Distance Learning

The affordability or computer hardware and higher Internet speed availability has created a growing market for learning online which has aid traditional distance learning.  What are the pros and cons of distance learning versus traditional classroom learning?


Open University (OU) has been providing distance learning for decades and recently celebrated its 30’th birthday, initially they sent books to your home, aired learning late on TV, etc.  With the Internet age their learning/classes have now moved online, coupled with physical learning material sent to your address and weekend group session.  One of the advantages of online learning is that students have access to anytime archived lecturers and live interactive lecturers, can learn at their own pace and balance a professional working and family life around flexible continuous learning.   Its flexibility is a major selling point however the fees are typically in line with the cost of traditional classroom learning.  Other factors that have given reason for the growth in distance and online learning is the cost of travel, use of time and accommodation associated with traditional learning mediums.  Also, the nearest third level provider may not undertake the course you need to move your career forward or facilitate a career transition.  For example, you could complete a Post Grad Dip in Career Guidance in Napier University in Edinburgh while you are currently teaching and living full time in Dublin.


In Ireland IT Sligo have pioneered distance and online learning since 2002 and have a strong reputation in this space, they offer courses from Certificate up to Masters Level.  Oscail, DCU’s Distance Education platform has been providing distance learning access since 1982, and offers a variety of online undergraduate and postgraduate course in a number of disciplines.


Distance Learning – Accreditation and Reputation


It is extremely important that you research who accredits your qualification and if it is recognised by the body that oversees your profession.  Taking the example above from Napier University, the IGC (Institute of Guidance Counsellors) will not recognise this qualification and you will not be allowed to teach career guidance in Irish schools.  Rigorously investigate the accreditation; don’t be afraid to ask questions.  As far as the employer perceptions of the standard of learning from online and distance courses is concerned; employers value the employees career vision, the determination to succeed while balancing many life considerations, and of course the ‘body of knowledge’ gained by the learning.  The examination process is well audited to ensure academic credibility, as an endorsement example, the Teaching Council and HETAC accredit the online teaching courses from Hibernia College which is delivered online or a blend of online and onsite.


Online and distance learning should never be ignored as an option, the personal pros and cons must be reflected upon and the accreditation researched.  It must be said, we all have different learning styles and we apply different weight against priorities.  Online/Distance learning may not suit a person who finds it difficult to apply discipline to their time and perhaps needs to be facilitated and encouraged by peers in a classroom environment, a type of ‘bridged’ learning, peer encouragement and a strict defined structure.


If you are unsure as to the course of study to undertake or whether you would like to discuss methods of delivery, always speak to a qualified and impartial career guidance practitioner.


Diarmuid Haughian MA Career Guidance, MSc., BSc., QCG is the founder and MD of CareerGuidance.ie.  He can be contacted on diarmuid@CareerGuidance.ie


Published in The Metro April 2012

Distance Learning

Distance Learning