Independent learning has many names: correspondence school, home study,
independent study, or
distance learning. Essentially they all mean the same thing. Independent study
is work done outside of the traditional classroom situation and without direct
instruction from a teacher.
Independent study programs are nothing new. Colleges and universities have
offered correspondence courses for over 100 years. But, with the wide-spread use
of technology there has been a fresh burst of renewed interest in
independent learning programs.
Independent study allows the student to learn at home rather than in a
classroom. In correspondence programs you enroll in the class and are provided
your materials but then proceed at your own pace, turning in your work when you
are done. This allows you to create your own personalized course schedule that
is flexible and convenient. As long as your assignments are turned in on time instructors
usually don't control your study time.
However, not all courses are like this. In distance learning programs,
instructors require you to follow an established program schedule and keep pace
with the entire class. Sometimes a weekly journal is required to make sure
you're keeping on track.
Assignments for independent study programs are usually completed on a
one-to-one basis with the faculty member who is teaching the course. The
instructor will guide your study, answer any questions you may have, and usually
respond to your submitted assignments with comments and suggestions.
Correspondence vs. Distance Learning
These may seem like two names for the same thing but correspondence programs
as opposed to distance learning programs are more like two different faces of
the same coin, distinct but similar. Correspondence programs are generally the
more packaged of the two. You receive the entire course at the outset. This may
be supplemented by scheduled features but not controlled by them. Distance
learning programs deliver their courses through the use of cable and satellite
television, computer modem, or video conferencing. Such courses are often
broadcast only at certain times and take a lot of the scheduling flexibility out
of the course. They often require you to work according to a schedule that is on
track with your other distance learning classmates. Distance learning
programs are often more interactive than correspondence programs as members of
the class meet together for established class times.