How do you know if a independent learning program is for you? Everyone who has enough discipline and self-motivation should do well in a independent learning program but is this really what is best for you? Consider the following "positives" and "negatives" of independent learning before you decide whether or not to plunge into this particular learning environment. Remember, independent learning isn't for everyone. While it may be the perfect learning solution for one individual it may mean disaster for another.
Positive Side of Distance Learning
Choose your "real" major - Why don't you save your parents the frustration of watching you switch majors several times because your major wasn't what you really want to study. Taking a low-key class that is part of your major's requirements will let you see if this is something you really want to study full time for 4 years. Taking this course as an independent learning course will let you continue your high school work, relatively without interuption.
Complete degree requirements before you need to - If you'd like to take degree requirements before entering college, independent study is a good option. Every school has certain bacheloriate core credits that every student, no matter what their major, has to take. You can take some of these classes through and independent study program while you are still in your junior or senior year of high school. These credits can then be transferred over to your institution of choice when you enroll.
Equal, Non-prejudiced Environment - The Internet nullifies the issues of age, race, gender, physical disabilities and appearance on an equal playing field of mutual respect.
External Degree Programs - External degree programs are a type of independent learning programs that allows you to complete your entire degree, to complete all degree requirements with little or no on-campus course work. Such courses use a variety of methods to ensure meaningful degree completion. In other words, your degree will mean something when your done with it. Some external degree programs rely solely on correspondence while others employ videos or computer learning segments.
You can learn from any location at any time.
Online classes are like small group seminars. You can expect to find a lot of
interaction within the class in the form of bulletin boards, forums, or online
Job Advancement Opportunities - Independent learning courses are helpful for those trying to achieve career advancement or to change careers by giving them new or renewed expertise.
Multicultural Interactions - Members of your online class may come from anywhere in the world. Internet access has extended globally to the point where it would not be uncommon for students outside the U.S. to join a distance learning program. Distance learning often draws students from wide variety of locations, cultures and affluence levels.
Professional Development - For many individuals professional development courses are a mandatory part of their job description. Real estate agents, for example, are now required to take continuing education courses in 49 states. Teachers' are also good candidates for independent learning programs whose credits apply toward their teacher recertification requirements. Correspondence courses are a convenient way for you to meet such professional certification or recertification requirements and stay on top of the latest in your field.
Save on room/board fees and gas - I know living at home throughout college may not seem fun but many people do it. Most students go to college at an in state university close enough to board with their parents. But they still have to drive to class. With independent study class attendance is not necessary so you will save a lot of gas. Imagine saving all that room/board money as well as gas mileage. Your student loans will be smaller as you are able to free up this money to pay for just tuition.
Negative Side of Distance Learning
Hardware & Software Glitches - As we all know, computers have a habit of fritzing out at the worst possible moment. The possibility of hardware and software problems alone might be enough to drive less technically experienced students away from distance learning.
Less Financial Aid -Financial aid is not often available to independent learning students. Students can sometimes get aid from employers, unions, and federal aid but institutional aid is usually reserved for "traditional" students.
Institutional Name Recognition - While distance learning is still evolving, a
degree or certificate issued by a distance learning program may not be as valued
by potential employers as one issued by a university with a name familiar to a
prospective employer. But don't despair, many universities with highly
recognizable names are seeing the value of distance learning and are beginning
to create their own distance education programs.
Opportunities for Expression -
People will always talk faster than they can type. Typing, as a medium of
communication, also loses some of the nonverbal communication that often
accompanies verbal communication. This nonverbal communication can often be as
important as words themselves. Consequently, many nuances of a writer's intent
are lost through typing.
Limited Opportunity for Presentations - Most people dread public speaking with a vehemence. Giving a face-to-face presentation to a real audience is often an anxiety filled, but valuable experience. With the use of online distance learning programs, presentation skills are not an important part of the overall course. This is because the limited bandwidth of the internet doesn't make such presentations practical. Thus a lot of good practice in public speaking and presentations is lost. We would suggest enrolling in a public speaking/presenting course at your local college/community school to practice this important skill, in addition to your online learning.
Personal Interaction -
While the internet may foster increased interaction through forums and chat
rooms you may miss those lively classroom discussions that bring up issues in a
class that you might have been wondering about yourself and just haven't asked
about yet. You might also have fewer opportunities for developing lifelong
friendships online than in a traditional classroom situation.