Distance learning has become commonplace in how education is approached in the United States. Many formal institutions offer online courses as well as in-person courses, and some degrees can be earned partially or completely online.

Distance learning offers students the opportunity to not have to move to go to the school of their choice, to have flexibility in their lives that having to be present on campus doesn’t offer, and presents an affordable option for students and institutions alike.

However, distance learning is not one kind of creature. There are different structures that both have their benefits and drawbacks, the most central of which are paced and self-paced courses. Paced courses follow a schedule that the students in the class must adhere to, and in self-paced courses students complete the syllabus at their own pace. Paced classes encourage community even when it is taught remotely, and the structure of deadlines helps students adapt and excel. However, some of the same drawbacks of traditional in-class learning still apply to paced distance learning programs. If a crisis occurs, or the obligations of life outside of school are too demanding to balance, the student struggles. With self-paced classes, there is more flexibility for students to learn at their own pace, and for the unforeseen events of life to get in the way of their education.

Before you decide that distance learning is right for you, check in about what kind of learner you are and whether your life is better suited for a paced or self-paced structure.


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