The key advantages of distance learning are flexibility, hassle-free, no commuting, affordable and time savings.

Before the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face learning was the norm for most students in Singapore and elsewhere in the world. From preschool to university, it was more or less a given that the most important learning experiences should take place in a physical classroom. But the global health crisis has since changed that notion, and learners worldwide have had to adapt to a paradigm that requires them to be educated from a distance.

In truth, however, distance learning in itself is nothing new. In the last decade alone, innovations like online courses and open universities have taken root in the academe. For college or graduate students based overseas, for example, distance learning became a viable alternative to in-classroom learning so that they could earn a degree or diploma at a chosen institution without having to spend a fortune or leave their families behind.

More primary and secondary schools can actually take a leaf from the book of open universities and other online learning institutions by adapting their pedagogies for the digital age and delivering educational services beyond the confines of the campus and of national boundaries. Distance learning can be more than just an option—it can actually be a fruitful experience for students and their school communities.

What are the advantages of distance learning?

If you’re a parent of a student based in Singapore and are wondering about the benefits of online learning models available in the country, this article will be a good introduction. Learn more about why local and international secondary schools in Singapore are adopting distance learning initiatives.

It’s a Safe Alternative to Face-to-Face Classes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The chief benefit of distance learning at this particular point in time is its safety compared to face-to-face classes. While Singapore has generally been successful at mitigating the risks of COVID-19 when students returned to school in June, distance learning is still one of the best methods for keeping students healthy and ensuring that their exposure to the virus is as low as possible.

It’s true that many students—especially those in their formative years—miss the warmth, spontaneity, and sense of community that can be found in face-to-face classes. But for as long as COVID-19 looms overhead, Singapore schools must make the best out of this safe and low-risk method of learning.

It Can Be Adapted for Less Rigid Learning Methodologies

Upon discovering what was possible through distance learning, some Singapore parents have actually advocated for wider adoption of the learning model. That’s because effective distance learning methodologies can un-chunk the traditional school day and make learning hours more flexible.

Students have also benefited from distance learning approaches that were less rigid and more adjustable in nature. For one, these approaches allow them more time to absorb the lessons by themselves and reflect on the lessons’ personal significance to them outside of the classroom. For another, distance learning can also allow students to pursue their other hobbies and interests and spend more time with their families.

It Can Help Incorporate More Technology into Students’ Learning Experiences

Distance learning may also provide an ideal learning environment for increasingly tech-savvy students. Today’s learners are well-versed in technological tools, and they take well to lessons that are taught using a variety of digital formats.

In the online classroom, teachers aren’t limited to the physical materials that they have on hand in order to get their point across. They have the option to include multimedia like videos, podcasts, or educational games in their students’ e-learning packets. They can also encourage the use of innovative apps for the lessons themselves, or for productivity and learning management. These tech-driven experiences will allow students to learn in creative new ways and, moreover, get excited about their education.

It Enables More Self-Directed and Hands-on Learning

Some of the challenges that are associated with the distance learning approach are actually good ones. For example, the model often requires teachers to go beyond passive blackboard-and-chalk instruction. Many have made their lessons to be shorter and more open-ended, thus providing students with the opportunity to step up and be self-directed in their learning style.

This insight has been an especially important one for international schools, which typically value independence and hands-on learning for secondary school students. It’s up to educators to align their individual distance learning approaches with the values of the school and make sure that these are inculcated in their students.

It Can Foster a Wider Community of Learners and Educators

Admittedly, it is easy to link the idea of distance learning with sentiments that are prevalent in the age of COVID-19—namely disconnection and isolation. It is also true that distance learning cannot replicate the experience of face-to-face class piece for piece.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s no potential for distance learning to close the gap and foster a sense of community among students and their teachers. In fact, learning institutions that successfully adopt distance learning can achieve the exact opposite: they can create virtual communities of learning that challenge the limits of physical space.

It may be easier for educators to consolidate their materials in one virtual space, and for students and teachers to hold important conversations with each other that aren’t limited by traditional class hours. The virtual space can also facilitate interactions between students, teachers, and resource persons like guest speakers across different countries and time zones. While distance learning does have certain limitations, it also has certain freedoms that can’t be found in conventional face-to-face learning models. Educators can take advantage of this and extend their learning communities beyond the physical walls of their schools.

Distance learning may be here to stay, but that shouldn’t be looked upon exclusively as a bad thing. There are myriad advantages for schools to make the best of the circumstances and ensure that a quality education is still possible. It is an issue of finding the methods that work best and constantly fine-tuning the learning system so that it can truly serve the needs of today’s students.