Distance Education vs. Face to Face; Better Ways to Learn?
By Robert O'Halloran Professor & Director, Hospitality Management, East Carolina University | January 08, 2010
Learners; employees, students
People are always in the learning process. Whether in school or working full time people can and are learning. Being an educator, I clearly think that education and learning is the key to advancement. The question is how and where to learn? Our industry is dotted with supervisors, high level executives, and employees that worked their way up through an organization and established themselves without formal education. Most employees cannot afford to leave their jobs to pursue a more formal education or needed training and therefore it behooves educational organizations to offer and work with industry to provide learning opportunities for employees and managers to get the education they need. Distance Education (DE), on line learning or hybrid methods can be the solution for many to accomplish their educational goals. Distance education has come a long way from mail order courses and now is technology based and instructor accessible. The success of distance education (DE) is based on a three way partnership between the student, faculty member and technology.
Who is the learner?
Not everyone learns the same way and or has the same skills. An employee needs to know what type of learner they are. This is not referring to personality tests but how they can learn best and/or how they can give themselves the opportunity to learn. In schools, colleges, universities, community colleges etc… the traditional eighteen to twenty-two year old employee has been conditioned to learn in certain ways. One would suggest that the method is face to face (F2F), meaning enrolled in a college, university or technical school, often living on or near campus where they go to classrooms with a teacher and have a traditional learning experience. This traditional student is on the university's schedule for time and classroom and when faculty can be scheduled. A huge segment of the education community is enrolled and happy in this model. However, not all students can make that model work.
An employee or nontraditional student that is on their employer's schedule must manage their time accordingly to pursue their education. These students must consider a variety of other factors that the traditional student has not typically faced. Nontraditional students often consider their age an issue. In any business an employee's ages can range from the eighteen year olds to people in their fifties and sixties etc… Older students often question themselves and their abilities to be students again. Nontraditional students can and should plan to use their maturity, commitment and responsibility to balance a fulltime workload with DE. Nontraditional students must be self motivated, persistent and have the ability to focus and stay on task. They also may have to balance family, marriage and personal obligations beyond themselves. In addition to personal commitments full time employees considering continuing or completing their education can have different financial commitments and obligations that need to be weighed against their educational and learning goals. Education is not free and it behooves the learner to have an education plan that includes career goals and short and long term tactics. In their planning process employees should determine if their employer is supportive of their educational goals and more practically, if there a tuition reimbursement plan. Many organizations provide learning and or training activities for their employees to aid advancement.
Additionally, communication between faculty and students is especially important in online learning. For example, a question in a traditional classroom of twenty–five is asked and the response is heard by all members of the class. In an online setting in a class of twenty-five one person asks an email question and is answered on a one to one basis thus potentially creating twenty-five interactions with the professor. DE students are seeking alternative ways to learn and must examine timing issues and their own self discipline. These two factors can mark the difference between a successful and non-successful student. For many the alternative to face to face learning will be a DE or World Wide Web learning option.