What are some advantages of distance education? David John explains the benefits and responsibilities of distance education, encouraging online students to stay rooted in their communities.
Distance Education Breaks Down Barriers
Distance education, or “DE,” as many refer to it, gives access to institutions and programs and courses to the student that they would normally not have access to. Due to things like geographic location, due to work-family commitments, church, ministry, it’s very difficult for some students to get up and relocate to where they may want to attend. And so, obviously, with DE, it breaks down those type of barriers and provides access to those students who are seeking to expand their knowledge—biblical, theological knowledge—and also stay planted in their communities.
Distance Education Offers Variety
When we talk about being responsible with distance education, it means that we need to be intentional and active in the communities and the relationships around us.Another good advantage of distance education is also the variety that it offers. We now, because of the internet, have access to institutions and programs that we never would have had access to, say, maybe 20, 25, 30 years ago. Because of that, students can choose where they would like to attend and further their education. And so they have access to a greater set of institutions, which also means once they’re in that institution, they have much greater access to faculty from different disciplines, different areas of thought; they get exposed to different methods of teaching.
Distance Education Offers Flexibility
And then finally, there is flexibility. This is perhaps one of the greatest attractions of distance [education] for those who are living very busy lives. They’ve got career commitments, they’ve got ministry commitments, and it’s really difficult for them to string a block of time together where they can get to a campus. So now, instead of them arranging their work and their family life around their education, they can arrange their education around their life commitments. And so, it provides a great deal of flexibility for students. But with that flexibility comes great responsibility as well.
When we talk about being responsible with distance education, it means that we need to be intentional and active in the communities and the relationships around us. We can recognize that DE is a very powerful platform for continuing our education and expanding our biblical and theological knowledge. But we also need to remember that God has put us in community, and we need to make sure that we maintain those relationships in an active way. And this could be with a mentor, it could be in ministry, in a church context, and of course, with our families. And I do think that the writer to the Hebrews captures this when he says, “Let us encourage one another in love and good works and not neglect meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but to encourage one another as we see the day approaching.” And I just think that’s something to keep in mind as we become part of a distance education program, as we are planted in our communities.
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