The Pros and Cons of Long-Distance Learning


When it comes to learning, geography isn’t the barrier it used to be. Videoconference technology, used by such institutions as the Manhattan School of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music, and often delivered via high-definition Internet 2 technology, has become highly successful at connecting students with teachers who aren’t in the same state, or even on the same continent. With travel time cut down to almost nothing (not to mention the reduction on related expenses), string students are now able to access some of the most distinguished instructors and music programs available, often no matter where they live.

Susan Bengtson, a high-school student and violist who lives in a remote part of southeastern Washington, used to travel up to seven hours for weekly lessons. As she advanced, her teacher suggested that Bengtson find someone to study with who would help prepare her for a conservatory. Without close proximity to a major metropolitan area and growing tired of spending hours in the car, Bengtson started to weigh her options.

She discovered that her choices aren’t as limited as she had thought.

Enter the Cleveland Institute of Music’s distance-learning department. Bengtson was able to enroll in CIM’s preparatory division, located a half a continent away. Now, instead of seven hours, Bengtson travels just 20 minutes to a satellite campus of Washington State University, where she connects to CIM’s video feed and takes weekly lessons. “I had no idea what to expect, but I was willing to give it a try because I figured anything would be helpful,” Bengtson says. “It’s been amazing—life changing, really—at least in terms of my musical career.”

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