Distance Learning – Online Education for Adults

Distance Education Requires Diverse Learning Skills and Styles

When deciding to enroll in a distance learning program or course, it is important to determine your learning skills and learning styles. Distance learning is best suited for those with diverse learning skills and styles, which are little different from traditional classroom education.

These learning skills and styles are typically inherent within the adult taking these courses; however they can be learned by those who want to take advantage of distance learning.

Knowing learning skills and styles is important in distance learning, because it is primarily taught in isolation from other students and the instructor. Isolation does not mean – no communication, just that you never see them face-to-face.

Learning Skills: Awareness of Skills and Techniques is Important

What is the best learning environment for distance learning?

The best learning environment for distance learning is no different from traditional classroom education. A place to study is needed that is free from interruptions, the only difference being the need for a computer and access to the Internet for a distance learning course.

What learning skills are needed to be successful?

The following list provides important learning skills needed for success:

  • Self-Motivated – proactive and does not need someone or something to force course completion.
  • Disciplined – use self-organization skills to structure learning times and assignment completions.
  • Responsible – willing to accept ultimate responsibility for completing the course.
  • Communication – comfortable with initiating e-mail, listserv, online discussion, or phone conversations with instructor or other students in the course. This is important for asking for clarification and expressing points of view.
  • Expectation – plan to spend 2 to 3 hours studying for every course credit hour per week, just like a traditional classroom course.
  • Computer – comfortable with online research and acquiring information on the Internet.

These are all important learning skills necessary to be successful when enrolled in any distance learning program. You have probably noticed that with these learning skills are really no different than those needed to be successful in any educational setting.

Learning Styles: Knowing How You Learn is Important

Learning styles are just as important as learning skills; in fact they are interrelated with each other. The theory of multiple intelligences, by Howard Gardner [Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences., 1983], provides the foundation for the seven learning styles associated with this theory. They are:

  • Verbal – Linguistic: use language and words to understand
  • Logical – Mathematical: inductive and deductive reasoning in using numbers abstract patterns to analyze information
  • Visual – Spatial: visualize objects/dimensions and create internal images/pictures to understand how something will or might work
  • Body – Kinesthetic: control your body’s physical motion
  • Musical – Rhythmic: recognize tonal patterns
  • Interpersonal: person-to-person communications, relate with others
  • Intrapersonal: spiritual, self-reflection, and awareness

Everyone has many styles of learning, with one typically dominating the others. Knowledge of your dominate learning style helps identify the best way to approach distance learning.

Reflect on the learning styles to determine your dominate style for learning, especially new information. Then take advantage of this learning style, along with the required learning skills listed above when completing distance learning courses.

Those who take advantage of knowing their learning skills and styles are successful in any distance learning setting. This alternative approach to education is here to stay. Most colleges, community colleges, and universities have or are moving toward distance learning to meet the large demand.