I've had good and bad experiences with distance education. Many of our strong students are able to take high school classes through our state's virtual public high school. These classes are taught by a certified teacher and are often just a rigorous as traditional classes. These courses are a good option for students who want to take a course we do not offer (AP Hebrew) or can't fit a needed course into their schedule (AP Calc is only offered in two periods).
At the same time, students who are not driven and motivated to the point that they can monitor themselves and keep themselves focused on their school work do not do well in these courses. Also, severl foreign language students do not do as well since they do not get the practice hearing and speaking the langugae as they would in a traditional course.
I myself have taken online graduate level courses and have seen both good and bad. My first masters had the bese online course. Again, you had to be motivated to keep yourself focused, but through her articles, links, and posted lectures we were able to get so much information. I've also taken online courses where the professor has posted the assignments and left us alone to the end. These courses wasted my time and money and offered no educational value.
Online Education is like traditional education. It depends on the teacher and the student.
I'm not personally a fan, however, that said, I think it can work for the right kind of student, which is someone who is independently motivated, naturally intelligent, and has a goal in mind.
For me, taking Internet courses should be used solely as a means of expediting receiving a degree and saving time and money. It can never replace, however, the kind of social education a student receives from being part of a face-to-face learning community.
I used to be very skeptical about distance education, but I have changed my mind a bit. I think it can succeed with a truly motivated student, and certainly there are many practical reasons (saving gas money, saving time commuting, convencience, etc.) for favoring distance education in some cases. Still, a classroom that is really alive with dialogue and the excitement of learning is hard to duplicate. There are certain classes that I would never want to teach online.
It really depends on the student and the type of distance learning being offered. One school I worked at had several highly motivated students who wanted to take foreign language classes that weren't offered at our school. The county did not have the staff to teach smaller interest courses at each school. The students were able to hold class with the teacher via webcam. While the teacher was not physically present, the students could still interact with the teacher. Of course, this would not work if the students weren't already highly motivated.
Other types of distance learning exist as well. Students can now take courses over the internet. This might work well for a highly motivated college student, but it never seems to work well for younger students. Our high school tried a few of these courses, but they all seemed to fail. High school students do not generally possess the necessary skill to effectively learn this way. In fact, many college students are not able to be successful in this type of course. It really depends on the students and how the course is set up as to whether or not it will be successful for all involved.
I don't think it's very good for most students. I think that most students have a hard enough time learning when they have a teacher right there with them who can deliver information to them verbally. Many students have problems with A) self-discipline and B) getting information by reading. Distance learning makes students do both of these things more than regular school would. Good students can benefit, I think, but poorer students will suffer.