Social networking on websites like Facebook and Twitter is without doubt one of the biggest technological and cultural developments of the past decade. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Facebook now has 23 million users in the UK alone - around a third of the country’s population – with about 50% logging on every day.

The internet and distance learning This explosive rise in communication via the internet has had a direct impact on distance learning, making it easier for home study students to become part of a vibrant online community that delivers many of the benefits of a traditional college or university campus.

In the past, some people may have avoided distance learning due to concerns that they might feel lonely or isolated, but this no longer needs to be the case.

Become part of a community Research conducted by our training partner Home Learning College showed that 66% of people think it is important to be able to interact with fellow students over the internet when studying by distance learning.

There are many benefits to choosing a learning provider who is making the most of these technological developments. For example, in 2008 Home Learning College introduced the Virtual Learning Community (VLC) which has since grown to be one of the biggest home study social networking sites in the UK.

Thousands of students visit the VLC every day to chat to their tutors or other people on the same course. In fact, the site has become so popular that it recorded over a million visits in January 2010 and traffic is continuing to grow.

The VLC acts like an online campus, offering all the benefits of distance learning combined with being part of a vibrant, growing group of like-minded people who are happy to chat and share ideas.

The elements of an online learning site Here are a few tips of the kinds of things to look out for when assessing online learning communities:

  • Availability of digital course materials as well with other useful documents such as revision guides or extra information on tricky subject areas
  • Forums and instant messaging that allow direct communication with tutors and other students
  • Assignment upload and tracking so that work can be sent directly to tutors for marking and past grades can be easily accessed
  • Online classes that act like a virtual classroom, where students can ask questions and really get to grips with different parts of the course
  • Interactive quizzes and competitions for those times when a break from studying is needed

For details of all Home Learning College distance learning courses visit our training courses pages.