Pros and Cons of Distance Learning

Exchange student in London exploring the city

If you love to learn, there are literally millions of courses for you to choose from. Of course, if you yearn to actually attend a class in person, your choices will be limited to courses on offer local to where you live. 

If you like the idea of not having to leave the house to attend classes, lectures and seminars though, perhaps distance learning is for you. 

With that in mind, let’s have a look at the pros and cons of distance learning. 

What is distance learning?

Distance learning is simply doing a course where the course materials are sent out to you in the post or accessed online and you learn by yourself at home. 

Almost anything can be learnt via distance learning, from free short courses to full-time degrees.

Pros of distance learning

More choice of courses

The main advantage of distance learning is the enormous choice of courses you can take. 

When location isn’t in the equation, you can learn whatever you want without being restricted by what’s available locally.  

You don’t have to leave the house

Another great advantage of distance learning is that you don’t have to leave the house. 

So, whether you’ve got mobility problems, you’re an introvert, you suffer from social anxiety or you just don’t particularly like people, you can do all your learning from the comfort of your own home. 

Speaking of comfort, there’s also the added bonus of not having to live in student accommodation


If you’ve got commitments and responsibilities such as children and/or a job and don’t have the luxury to be a full-time student or attend an actual in-person class, distance learning is a great alternative. 

Distance learning allows you to learn self-paced in your own time so you get to choose when you study. No seminars or lectures at 9am on a Monday morning when you should be at work or doing the school run. 

Cons of distance learning

Questionable credibility

A lot of the courses you can find online are of dubious quality and credibility. There are thousands of online learning providers out there offering diplomas in a range of subjects, but are they worth the paper they’re written on? 

If you’re doing a course for fun, then it won’t matter a jot. But if you’re looking for a qualification in a particular subject to advance your career prospects, make sure you find a reputable course provider, such as the Open University

Technological problems

Although most learning is done from home, there may be forums, chat rooms and other internet-based resources you need to access. If your internet goes down or the course provider’s technology gets a glitch, you’re stuck until the problem gets resolved. 

Distance learning can be lonely and demotivating

Although, as said above, there may be forums and chat rooms you can access where you can ‘speak’ to other students doing the course, distance learning can be lonely. 

Campus life is a big part of going to university, even for the mature student who’s not in student accommodation, and you just don’t get the same level of camaraderie, motivation and inspiration from others when you are learning remotely.  

You need a lot of self-discipline with distance learning

Although with a lot of courses, you will still have assignment and homework deadlines, you still need a tremendous amount of self-discipline with distance learning. 

Having to attend a college or university gives you structure that you don’t get with distance learning. 

Pros and cons of distance learning

To summarise, here are the pros of distance learning:

  • There’s more choice of courses
  • Distance learning is flexible and you can fit studying in around other commitments
  • You don’t have to leave the house 

and the cons of distance learning:

  • Courses can be of dubious credibility
  • Distance learning relies a lot on technology
  • It can be lonely and demotivating 
  • It requires a lot of self-discipline

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