What is distance learning?

“[Distance] learning programs are invaluable because they provide a segment of our population critical literacy and job-related skills as well as the means to  their careers to the next level,”


-said Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.



Introduction and Concepts in Distance learning

What is distance learning

Explanation of Various Terms.

Glossary of Web Based learning


Practical self experience with Distance Learning?

Difference between Distance Education and Correspondence Courses

 Can skill oriented courses be covered by DE?

Technologies used in distant education

Instructional Qualities for Web Based Learning

Challenges of Web-based Learning

DE in providing medical education to non traditional students

Teacher and student qualities for distance education

Assignment - Preparation of Distance Learning Module

Evaluation of Distance Learning

Advantages and Disadvantages of e-Learning

Famous quotes

Discussion end- Compliments from Sir & Friends

Summary - Distance Learning


Distance learning is the name given to any type of information exchange that takes place across a physical distance.

1. Also known as distance education, distance learning occurs when a student learns from a teacher who is located in a faraway place.
2. It can be associated with existing schools or colleges, or distance learning can take place online, over the phone, or through the mail.
3. Distance learning is now used commonly in education, and there are distance learning programs for those in elementary, secondary, higher, or continued education.

  Barathi Subramaniam

 Distance education was defined by educational theorist Michael Moore as: "the family of instructional methods in which the teaching behaviours are executed apart from the learning behaviours ... so that communication between the learner and the teacher must be facilitated by print, electronic, mechanical, or other devices" (Moore, 1972: 76).

Distance education is not a new idea, and can be traced as far back as the first century. The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christian churches, instructing them from a distance (even when he was under 'house arrest' in Rome). This was probably the first type of 'correspondence course', which was the only method of learning at a distance until the advent of the telephone.  Today, distance education calls upon an impressive range of technologies to enable teachers and students who are separated by distance to communicate with each other either in real time (synchronous) or delayed time (asynchronous).  A new term, 'e-learning' has been coined to try to describe the many forms of technology supported learning that are currently being practiced worldwide.

Distributed Learning
The distributed learning strategies, which include distance learning, offer a radical new direction for education. They incorporate flexible and open learning methods as well as modified and specially created learning resources. They also modify and incorporate the best practices of the traditional approaches to learning. This model enables the delivery of courses and learning materials to students studying at locations distant to the parent institution. Thus, the term 'flexible and open distance learning' or FODL has been coined to describe the means by which learners can access education and learning opportunities at a time, place and pace to suit their individual lifestyles, learning preferences and personal development plans.

Student Centred Learning
Distance learning epitomises the move away from institute based learning to a more direct, student centred approach. As a concept, distance learning has existed for over a century, notably in the form of paper based correspondence courses. Now however, it is depending increasingly upon technology for its success and technological innovations ensure that distance learning continues to evolve and grow as a valid and potent force in education. Student centred learning approaches are characterised by the learner becoming central to the process of learning. There have been numerous debates about exactly what student centric education entails, but essentially, the learner takes responsibility for his or her own learning and the teacher becomes a resource in the process. Learners should be able to learn at their own pace, and in a manner which they feel comfortable with. This may also include the place in which they study, and the style of learning they feel most comfortable with. What student centred learning is NOT is teachers lecturing and students listening. Distance learning technologies and methods can provide many of these attributes. Students with access to the appropriate technologies can study at their own pace and in a place (perhaps at home or work) that suits their lifestyles and the demands on their time. The diversity of technologies now available to the distance educator also ensure that several different modes of learning are possible, catering for the cognitive styles and approaches to study of a diverse range of students.


Defining Distance Education

"Distance education is beset with a remarkable paradox - it has asserted its existence, but it cannot define itself." (Shale, 1988, p. 25).

How distance education is best defined or differentiated from other educational approaches has been the subject of much debate. From the perspective of many educational technologists, distance education is "inexorably linked to the technology" (Garrison, 1987) and seems to be viewed as different from other forms of education, a factor which may contribute to course development and acceptance problems. Focusing on the distance factor and on technology takes the emphasis off the "dialectical relationship between teacher and student" which Shale feels is the foundational principle in the educational process (Shale, 1988, p. 25). To Shale, "distance" (and the technology which accompanies it) is an incidental consideration and not a "defining criterion" for education. A broadening of the definition of distance education is urged by Barker, Frisbie and Patrick (1989) who acknowledge correspondence study as the historical foundation of distance education but suggest that there is really two forms of distance education. One is the traditional correspondence- based distance education which is independent study oriented and the second is telecommunications-based distance education which offers the teaching and learning experience simultaneously (1989, p. 23). The Garrison and Shale definition of distance education (1987a, p. 10-11) offers a minimum set of criteria and allows more flexibility.
They suggest that:
•       distance education implies that the majority of educational communication between teacher and student occurs non contiguously
•       distance education involves two-way communication between teacher and student for the purpose of facilitating and supporting the educational process
•       distance education uses technology to mediate the necessary two-way communication.

