Distance learning is originally designed for people who are unable to attend conventional schools. However, it is now a popular option for students all over the world, not only for those who are forced by their circumstances but also those who actually have other options to choose from.
The most predominant aspect of distance learning is its convenience. Students can take courses from anywhere they want and can take courses to fit personal schedule. Indonesia is an archipelago which consists of over 18,000 islands, with severe inequality in educational provision from one region to the other. Most of the best education institutions are located in big cities such as Jakarta, Bandung, and Yogyakarta. Those who live in smaller provinces and rural areas find it difficult to access quality education unless they are willing to move.
However, living cost and tuition fees in the big cities are expensive, making it unaffordable for many people. Distance learning can significantly reduce the amount that students have to spend because they do not have to pay extra for their living cost. The tuition fee is also cheaper than that of conventional schools because distance learning institutions do not need any physical infrastructures.
Moreover, distance learning can also help address the shortage of tertiary education institutes in Indonesia. The country has more than 200 universities around the countries, which is far from enough to accommodate all registrants. For example, only 17 percent of total students who applied to public universities were accepted. Distance education provides a solution to this problem because there is no strict limitation on the number of students that can be enrolled.
Current practice in Indonesia
Indonesia has begun to utilize distance learning techniques since many years ago to reach out to those who are unable to find access to education. However, now, instead of just providing access to remote areas, distance learning institutions are now focusing more on professionals or entrepreneurs who want to further their education without sacrificing their work schedule.
Working professionals are interested in distance education because of the timing flexibility that it offers. They usually enroll in the online degree program to support their career development and are highly motivated so that they do not need much external support. Younger, full-time students are usually less clear about what they want to accomplish from their courses and may therefore be less motivated. Compared to students in brick-and-mortar schools, lack of self-motivation is a bigger issue for online learners as they get very minimal or no social support from their fellow students and teachers.
Information technology (IT) infrastructure is also a critical factor for the smooth running of distance education activities. The uneven infrastructure development in Indonesia is one of the biggest barriers which prevent more people from reaping the benefit of distance learning. Remote and rural areas do not have adequate IT infrastructure, like those in the big cities, to support the implementation of distance education.
With the fast growth of IT infrastructure in Indonesia, distance education is a very promising education solution, not only for working professionals or business practitioners but also for many people in smaller areas.
With increasing public awareness about the importance of education and more intense competition for employment in the industries, more people will be encouraged to improve their skills and knowledge, lest they get left behind and become outdated.