‘Distance learning’ is the phrase on everyone’s lips as tutors of all age groups get used to delivering their lessons digitally – a new experience for students and educators alike.
They join legions of workers who are mastering remote communication, whilst the concept of the office slides slowly into obsoletion. While many employers are hoping to bounce back to a traditional work environment, some companies may be maintaining the new status quo indefinitely.
The question is, could universities follow suit? Is it a ‘necessary evil’ for the time being, or could distance learning really unlock a positive future for education?
In theory, yes.
Why? Because ‘distance everything’ is the future.
Before you know it, everyone will be in the office for a mere 15 minutes. For training purposes. After this, you’ll most likely be sent home with a laptop and a headset, where you’ll be left alone to pull on your fluffy slippers and tuck into your chocolate digestives while you work away from the comfort of your sofa.
This vision of the future is a reality for many right now, and with firms like Twitter implementing home-working for good, it’s like that many other companies will join them in this new normal.
Is it so implausible, then, to suggest that universities may become part of the remote revolution? Online library systems which enable students remote access to valuable resources have been the norm since long before the pandemic, and as lecturers get to grips with remote teaching methods, might a system of digitised learning work better for students and staff alike?
But, you may argue, the culture of campus education, the ‘university lifestyle’ as it’s regarded, is part of the appeal for many new students. Would a permanent switch to distance learning compromise this?
Well first of all, it’s worth bearing in mind that not all students seek this from their education experience, and indeed many welcome a number of mature students with little interest in this so-called party lifestyle. And for a younger generation so used to connecting online, digital seminars won’t necessarily prevent them from making new friends in the post-COVID era.
And the big burning question – does distance learning work for universities?
It already does.
Although admittedly many universities are still in a transitional phase with distance learning, others have long-since perfected the formula for remote education that ensures full support for its students as well as maximum flexibility.
ARU Distance Learning is one such institution that’s years ahead of the curve. Their courses have a proven track record of success with remote students across a range of subjects, and though they’ve been working remote since long before the pandemic, they could well be trendsetters for other institutions who are still finding their feet.
Of course, the campus university will always exist in some format, but as the rest of the world goes virtual, education as we know it may too be changed forever and in the long run, very possibly for better.