Advantages and Disadvantages of Distance Learning


1.  Provides for an increase in Access to education for those who otherwise have no other opportunities due to work, family or physical limitations.

2.  Provides for a modality of instruction better suited for certain learners.

3. Greater flexibility for scheduling learning-Students can determine time and place of "classtime" .

4.  Greater flexibility in location for study-Students can engage course at home or work or on campus or at a library.

5.  Distance Education is Learner Centered -DE places responsibility for learning with the learner who must be more active and self directed.

6.  Facilitates greater learner-instructor interaction.

7.  Increased interaction with classmates.

8.  Facilitates Pedagogic Development-Individual Instructor Development.

9.  Produces a carry over effect into the regular classroom of imporved pedagogic techniques.

10. Opportunity to develop technology competencies for instructors and learners.

11. Access to global resources and experts via internet communication and Internet resources.

12. Allows for the internationalization of learning opportunities.

13. Centralized resources can produce higher quality materials for distribution .

14. Has the potential to equalize access to education.

Most studies indicate that those taking asynchronous or the fully online classes are within 30 minutes of the campus offering the class online.  The reason for their choice of this mode of instruction has more to do with the inability to make a commitment to a fixed time and place. These classes are accessible from anywhere and at anytime, but, for most enrolled, it is the convenience of the temporal availability that has them select the fully online classes.  These students are older (over 26 years) and most will work during traditional classroom hours. They require flexible learning schedules. They demand professional development opportunities and classes to help them keep up with today's ever-changing work environment. 

Students come to college for various reasons. They could be interested in changing careers, or they might simply want to expand their knowledge base for work or personal reasons. They might want to expand their cultural background, learn a new language, or start a degree program that was postponed due to family or career needs.  Their main reason for choosing distance education as a delivery method is that they want to learn at their own pace or at a time and location that is convenient to them. 

A majority of distance learning students are female and many are single parents who want to stay close to home for various reasons. They might not be able to afford child care or must care for a confined relative at home. Other students are physically disabled and cannot easily travel to campus.

Some do not have the time, money, or educational background to come to campus. Distance education can capture an audience that has been uninvolved with formal higher education. 

In many ways Distance Education makes education accessible and available for many people.  In this manner it is particularly well suited to the mission of community colleges.



  1. Time and frustration involved learning how to get on-line for novices.
  2. Lag time between student input and feedback -Time lapse between need for learner support and resolution .
  3. Occasional internet provider downtime .
  4. Student must be more active and self-directed in learning environment -Depends on individual motivation and initiative .
  5. Occasional feelings of isolation- Potentially less group support for learners leading to isolation and possible non-completion of program .
  6. Instructional design for group activities and group interaction more demanding on the instructor .
  7. Demands large effort and cost to develop appropriate materials .
  8. Demands large effort to create and maintain the technological infrastructure .
  9. Distance Education is not for everyone.-  It is not for undisciplined learners nor inflexible instructors. 
Advantages of Distance Education New York to China

For the Chinese learner taking classes in English from instructors in the United States there are particular advantages and some disadvantages.

  1. Saves money for the learners that would be spent on travel and lodging.

  2. Overcomes difficulties in obtaining visa for educational travel.

  3. Overcomes the sense of disorientation for the Chinese learner living in the United States or Europe.  The learner remains within the home environment while gradually learning the language and content materials and developing language skills, technical skills, research skills  and educational proficiency.

  4. Allows the native Chinese speaker to participate in a class conducted in the English language without fear of not being understood due to accent or poor spoken English as often occurs in the traditional.

  5. Allows Chinese learners to progress through academic programs at their own pace and not under the pressure of time constraints imposed by visa limitations or the expenses of living abroad.

  6. Allows Chinese learners to progress through academic programs at their own pace and not under the pressure of time constraints imposed by the expenses of living abroad.


Disadvantages of Distance Education New York to China

1. There are no additional disadvantages that exist for a class where the instructor is separated from the learners by a distance of 10,000  miles as compared to 10 miles or 100 miles.

There are many technical and legal issues to be resolved but there are no particular pedagogic problems specific to a New York to China distance education program delivered by means of the internet.



Morehead State University, Office of Distance Learning

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Accolades and Criticisms of Distance Education

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