Distance Learning: Doing It the Right Way

  By Dr. Frank Burtnett  |    Monday June 26, 2012

Category: Certification, Education

The Internet has placed continuing education within easy grasp of staffing professionals. From a webinar on a “hot” topic to a detailed course of study taken over time, working professionals can now access a myriad of learning opportunities. That’s the good news.

The negative aspects of distance learning come in several forms. First, one seeking an online education experience must sort through a maze of programs and courses appearing in your daily delivered emails or shot your way via “pop up” ads. While some great learning opportunities exist online, cyberspace is also home to a lot of educational garbage. Most have solved the “what to study” dilemma by networking with colleagues, learning about their Internet training experiences and seeking recommendations. Education referrals from trusted colleagues can be your best counselor.

Another concern with distance learning has to do with your attention to the demands of the educational experience and ability to complete assignments. This occurs most often when professionals become engaged in the more formal, credit offering programs. Recent studies have revealed that the distance learning drop-out rate exceeds traditional learning experiences by a much as 15 percent. Why would such an accessible continuing education venue have such a problem? Distance learners need to address a number of factors and follow some tips if they are to have the most positive educational experience.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew - Before you invest either your time or money, investigate the course of study and any tasks that will be required of participants. Many short-term programs are basically informational sessions requiring nothing more than your attention for an hour to two. These are “learner friendly” and can be very manageable. Others may require a greater “time and task” commitment in order to complete the course of study and earn credit. This will certainly be the case when one registers for the distance learning offerings at an accredited college and university or many trade and professional organizations.

Possess the appropriate equipment, access capability and level of computer sophistication needed to navigate all of the learning activities - Many of us think we are computer “savvy,” only to find that our limitations keep us from making the most of the experience before us. Quality distance learning programs will identify the tools you need and outline the computer management skills you must possess to be successful with their offerings.

Create a distance learning schedule and honor it  - Again, participation in a webinar is simply a matter of placing the program on your calendar and being available when the day and time arrive. More involved distance learning will not only mean setting time aside for interactive classes and participation in chat rooms, but also performing tasks and completing assignments away from the “live” programming. Similar to the “homework” required of your former teachers and professors, these requirements are often required when one is seeking credit for the experience. Distance learners may also find themselves taking online examinations to validate that they have gained command of the “body of knowledge.” Many distance learners blend their educational experience and work experience together, a factor that will require some time management attention until one gets it right. Each learner must arrange her or his life/work schedule to handle this additional commitment.

Interact with presenters/trainers at every opportunity - When given the opportunity to participate in question and answer sessions or exchange emails with the educator teaching your course or leading the webinar, seize the opportunity. Many distance learning experiences will connect you to “best and brightest” industry experts without you ever having to leave the comforts of your personal workspace. As my training colleague and NAPS legal counsel, Bob Style, often says: “There are no stupid questions, if you don’t know the answers.”

The Internet has made the world your classroom. Sharpen your pencils---no dust off your keyboard and head to school.

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