Distance learning is first choice

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Prospective students are increasingly opting for distance learning as a first choice, with the sector experiencing strong growth as a result of its harnessing of technological advancements.
“Educational technology has taken the distance and isolation out of distance education and, as a result, the sector is benefitting from the fact that it speaks directly to what modern, self-directed young people seek when furthering their education,” says Peter Kriel, General Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education provider.
Kriel says in 2017, many people have neither the time nor patience to do things the “traditional” way, and distance learning has sufficiently come of age for it to be viewed as a viable, quality alternative to fulltime, contact study.
Kriel says that by paying close attention to how people learn, modern distance learning can in fact be significantly more effective than the old crowded lecture room model.
That is because distance students can learn by pacing themselves and checking their own progress on the way while getting help when needed; they can develop critical work skills such as the use of online resources and communication and collaboration tools; they can build networks with other students across the world and graduate with a degree that has given them both knowledge and confidence.
“Over the last decade, the convergence of social media tools and interactional technology like blogs, wikis and discussion forums have been used to enrich static presentation of material online, which has turned the modern distance experience into one in which all the interactional possibilities of the web and associated technology are leveraged to engage, support and monitor students and to connect them to each other.”
Rebecca Shimmin, Senior Operations Coordinator for distance education at The Independent Institute of Education warns however that prospective students should interrogate the quality of the institution and course on offer just as they would with any contact institution.
“Questions to ask before signing up include the obvious ones about registration and accreditation, but also questions about the support structures in place for students who are struggling or not keeping up.
“If the answers you get are vague or complicated, this should be a clear signal not to enroll.
“If the institution isn’t able to make a connection with you in the initial stages, they are very unlikely to do so when you need them further down the line.”

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