Distance Learning for Colleges: Is It Right for You?

Carolina Jacobs

Apr 27, 2022
distance learning for colleges

We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been asking themselves if distance learning for colleges will become a regular occurrence. Many people don’t realize that distance learning, also called remote learning, has been an option for students for years now.

Both traditional students who attend face-to-face classes and non-traditional students who complete courses behind the screen receive the same sort of education. However, these types of learning can be vastly different on a fundamental level.

What Is Distance Learning in College?

Distance learning is just as it sounds: learning that doesn’t take place in the classroom all the time. Remote students receive the same education as on-campus students by attending classes and completing courses online from an accredited college. These courses may or may not require in-person meetings infrequently, such as once or twice a semester.


Many students experienced a taste of distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some classes aren’t meant to be virtual — a few courses must have a hands-on component, which can explain why online courses can be so tricky to orchestrate for educators or get used to for students.

Still, for a tech-savvy student, online courses may be just the thing to provide a more independent academic experience.

In 2019, 36% of all undergraduate students enrolled in at least one distance learning course. Even if you’re on-campus, if one of your classes meets virtually, then you can be considered a distance learning student. While it isn’t without its difficulties, distance learning can be a rewarding experience that can allow you more time to pursue other activities.

Benefits of Distance Learning for College Students

Most times, if you’re a remote student, you can organize your schedule. Since you don’t have to attend classes in-person, you may be able to complete your work at any time. Having a free schedule means you’re free to work outside of school or create a social life around taking classes. This flexibility dramatically benefits students who work full-time outside of classes.

Also, you’ll save money on room and board as a distance learning student. The average price of on-campus room and board is between $10,000 and $12,000 a year for undergraduate students attending public schools. By staying at home and learning over a computer, you can save thousands of dollars that you can then invest into your tuition or enrich other areas of your life.

Distance learning also offers you more independence than living on campus would. Living on campus or commuting to classes limits you to where you can go during the week. But as a distance learning student, you can get a degree from anywhere in the world. With distance learning comes extra responsibility, though, because you need to learn to manage your time effectively.

Challenges of Distance Learning in College

One of the most significant drawbacks of distance learning is that a student may feel added stress. This stress can manifest in multiple ways, but as long as you know how to manage it, you can’t discount the value that distance learning can add to your life.

If you’re learning from home, you may not have your professors readily accessible, particularly if they’re in a different time zone. You may struggle to get responses promptly or immediate answers to your questions as a result, since face-to-face meetings usually take priority. With a bit of work, you may be able to schedule a time to meet with your professor, whether over email or virtually, if you can’t see them in-person.

You might also find yourself more prone to procrastination. On-campus libraries make for perfect places to learn and study, but when you’re at home, you may not have a unique room dedicated to learning. Procrastination is the killer of productivity. If you find yourself struggling, you can examine what you’re putting off to find out why you’re avoiding it and choose to tackle that issue in the future.

Also, learning at home might bring unwanted, unnecessary distractions. Plenty of things around you could be a distraction — the television, your phone, and knick-knacks around your desk, for a start — because you’re not in the classroom where distracting objects are limited. Scheduling your time and purposefully allowing yourself breaks to get distracted can help you mitigate the effects of the distractions around you.

Choose Distance Learning for Colleges for a Challenge

Distance learning can be complex for students who have never managed their time through an online course before. If you’ve never experienced an online course, you should consider taking one to figure out whether you’d thrive as a remote learner. Distance learning isn’t for everyone, but some students find that it allows them more time to work and play while accomplishing the same goal of obtaining a degree.


Written By