Distance and Online Learning Students


Is there the typical distance learning student? Not really. However, we have some figues for you showing you who typically decides to study this way.



On average, distance learning students tend to be older than students in campus-based programs: 45% are under 30 and 55% are over 30 (up to around 50's).


Employment Status

Several studies have shown that well over half of distance learning students hold full-time jobs outside of the home, with some institutions reporting as many as 90% of their students being employed full-time. The students are usually taking courses to help them advance in their careers or have families to take care of during their distance education courses.


Marital Status

Several studies indicate that more than half of distance learning students are married with dependents. This means that most students are often busy juggling a family and a job along with their school work. Often times, choosing distance learning is a better option to schedule around these obligations.



Traditionally distance learning programs have attracted students whose geographic distance from a college campus prevented their enrollment in campus-based classes. This is changing however, with an increasing number of distance learning students living within commuting distance of the college they are attending, but who choose to take distance learning courses because of the convenience or other reasons.


Learning Status

83% of distance learning students have been formally admitted to a graduate degree or certificate program, with the remaining just taking individual courses.

77% of distance learning students are attending college on a part-time basis. 23% of students who are attending full-time are likely enrolled in a combination of campus-based and distance learning courses to provide them with more scheduling flexibility.


Personality characteristics

Students who prefer distance education and do well in their courses seem to excerpt the following characteristics:


Are self-directed

Distance learning students are able to manage their own learning and success in their courses. They can plan ahead and schedule their course work around work, family, etc. They have to do this on their is no instructor giving you face-to-face reminders (only announcements on the course site that students must be self-disciplined in checking on their own). The fact that they are self-directed, however, does not mean they are want self-directed learning per se. Students often want detailed and thorough directions from the instructor and then are able to redirect their efforts to follow those directions.


Have certain personality traits

The majority of distance learning students tend to be more intelligent, emotionally stable, trusting, compulsive, passive, conforming, self-sufficient, introverted, and expedient than on-campus students.


Are able to adapt to new learning styles

Most studies have not found a link between sensory-type learning styles (that is, auditory, visual, or tactile) and the tendency of students to enroll and succeed in distance learning courses. However, some studies show that distance learning students tend to have less concrete learning styles, meaning that they can learn from a variety of content types and activities. Distance learning students also tend to have less of a need to relate to others in the educational environment than on-campus students.


Have motivation that helps them focus

As it was mentioned above, distance learning programs traditionally attracted students who lived too far from a college campus to attend on-campus classes. Today, the convenience of not having to be in a specific location is still a motivator for distance learning students, but the convenience of not being time-bound has become a more important factor. Also, some students just like not having to drive to school or enjoy learning in the comfort of their homes. Distance learning students often lead busy lives and they need to be able to fit their coursework into their schedules when it is convenient for them. In addition to the lack of time and location constraints, some distance learning students are motivated by the mode of instruction itself.


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