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A Day In The Life Of A Typical Distance Learning Student

Mar 3, 2008
Distance learning has gained a considerable following among busy professionals and resident college students, as well as parents who wish to further their education without sacrificing time spent with their families. Even students who attend class at a traditional campus are more often choosing to register in additional classes online.

With so much buzz centering on the growing popularity of online education, it's important to understand the differences between completing courses within an online setting as opposed to within a traditional, on-campus setting. While there are obvious similarities between the academic structure followed by distance learning students and those who pursue a traditional on-campus education, certain unique characteristics definitely set online learning a part.

Demographically, a typical distance learner averages between the ages of 26-40 years old, and is often either a professional in a particular career field or is actively pursuing a specific career. To date, no solid data exists supporting the premise of distance learning being either more male or female driven in enrollment, but there is a definite pull toward the distance learning format within single parent homes with children.

Most distance learners are already computer savvy, an important skill as distance learning courses utilize the computer as its main tool. To begin with, there is registration itself, most often completed online through the academic institution's website.

The registration process involves selecting the desired courses, and then contacting the student's assigned academic advisor who then liaises with the financial advisory department to determine that the student is well versed with the fees and tuition schedule. The same office may also process financial aid. The financial aid office for most online classes accepts major credit cards and checks, either online or over the phone.

Others also generate a bill, which is then mailed to the student. Once full payment is received, the student's information is relayed to the technical department, which then releases access to the student website where the distance learner can login. Upon login, a personalized student account page may welcome the student, providing them with access to personal account settings where they may update information such as phone numbers, addresses, and email information. There is also another portal, which acts as a scorecard for the student, and records their academic progress.

A high bandwidth is needed for the completion of online courses as the student often will often have multiple browser windows open in order to complete a given assignment or task. Student-to-teacher and student-to-student interaction within a course may require an email client like Microsoft Outlook, or special software to enable online chatting.

In addition, there are also files to download and upload. These tasks require a high-speed internet connection, such as DSL, as opposed to dial-up. Many educational institutions use companies such as Comcast and AT&T to offer internet connections for less than $50.00 a month, a fairly reasonable cost.

The life of a distance learner is very unique. Distant learners often complete coursework in the evening as most hold day jobs. The ability to complete coursework in the evening is also convenient because many distance learners are parents with families to tend to. Busy professionals juggling hectic work schedules also can appreciate the convenience offered through online learning. In a day filled with back-to-back meetings, the ability to login over a quick meal and complete an assignment can be a priceless commodity toward the completion of a degree.

Since most online courses are compressed to enable the distant learner to complete the curriculum faster than a traditional one, even if a student must take courses on a singular basis due to their unique schedule, they still have the opportunity to steadily advance through their degree program.
About the Author
Ronald Kennedy is Executive Director of Distance Learning for Liberty University. Overseeing a school with over 22,000 students has given Ron a special insight into the mind of the online student. Ron can be contacted at Liberty University Online or at Ron@RonaldKennedy.com.
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