Advantages and disadvantages of DL over traditional instruction

Key Advantages

• The course becomes an artifact (a videotape, Web site, set of archived messages) and thus can be evaluated in detail and continually improved.

• The course is available at virtually any time or location and thus is accessible to a far broader range of students.

• Students can learn at their own pace (and ideally in the sequence and presentation medium they find most effective) thus improving the learning process.

Primary Liabilities

• Success is dependent on technology. When the technology fails, the course can fail with it. Access to technology can impose economic barriers in some cases. Students uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the technology will either avoid the course or focus on the technology to the exclusion of the content.

• When a course is presented to students outside the usual classroom environment, it demands a significant level of maturity and commitment from the students.

• Some courses or programs demand additional support (library resources, counseling and registration services, etc.) which in most cases will also have to delivered at a distance.

From a student’s perspective

1. Students can learn at any time (before, during or after normal school hours, at the desktop in the workplace, "just in time learning" for a particular task)

But some students need the structure of a specific class time

2. Students can learn at any place (in the traditional classroom, in a dorm room, at home, at a convenient learning center, at work, on the road)

But some students need the psychological reinforcement of the traditional classroom.

3. Students can learn at their own pace, giving extra time to new material and speeding through material already known, with pauses for tutorial help or supplemental courses.

But some students need help in setting the pace.

4. Students can learn more efficiently when concepts are presented with multiple media so students can select those which best assist their own understanding and retention.

But multiple media require sophisticated technology which can fail at critical points. In addition, some students feel the need for the authoritative, coordinating voice of the instructor.

5. Students can learn only what they need to know, reinforcing both retention and motivation learning and then applying individual modules of a course.

But some knowledge has little practical application in its early stages; this option is effective in teaching word processing but not in teaching electronics or algebra.

6. The course content and course quality are constant; organizations can document training coverage and student learning over a wide geographical or temporal area.

But the course lacks the flexibility to respond to students' unexpected insights or reactions.

7. The course can be examined and improved. The entire course and the students' interactions exist as an artifact independent of the instructor, open to review by other educators and content experts.

But an effective course matches the presentation to the students' needs, and the constantly changing student population is less accessible for analysis.

8. The need for costly, permanent teaching facilities is reduced; learning can take place at home, in dorms and workplaces, or in temporary facilities.

But start-up costs for planning, production, and technology are much higher than in traditional courses.