However, because distance learning provides written records of student-teacher communication, it provides teachers with an easier way to track student participation, so that teachers can initiate contact with students who appear to be struggling.
In addition to taking away from individual time with the instructor, the large class environment of many traditional institutions of higher education demonstrates that traditional colleges are focused on socialization, not simply education. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the college socialization process; in fact, it makes sense when one considers the typical age of beginning college students and their positions in life. However, for students who have established careers, family lives, and outside responsibilities, the heavy social influence of traditional colleges can be distracting. In addition, the focus on socialization can be alienating for students who do not fit into the “norm;” whether because of appearance, race, culture, sexuality, or disability. Distance learning opportunities take away many opportunities for bias and allow students to interact with teachers and with peers simply as students, to be judged on the merit of their work, not their personal characteristics. For example, I had an acquaintance who got pregnant while attending a major state university; while the university was willing to make accommodations so that she could breastfeed her infant; her fellow students reacted in a very negative manner to her because of that. Once she placed herself outside of the “norm” for college students, she ceased being able to have normal interactions with the majority of them.
The final factor suggesting that distance education is more practical than more traditional venues of higher education is the cost. Per credit hour, a distance-education is very comparably priced to mid-level institutes of higher education. However, one sees tremendous cost-savings when one looks at the tangential costs for higher education.
Students attending a physical university have to pay for a variety of things, such as: housing, transportation, and books. In addition, many colleges are located in “college towns,” where students either need to live in the town or face large commutes. The problem with living in a “college town” is that wages reflect the steady, cheap population of potential employees, which makes it difficult for students to earn a living wage. The costs of commuting are also extreme; campus parking is notoriously difficult to find and expensive. Many college campuses are located in high-traffic areas, or in inconvenient parts of towns, which could mean a round-trip door-to-door commute of an hour each way, even for students who live close to college campuses. Finally, traditional college courses often involve purchasing several books, many of which are used only for chapters. When professors are required to consolidate materials for distance learning, they oftentimes find that electronic transmission makes it easier to share portions of texts and reduce student costs.
As the above examples make clear, earning a degree through distance education is much more practical than earning a degree through a traditional institution. Distance learning gives students an opportunity to attend classes during non-traditional hours. Distance education also provides repeated exposure to classroom material. The small size of distance-education classes permits greater student-teacher interactions and allows greater teacher oversight regarding student participation. Unlike many traditional institutes of higher education, distance learning emphasizes academics over socialization. Furthermore, distance education is oftentimes much more affordable than traditional institutions of higher education. The combination of these elements makes it clear that distance education is the most practical way to attain a.