How do I Choose the Best Italian Distance Learning Program?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell
A woman taking an Italian distance learning program.
A woman taking an Italian distance learning program.

Italian language and culture has long held a certain fascination for many people, and the study of Italian can be foundational for a great many endeavors. Undertakings as varied as travels through Rome and the Tuscan wine region, the study of art history, understanding the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and mastery of Italian cooking can all be improved by studying Italian. Finding the time to enroll in Italian courses can be challenging, however. Italian distance learning can be a good way for busy professionals or those who otherwise do not have the time to enroll in a traditional university course. Choosing the best Italian distance learning program usually requires no more than a clear idea of your goals, and a commitment to thorough research.

Distance learning classes frequently involve online lectures and web-based student participation.
Distance learning classes frequently involve online lectures and web-based student participation.

There are several different types of distance learning courses available. Some aim to allow students to comprehensively study Italian, or learn Italian online. Others serve as an introduction to Italian phrases and history, particularly for travelers to Italy. Distance learning language study can be a means of achieving many goals, from casual vocabulary to intensive, fluency-oriented study.

Travelers to Italy may benefit from an online program that introduces Italian vocabulary.
Travelers to Italy may benefit from an online program that introduces Italian vocabulary.

Italian distance learning is a way of studying Italian language from home, and is usually far more interactive than merely purchasing a textbook and committing to individual study. Distance learning classes frequently involve online lectures, web-based student participation, and submission of assignments and projects to a teacher or professor. Not all programs are equal, however. Once you have discerned that Italian distance learning is for you, you need to spend some time considering the different options available, and deciding which program or programs will best help you achieve your language-learning goals.

Many of the most rigorous Italian distance learning programs are offered through universities, but not all are. There are many benefits to a university program. Most of the time, university-earned credits are transferable, and are recognized by a great many international institutions. If continuing on in Italian language instruction at some later time is a goal of yours, university credits can be valuable. University-sponsored Italian distance learning programs are typically priced comparably to other college courses, however, which means that they are often more expensive than other alternatives.

Another option is any of a host of commercial Italian language courses that are offered online through different groups. A less rigorous program is often best for people who just want a basic familiarity with Italian, but who do not want the time commitment or rigor of a university-level class. Because of the variety of different types of Italian courses available through commercial outlets online, it is important to ask questions about what is actually being taught before enrolling. More so than university courses, commercial courses typically span a breadth of aims, with many classes designed for causal learners, language dabblers, and travelers. Many commercial courses are also shorter, with courses timed by weeks or months, not semesters or quarters.

One need also be aware of potential drawbacks. Some commercial Italian distance learning programs are not really as interactive as they might at first suggest, the credentials of the teachers is usually unknown, and some classes have been criticized as operating more like an online textbook than a real class. There can also be drawbacks to university courses. Some schools permit graduate students or other junior professors to teach online course extensions, and it is not uncommon for schools to restrict their transferable credits to in-person classes.

Before starting any course of distance learning language study, be sure to speak to someone inside the institution about your aims in the program, and your hopes for your own learning. Read online reviews and critiques from former students. You can also ask a distance learning program for the contact information of current or former students who may be willing to give you feedback on their level of satisfaction with the program.

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    • A woman taking an Italian distance learning program.
      A woman taking an Italian distance learning program.
    • Distance learning classes frequently involve online lectures and web-based student participation.
      Distance learning classes frequently involve online lectures and web-based student participation.
    • Travelers to Italy may benefit from an online program that introduces Italian vocabulary.
      Travelers to Italy may benefit from an online program that introduces Italian vocabulary.