The New Distance Education Student

Remembering that there are always exceptions, new distance education (DE) students…

  • Commence with more motivation than on campus students
  • Find it harder to get past a first D.E. lesson than a first classroom lesson
  • Go unnoticed more easily if they stray off track in their studies
  • Are less likely to seek help from their teacher/tutor
  • Are more sensitive to written criticism i.e. where the tutor can’t explain the criticism in depth
  • Are often more frightened to attempt exams due to lack of interaction with other students and staff.

Even if a student has prior experience with distance education, that experience might not have been positive.


The one major handicap of Distance Education is:

“Because the teaching staff are not physically in the presence of the student; there are unable to perceive immediate responses to anything the student sees, hears or does, during the process of studying. In turn, they are then unable to provide an immediate response to the student”.

If a student’s response to an experience is negative, and it is not perceived, and attended to; the student will lose motivation to study.

Some distance education schools (and tutors) do not provide strong support to students

Unless you know otherwise, you are better to assume any new distance education student will not have studied distance education before.

Making the Transition
If a student has only ever studied in a classroom, they are likely to expect distance education to have similarities to classroom education, certainly in terms of  at least the type of notes and assignments they are given and the way they are assessed.
They are most likely to approach assignments in the same way that they approached important homework when studying in a classroom.
If they are adults (as many distance education students are), they will still retain a perception of education being much the same as they perceived it when they studied last at secondary school (or elsewhere).
Most will expect assignments to be mostly about assessment, and little to do with the interacting with teaching staff. For some distance education courses this may well be the intention, but for many others it may not be.

It is critical that the new student has any prejudice or misconception about distance education removed at the beginning of their studies.

The First Lesson Can be Daunting
More students will fail to satisfactorily complete a distance education course because they fail to complete the first lesson than for any other single reason.

The most important goal of delivering distance education must thus be to see the student complete the first lesson and submit the first assignment.

  • It doesn’t always matter how well the student does in the first lesson: what matters is that they complete it.
  • It doesn’t matter how accurately the first lesson is graded, but it does matter that the student feels encouraged and supported by the teaching (and other) staff.

As they proceed with the first lesson, many students will feel uncertain of what is expected of them, irrespective of how well you do or don’t explain this in the course documentation.

Our principal and staff have written dozens of reference books as supplementary texts to complement studies in our school
These books are mostly available as ebook, through our online bookstore. They include the following titles. You can click on any of these titles to go to the bookstore and see more details, on that title (including a free download of some of the pages).