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Computer Based Distance Learning v Classroom Learning – let’s set the record straight!

Some months back I was interviewed over the phone by the AAT magazine for an article relating to the above. I later discovered that I was not going to be provided the opportunity to review a draft of the article for proof reading and amendment prior to going to print. “It doesn’t work like that” was the response to my request. When I subsequently read the article, I was upset (to say the least), since I felt that some of my comments had been taken out of context and others omitted completely – the overall article seemed to focus on my belief that computer based distance learning is the only way forward for the future. This is not what I believe.

Here is what I really believe about classroom learning:

I can’t think that there wouldn’t always be a need for classroom learning. Distance learning does not suit everyone by any stretch; you have to be very self-motivated and focused; you also have to be disciplined in the way in which you structure your studies. With classroom delivery, it is easier to get yourself into a learning routine given that you have to attend a course on a regular basis. Achievements may be higher as a result, given the strict deadlines that are often imposed.
As Neil Montgomery rightly says in his article on the previous page; classroom learning is an ideal option for those without access to a computer/internet. At Accountancy Learning, we know Neil Montgomery well, and have a huge amount of respect for him.
There is no doubt that face to face contact with a good tutor can enhance the learning process – much easier to work through that tricky problem when you have a piece of paper, a whiteboard/flipchart etc in front of you.
The regular contact with peers can also give learners a sense of belonging which can in turn boost confidence.
And here is what I really believe about distance learning:

For those who have a genuine desire to achieve, then overall achievement of the course can be just as likely as with classroom learning. It is harder to achieve though if motivation and personal organisation is lacking.
Distance learning tends to offers considerable flexibility in terms of starting/completing a course, deadlines for submitting work, sitting exams and of course being able to fit studying in and around other commitments and within the comfort of your own home.
Your preferred pace of studies does not need to be changed to suit the needs of others in the class.
Distance learning doesn’t always have to be distant – as correctly mentioned in the article, we do contact learners on a regular basis to see how they are getting along and in that way, build up good relationships with them. Learners can phone us whenever they want during regular working hours (as well as during 4 evenings of the week, usually up until 9.30pm) to talk to a tutor, who will work with them on a task they may be struggling with.
Because of this, there is probably more opportunity for 1 to 1 support than in a busy classroom.
My overall comments that there is a growing trend toward distance learning as opposed to classroom learning is not only evidenced by our own experience of the increasing level of enquiries we receive, but is also quoted by the AAT themselves.

I think that there is a combination of reasons:

Regular government funding cuts over the past few years affecting specific age groups
Some employers trying to reduce their employee’s time out of the office
Regular price increases in classroom course costs, travel costs and so on
My overriding point is that both learning methods can work extremely well – classroom learning will suit some and distance learning will suit others. Likewise, there are advantages and disadvantages of both. In addition to my job role in distance learning, I also work part time as an AAT classroom tutor (and have done for a number of years, so I am fully aware of the pros and cons of both.)

Finally, one should not confuse distance learning/online learning with solely ‘computer based training’. For most distance learning providers, one of the key elements of their service is the personal tutor support by email, phone, Skype, virtual classroom.

Neil Montgomery’s final words were “Will a computer inspire you? No. Will having someone in front of you give that inspiration? More than likely, yes”

Your personal tutor doesn’t have to be in the classroom to inspire you.

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