Pros and Cons of Distance Learning in South Africa

by Staff Reporter

Distance learning is a great way to study from the comfort of your own home, giving you the ultimate freedom to learn at your own pace and time. Although this may sound like a dream, studying online does have its share of disadvantages.

So before you sign up for any distance learning institutions, be sure to check out our pros and cons of distance learning in South Africa. 

Table of Contents

What is Distance Learning?

Put simply, distance learning lets you study toward your degree, diploma or certificate remotely—without you having to physically attend lectures or tutorials. Instead, you’re given tools to access online and offline modules, lectures and virtual classrooms.

Most online courses and modules are broadcast in the form of either a pre-recorded video or a live tutorial. Tests, exams and assessments are normally done either at home or at the university.

Although done online, distance learning is not to be confused with online learning as the two are not the same.

What is the Difference Between Online and Distance Learning?

The main difference between online learning and distance learning is how, when and where students engage with the learning material.

Online learning is used to refer to learners who are either in primary or high school. The learners engage with the material with their teachers while sitting in the classroom.

With distance learning, students do not attend the institution in person and can study the material online from their own laptop or computer at any location of their choosing.

The word ‘freedom’ comes to mind with distance learning, which is one of the biggest perks of this learning model, among others. 

distance learning in south africa

Pros of Distance Learning in South Africa

Distance learning is an awesome choice for students who are busy working part-time or who live too far from the university to commute each day. 

With that said, anyone can apply to distance learning institutions from any location. But is this method of learning worth it?  

The only way to find out is to check out the pros of distance learning in South Africa.

Distance Learning is Convenient

Wave goodbye to traffic and long commutes, as distance learning allows you to study conveniently from any given place at any given time—provided you have a solid Internet connection. 

Whether you choose to work from your desk at home, at a friend’s house or even at your local Starbucks, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to location. 

Just make sure that you’re in an area with a good internet connection, and that your learning environment is positive (and free from any distractions).

Distance Learning is Flexible

One of the biggest reasons why students choose to study at distance-learning colleges or universities is the flexibility that comes with it. This method of remote learning allows you to work at your own pace and at a time that suits you, instead of having to manage your schedule around your classes.

Many people have no choice but to study and work at the same time, which can make it difficult to attend all their lectures. 

However, with distance learning, you have unlimited access to pre-recorded videos and learning material, giving you the freedom to choose when and where you want to study.

Distance learning, especially when done part-time, is, therefore, an ideal option for students who already have jobs or careers and would like to study part-time.

Distance Learning is Cost-effective

With distance learning, you’re able to save on educational costs like textbooks, accommodation and tuition. 

With that said, each South African institution is different, so you may have to do some research to see where you’ll be saving money.

One thing you can guarantee is the cost of fuel: You won’t have to travel to college or university every day, so petrol is a non-issue. 

There also won’t be any temptation to splurge on the delicious (but unhealthy) food available on campus, saving your wallet … and probably your waistline. 

Distance Learning Makes You More Tech-Savvy

Distance learning forces you to become more tech-savvy, as you’ll be expected to navigate an array of digital tools and platforms throughout the duration of your studies.

Online education has come a long way over the past few years, and with the impact of COVID-19, many online colleges and universities have evolved to accommodate students who prefer to study remotely.

In saying that, tools such as MOODLE, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Kahoot and YouTube have become commonplace. In fact, these educational tools are frequently used in remote workplaces, meaning you’ll be a step ahead of students who didn’t study online.

student studying via distance learning

Cons of Distance Learning in South Africa

Now that you know the pros of distance learning, it’s time to look at the cons. Knowing what the disadvantages of distance learning are will help you make the right choice when it comes to your studies—and will prevent you from jumping into something you’re not ready for.

So, let’s look at why distance learning may not be for you.

Distance Learning Can Lead to Demotivation

Due to the amount of freedom you’re given, no one is going to be there to motivate you to study or remind you to attend virtual lectures or hand in assignments. 

So, if you’re someone who is forgetful or lacks the motivation to study, then distance learning might not be the best way to go.

You need to be self-disciplined and ambitious in order to study remotely. Time management skills are of the utmost importance, and if you know this is an area where you could be lacking, then campus life might be the better choice.

You May Miss Out on Campus Life with Distance Learning

Speaking of campus life, this is something you’ll miss out on if you’re studying remotely. Depending on the type of person you are, this could be either a pro or a con. 

If you’re a fairly social person and quite extroverted, then distance learning could lead to loneliness and you may feel isolated in your studies.

Additionally, you’ll miss out on all the joys campus life has to offer, such as social events, clubs, food and parties. 

This mode of learning rarely allows for friends and you’ll miss the opportunity to meet new people or experience student life to the absolute fullest.

There is a Lack of Support With Distance Learning

Depending on where you choose to study, distance learning may mean having a lack of support while you study. 

This is because you’ll be entirely independent in your studies, and although this has its advantages, working solo also comes with various drawbacks.

For example, there will be little room for individual attention or feedback, as your lecturers and teachers won’t know who you are.

If you’ve got a busy schedule and are unable to attend live lectures or tutorials, then you’ll likely miss out on opportunities to ask questions. You’ll have to find the answers to any questions you have in your learning material, which can be overwhelming as it requires quite a bit of research. 

Employers May Question the Credibility of Your Qualification

Although distance learning has been on the rise over the past few years, there are employers out there who may question the credibility of the online qualification you’ve received—and with good reason. 

There are institutions out there that take advantage of students and could scam them out of their money, leading to courses or degrees that are either fake or unaccredited.

To avoid this, be sure to conduct thorough research on the online college or university of your choice. Check the reputation and reviews of the institution, see if it’s accredited and make sure it’s registered with the Department of Higher Education.

Start Your Distance Learning Journey with Fundi

Having weighed out all the pros and cons, you may decide that distance learning is the perfect fit for you! 

Take a look at the following distance learning institutions in South Africa to get an idea of what your options are. Once you’ve selected an online university or online college to go to, it’s time to get some funding.

Luckily, Fundi covers everything from tuition fees to technical devices to help you study remotely. Take a look at the Fundi Loan Calculator to see if you qualify!

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