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How to Have Distance Learning Without Feeling Distanced

Most adult learners have plenty on their plate even before they make the decision to enroll in a college program. Whether pursuing a full degree, a certificate, or both, online learning can make it easier to continue your education while managing continuous work, family, and budget obligations. 


Becky Klein-Collins

Vice President, Impact, CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning)

But what about classes that are heavy in “hands on” learning experiences? The good news is that technology and innovation are making it possible to bring more of the latest types of learning to your living room, your break room, or almost anywhere you can connect to the internet. 

Learning experiences

Learning online doesn’t necessarily mean watching lectures on Zoom. The best programs will offer you engaging instruction and opportunities to work on real-world projects.

For instance, in the energy industry, sophisticated computer programs have created simulations of an entire power plant. This has been a game-changer for learners seeking training that they can fit around their busy work schedules, and it also provides a close-up look at power plant equipment without having to shut down the whole plant.

Training for digital lab tech jobs also offers new approaches to online instruction. In some programs, instructors wear head-mounted cameras to offer virtual students a “POV” procedural perspective. Students following along at home use take-home materials they were issued to familiarize themselves with processes and equipment. 

Elsewhere, IT students have used a secure portal to access the full complement of a college computer network

The right fit for all

Of course, there are lots of reasons why someone might prefer to be in a brick-and-mortar classroom with a live instructor. For those students, there are options to blend in-classroom learning with online components to help deepen the learning experience. 

But don’t assume online learning will be easier. While online learning can make access to learning much easier, mastering the content will take the same work and dedication as it would in a traditional classroom. That’s why even the most high-tech virtual programs offer ways to engage with teachers and a community of fellow learners for support. 

If online learning is the right choice for you, make sure you have an adequate internet connection and hardware — laptops are best, but some programs might be possible to do on a smartphone (be sure to ask if that’s an option). 

Still unsure? Many institutions offer practice courses and other ways for students to test the waters of online learning.  After all, when world-class educational experiences are no longer limited by geography, the possibilities become global — not just for students, but for the colleges that recruit them. 

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