I worked in a high school in the province before I entered law school. Some of my former students are now in college. I was surprised to learn, however, that a few of them, who I believe would have done well in the university, had to stop studying in order to work and to support their families.
I realize now that my former students who are working, but who still wish to finish a college degree, have an alternative – they could study in an “open university” or an institution offering “distance learning.”
In the Philippines, we have several open universities offering non-formal courses, bachelor’s degrees, post-baccalaureate certificates/diplomas, and even master’s degrees. Distance-learning students typically access learning materials over the internet. They submit assignments and communicate with fellow students and their professors through different modes, such as e-mail, chat, video conference, or customized web-based systems. The advantage is a flexible work-study schedule. Students can study at their own pace and time while pursuing their work. Another advantage is that distance education transcends geographical boundaries. An OFW can earn a degree from UP Open University. Someone working in the Philippines can earn a University of London degree. There are also distance learning scholarships.
To be sure, distance education has its limitations: fewer areas of study to choose from, the requirement of a reliable internet connection, and the perception that traditional education is still better. Perhaps a study can be made to assess the effectiveness of distance learning. How do graduates of the latter fare in comparison with those of traditional learning systems?
Distance education may not be able to fully replicate the conventional classroom learning experience. However, as internet and mobile technologies become more accessible, we are given a wider array of alternatives and opportunities for education.
C M Prado, Entry # 2