Distance learning comes in two types. The first is a way to gain knowledge to help with job or life skills that doesn’t result in a degree. The second is a carefully monitored learning opportunity that earns college-level credit focused toward a degree or technical certificate.
The informational learning is an excellent way to get formal and verifiable education about a specific area of study. Frequently, this is targeted to a narrow range of materials. You may learn taxidermy or Bible training, for example, but little more than the topic is covered. The value of this type of education depends on the interest and integrity of the learner. The tests are not monitored and are often open book.
At the end of the course, you will receive a certificate of completion. These courses are cheaper than college credits by far. They often cover the same information with the same texts. It’s the integrity of the piece of paper received at the end that is suspect. Since they are self-monitored, the school has no way of proving that the learner even was the one to complete the work. If you learned the materials, you may very well be as educated as the person taking the same course for college credit.
College-level distance education is designed to give flexible time frames that the individual can tailor to meet his or her needs. Most of the more reputable ones have a set completion date for each course. This may follow the college’s semester time lines, or it may be six months to a year from the order date of the course. Several small written assignments are often a part of these courses. These may be short 250-500 word papers or questions answered from the text.
One or two tests are the norm for this type of course. The tests must be proctored by a local teacher, librarian, or someone on the list supplied by the school. These will be people whose professions qualify them to be trusted to maintain the integrity of the tests. The test is mailed to the proctor who administers it at an agreed upon time. The proctor then returns the test to the school for grading. A set amount of time is allotted for completion of the test. Frequently, this is less than 2 hours.
Because the testing is done in a controlled environment, the school has a reasonable expectation that its integrity has not been compromised. This allows them to count it as meeting their criteria for assuring the student has mastered the information. Ultimately, this gives many more people the opportunity to sandwich earning a degree into a busy life