Distance learning has the advantage that it can be engaged in from anywhere at any time. It is credited with allowing professional adults to study while they work and raise their children. No classroom is needed and to a large extent students can pace their own learning – if you cannot get to your studies today then you can put in extra time tomorrow. This scenario releases a student from the requirements of having to be at a specific venue and attend class every day.
Students who are considering distance learning as a study option are often warned that they have to be prepared to manage their time very carefully. How much time can be spent with the family and on relaxation and recreation? Students studying on a campus do not have these challenges – they are there to study and they attend classes on a predetermined schedule.
The one aspect of distance learning that is often overlooked is that a distance learning student does not spend time among fellow students and educators. Distance learning is often seen as equivalent to independent study. Independent study requires a lot of drive and motivation from students who have to work on their own. There is nobody that tells you what to do and there is not necessarily somebody who understands what you are going through and with whom you can discuss how you feel. Motivation, perseverance and drive have to come from within.
Distance learning – which is in fact a form of independent study – requires a special kind of person and every year thousands of students succeed in distance education in South Africa. The question is: what are the psychological challenges for distance learning students studying on their own? How do they cope with lack of motivation and the stress that they experience? How do you cope?
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