One of the big advantages of being in a distance learning course is time management becomes much easier. The big hassle of assisting to a physical class is having to follow teacher’s schedule and his teaching speed. This synchronous learning disappears completely with distance learning: not only I’m free to assists to the class at whatever time of the day I like, also I’m the one setting the pace to the course. I am the one who can ignore theoretical lessons to go directly to the exercises or programming assignments.
This is extremely important if the pupil has previous experience. It is a torture for a pupil to go through a class in which he already knows the content (because of previous classes or professional experience) and the current educational system is not flexible enough to allow pupils to pass courses without being formally evaluated.
And as well as some pupils need a fast track procedure that allows them to reduce the time needed to get a degree, the university needs a defined model for pupils interested in a slower pace because personal or professional issues, so why do universities need to schedule classes around semesters?
Greenspun has some opinions about all of this and I agree with some of them. The current university model is old and does not make sense any longer, but more importantly the current model is as teacher centred as it was in XI century and it should change to be pupil centred.