By David Wells, editor at Surviving the OU

As Open University students we engage in distance learning but what is the purpose of this method?

As we have discussed in previous articles the growing trend of distance education has not only fermented different possibilities of learning and acquiring great degree-level wisdom but on a more emotional level it has filled applicants with excitement and even hope, all around the globe. Over the past decade, access to digital education has grown rapidly and now, in almost all institutional hiring and job interviews, employers readily accept digital and distance learning as a viable source of an applicant’s credibility. Distance learning has dramatically and fundamentally transformed the competitive landscape when it comes to delivering education to the masses, young and old, rich or poor.

There are various problems that have been associated with distance learning, many of which leave people feeling insecure, confused and sometimes reluctant about pursuing this type of education. This insecurity has more to do with universities’ attitudes towards online learning. What are the rationales behind distance learning? Every institution has a different rationale according to their limitations and geographical constraints. However, the most common of these rationales are as follows:

Unlimited Access to distance learning

Institutions have now opened access to learning programs in order to meet training needs, which primarily includes educating of poorly served population. Many such people were not able to pursue education due to increased family responsibilities and long working hours. Distance learning provides flexible learning hours by offering education as a secondary priority.

Capacity constraints of distance learning

A major reason why distance learning is becoming mainstream, especially in highly-populated zones around the world, is to alleviate the challenges of housing a large student body. Now, institutes hope to lower the number of applications by offering distance education.

Lifelong learning trends

As the world is progressing, lifelong learning is increasingly accepted and appreciated for various unique market opportunities. Gone are those days when higher education services only accepted traditional learning age from 18-24. Now, people belonging to any age group can be enrolled, so that they can work in more lucrative markets. Capitalization of emerging market opportunities has led to more online institutions that can generate large revenue.

The whole canvas of institutional learning has been radically transformed with distance learning programmes. Now, most institutions are technically challenged to accept and adapt to online learning methods in order to service increasingly competitive learning environments. Distance learning has no doubt powered the whole process as it surpasses borders and geographical/cultural constraints.

Other factors largely responsible for fueling distance education includes the fulfillment of an lifelong urge for learning. It offers people the opportunity to equip themselves with dynamic world knowledge by keeping it a hobby or a source of personal growth. The trend of lifelong learning is commonly appreciated by teachers and professors who always want to keep themselves updated with a modern and ever-changing world’s landscape of knowledge.

Distance learning is highly preferred in the corporate world where employers want to advance in their jobs by adding extra courses to their resume. In highly competitive corporate markets, a broad range of services are demanded. These include scientific training and instructional training as well. In order to cope with ever-increasing employee demands, distance learning proves to be a good part-time solution.

This Part Four of our mini series looking at Distance and Online Learning methods. Part Five is coming soon and this concludes the series.

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