Yes I have lots of experience learning through distance education including FAIMER fellowship. I think we can discuss the experiences after discussing the first question.


The term, distance learning has been around for well over 100 years.  One of the earlier forms of distance learning was done through correspondence courses started in Europe.  This stayed the primary means of distance learning until the middle of this century when instructional radio and television became more popular.
As technology has changed, so has the definition of distance learning.  Videotaped lectures have been a standard in university and professional courses for the last two decades.  Audiotapes and lessons sent through the mail have been used in correspondence courses to teach subjects such as foreign language for quite some time. 

Today, the Internet and compressed video have taken distance learning in new directions, allowing distance learning to occur in real time. Live video instruction is the most popular and fastest growing delivery mode.

There have been many definitions put forward in modern literature.  Greenberg defines contemporary distance learning as "a planned teaching/learning experience that uses a wide spectrum of technologies to reach learners at a distance and is designed to encourage learner interaction and certification of learning"

Teaster and Blieszner say "the term distance learning has been applied to many instructional methods: however, its primary distinction is that the teacher and the learner are separate in space and possibly time"  

Desmond Keegan gives the most thorough definition.  He says that distance education and training result from the technological separation of teacher and learner which frees the student from the necessity of traveling to "a fixed place, at a fixed time, to meet a fixed person, in order to be trained"  

From these definitions we can see that the student and teacher are separated by space, but not necessarily by time.  

  Sajjad Sheikh
Distance learning has been defined as "an educational paradigm in which the learner and the instructor operate in distinct domains that are physically independent and non-overlapping, or with only occasional contact and direct interaction ".

The learning situation is created around the student and the educational inputs are provided with the teacher playing only a secondary or supervisory role. Although distance learning is said to a centuries old concept, the advent of various fast means of communication has made it into a common practice. Since distance learning requires provision of educational inputs to the student without the formal organisation of a classroom, various media of communication are particularly important for arrangement of the learning situation.

The learning takes place in a very informal manner, at convenience of the student and also allows the student to pursue other part-time vocations and earning activities simultaneously.

However, the difficulty arises with respect to want of proper assessment mechanism as the learner may take undue advantage of the distant method of evaluation. So quality assurance becomes a problem in distant learning situations although use of assignments etc can ensure that the learning objectives have been optimally achieved by the student.

Despite that the number of open universities is increasing steadily and newer programmes of distance learning are being continuously devised for the benefit of students. Correspondence courses, web-based learning, radio and tele-classrooms etc are a few of the popular distance learning methods
 Anupama Sukhlecha
Distance learning, sometimes called e-learning, is a formalized teaching and learning system specifically designed to be carried out remotely by using electronic communication. Because distance learning is less expensive to support and is not constrained by geographic considerations, it offers opportunities in situations where traditional education has difficulty operating. Students with scheduling or distance problems can benefit, as can employees, because distance education can be more flexible in terms of time and can be delivered virtually anywhere.

Popular distance learning technologies include:
• Voice-centered technology, such as CD or MP3 recordings or Webcasts
• Video technology, such as instructional videos, DVDs, and interactive videoconferencing
• Computer-centered technology delivered over the Internet or corporate intranet

Studies indicate that distance learning can be as effective as the traditional format when the methods are appropriate to the teaching tasks, there is student-teacher interaction, and the teachers provide students with appropriate and timely feedback.

source: http://searchcio-midmarket.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid183_gci509906,00.html


It has been very rightly said that Distance Education aims at diversifying and providing educational opportunities far beyond the close confines of a classroom and making them available to all those who aspire and endeavour for education.

 It is based on the philosophy that anything, which can be learnt in the regular classroom, can equally be learnt through distance education. It is an innovative system, which is academically sound and economically viable and as such, has proved to be a blessing for those who have no access to education.
So we all are blessed.