Online learning is not the next big thing, it is the now big thing. —D. Abernathy
What if I could show you a way to shut down that pesky alarm clock once and for all?
What if you could stop hitting the snooze button every morning before you finally drag yourself out of your warm, comfy bed to go to your language class?
What if I told you that you wouldn’t have to make your life revolve around any schedule except your own?
Would you be hanging on my every word, waiting for me to spill the beans?
Of course you would!
It’s your language program—why not have it on your schedule?
I hear you wondering how you can possibly do that. But the truth is, it’s pretty simple: Distance education.
It brings language learning to you—on your terms and in your time.
If you’re interested in a foreign language degree or looking for the opportunity to take courses from a college (even if you’re not after college credits), distance education is the way to do that.
Distance learning is different from other online learning in that it’s associated with colleges and universities and often involves degrees or certifications.
Worried you’re too old to go back to school, or that you’ve missed your chance? Consider the 81-year-old Chinese woman who got her bachelor’s degree through distance learning. (Interestingly enough, completely aside from this, she also taught herself to speak multiple foreign languages—the degree was in e-commerce.)
She certainly achieved her goal—and in the comfort of her own home!
If you’re worried you won’t be able to find a great distance language program, worry no more. There’s something for everyone, especially where foreign languages are concerned. We’re a world full of communicators!
The first step in finding the perfect program is examining your options.
We’ve got some good ones here, so let’s check them out and get you started!
Why Distance Learning Works
Distance learning continues to be a growing trend for many reasons. Honestly, we’re all so pressed for time and juggle such crazy schedules that making it to another commitment—even a language class that we love—is often just too difficult.
Distance-learning courses can be much more flexible with regards to scheduling and space. Okay, so you may not want to ditch that alarm clock completely yet, as this doesn’t mean that there are never any time or course limitations whatsoever, but you may find that online language courses have fewer limitations due to being online.
Many programs still have very specific degree requirements, so you’ll want to check out the particulars of each course at registration and do your research ahead of time. However, some courses available through distance learning don’t adhere to a traditional semester and can be taken all year round, over the summer or at other times.
More flexibility means more likelihood of choosing the language classes that are a perfect match for you. No more taking a course that’s too advanced or one that’s a bit basic just because it was the only one available when you were, or missing out on the rarer language you really wanted to take because it clashes with another requirement.
And distance learning eliminates the need to travel. No more going to learning—now, learning comes to you! What’s not to love?
How to Maximize Your Distance Learning Experience
Whether the course you choose focuses on independent study (you do the work without any online classmates) or features a virtual classroom where interaction with other learners is an option, try to participate as much as possible.
Submit materials for critique, ask questions and take part in online discussions. Communicate with your teacher and fellow students to get the most out of the experience. After all, language is all about communication. The discussion sessions in many online courses provide loads of information. Others may be grappling with the same grammar issues you are, so take note when relevant topics come up.
You all share a passion for the language you’re studying, so see the friendship potential in your classmates. Who knows? You may find a great online study partner for post-class learning. Be friendly and learn from your peers.
Treat the course just like you would a real-life class. Yes, I know you’ll probably be wearing yoga pants or maybe even your PJs when you log on, but dress code aside, approach distance learning as you would any other class. Be prepared to learn and do any assigned homework, and if you’re in a virtual setting with other learners, be sure to arrive on time.
Class instructors are usually available through a contact link or email. Use it. If you’re having a grammar or vocabulary issue or just have questions, speak up! They’re generally quick to respond and you may bring up something that needs further classroom discussion. Chances are that if you’ve got questions, others do, too!
Practice your language outside of the course on your own time with FluentU, so you can put what you’re learning into practice.
Below are six resources to help you tap into the best in foreign language distance learning. Enjoy!
Ditch Your Alarm Clock for Foreign Language Distance Education Courses
International Center for Language Studies
The International Center for Language Studies offers private classes via distance learning for more than 85 languages.
Native-speaking teachers use an interactive virtual classroom that’s available from any location. The programs are personalized so that all levels of learning are accommodated.
So if you feel most comfortable with a one-on-one, customized situation, ICLS will set it up for you!
Oregon State University
The World Languages and Culture Department at Oregon State University has some amazing programs for a variety of languages and language-related studies.
Three Bachelor of Arts degrees—in French, German and Spanish—are available to learners completely through distance learning.
The programs mix language with cultural knowledge, and they also equip learners with the skills needed to access international job markets.
The Open University
The Open University is based in the United Kingdom, considers itself “the world’s leading distance-learning provider” and has taught over 2 million students worldwide.
They accept international students and also offer degree coursework. The choices range from Bachelor of Arts to master’s degrees as well as undergraduate and postgraduate options.
Their language departments offer courses in English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Latin and Welsh. Distance learners can choose from basic to advanced coursework. Additionally, there are some cultural courses relevant to languages offered.
Harvard Summer School
If you’ve ever dreamed of attending Harvard, here’s your chance!
You’ll have to check back ahead of summer for the most current offerings, but Harvard Summer School occasionally has language classes available entirely through distance learning, and has most recently offered beginning Swahili through an online live web conference format. Classes do meet at certain times and class size may be limited.
So if they happen to have the language you’d like to study, why not check it out?
Ed2go is an excellent distance-learning option. I’ve taken several courses through the program and have been very satisfied with every aspect of the experience.
The Ed2go program is a network of over 2,000 colleges and universities that offer online courses in a multitude of subjects.
Courses begin monthly and can be accessed at any time. New lessons, assignments and group discussions are released sequentially, so all you’ve got to do is show up and learn!
Spanish, Italian, French, Japanese and English as a Second Language courses are offered through Ed2go.
Also, there are specialized Spanish courses for medical and police use.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has a distance-learning program that includes courses in French, German, Russian and Spanish.
They have an extensive course schedule. Some courses do have prerequisites, so be sure to check on that at time of enrollment.
Classes vary from basic through intermediate to advanced and there’s even an online German minor program available for those who are interested.
Distance learning is an excellent way to close the distance between learners and languages. They bring learning to you!
Take college-level courses in the privacy of your home, on your schedule. Wear your PJs—if you must—but show up to class.
And One More Thing...
If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.
With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You get a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.