The rising popularity of online education in recent years has triggered debate about the impact it may have. In my view, distance learning has the potential to change the world for the better and should therefore be welcomed as a positive development.
One of the benefits of distance learning is its contribution to social mobility. Top institutions today often charge high tuition fees, a sum that can put off students from disadvantaged backgrounds. By contrast, online courses offer the poor the chance to listen to star lecturers and get a degree for a fraction of the cost of attending a university. Moreover, as distance learning qualifications are gradually being recognized by employers the world over, poor students who attend online courses have the opportunity to land a good job and break the cycle of poverty.
Another benefit of distance learning is that it helps to push up teaching standards. A large number of online courses are taught by the world’s leading academics, and the easy access to these courses makes students less willing to put up with dull and uninspiring lectures in traditional universities. As a consequence, teaching standards will be forced up, and students will benefit. Online education also enables those who have a hectic schedule to improve themselves. The flexibility of distance learning means that people are able to learn at their own pace and without the constraint of time and space, making it possible for them to make progress outside office hours.
Admittedly, distance learning is not without disadvantages. Participants in online courses are easily distracted by computer games, music or social media, and there is a lack of interaction in most courses. However, as technology advances, it is hard to imagine this situation will last for long.
Overall, distance learning is beneficial in that it improves social mobility, drives up teaching standards and helps people with their self-improvement. It is therefore an exciting development, the effects of which will be felt far and wide.