecture-based courses are fine in distance learning format, however, since you access your teacher’s notes just as if you were copying them in a classroom.

While distance learning is very convenient, you need to make sure you have all the equipment you need before committing to one or more courses. If you are taking online classes, a computer with a recent browser, along with e-mail access, are a must. Your teacher may require you to install special software programs in order to do class assignments and activities. Make sure your computer is compatible with the software before doing the installation. If you are doing classes using a video conferencing system, make sure you have all the equipment you need beforehand so you can eliminate last-minute trips to the store.

Class materials for distance learning courses are usually posted online. Your class syllabus, projects, and homework assignments may be in MS Word format or in a text file for you to access. Your instructor may also upload presentation slides to help you understand the material more thoroughly. Tests and quizzes may be taken online and graded automatically. You may still need textbooks and work manuals even if your course is entirely online. Be sure to check with your instructor before the term begins to make sure you have everything you need.

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