Distance learning can be defined as,

“A mode of education, usually college or university level academics, that allows students to work at from home or work at their own pace while keeping in touch with the instructor via video conferencing, chat applications, discussion forums, email and instant messaging”.

Distance learning programs typically include online writing courses, language learning, and online degree programs.
Types of Distance Learning Programs

Knowing how does distance learning work & the various options that it offers enable students to choose the alternative which best fits their needs, routine & lifestyle.
Levels in Distance Learning Education

Distance learning schools
Distance learning colleges
Distance learning summer programs

Types of Online Courses


History of Distance Learning

It was towards the mid of the 19th century that the concept & culture of what is Distance Learning started to plant & strengthen its roots in both the United States and Europe. The people who benefitted initially from such an initiative included women who could not get enrolled in all-male institutions, people who lived far off in remote areas where academic facilities didn’t exist, working professionals who were caught up with their jobs during the day and the physically disabled.

At that point in time, the fastest medium available was the regular post (referred to as “snail mail” in current times) and one of the many individuals accredited for going the extra mile in promoting the facility & advantages of distance learning is Isaac Pitman.

An Englishman by virtue of his origin, Pitman encouraged students & scholars to reproduce Biblical passages and send them back to him so that they could learn shorthand. While this took place in Europe during the 1840s, the Americans joined the race 3 decades later towards the mid 1870s when Illinois Wesleyan University introduced the attainment of undergrad & graduate degrees through distance learning.

Mediums of Instruction and Education
Virtual Classrooms

As the name suggests in itself, a virtual classroom environment is created through the implementation of CBT (Computer-Based Training). These virtual classrooms allow fellow students to interact with each other through online chat, instant messaging or leave messages for one another to follow-up on discussion forums
Televised Courses Through Online Lectures

A lesser interactive mode is lectures that are delivered through the television. These lectures can be either delivered live or be pre-recorded. Video copies of the lecture are usually available at the college/university library for future referencing.
Online Documents (Word, Excel, PDF, PPT)

In some cases, students who sign-up for distance learning courses are provided with a course outline. The outline (usually) has an online link written on it which leads to a web portal. The student signs-in and is able to access documents in either .doc (MS Word) or .pdf (Adobe) formats for their reading. In addition to online documents, a list of prescribed reading material is also provided to students at the time of registration. The outline also mentions quiz, assignment & examination dates.

With both the last 2 examples of distance learning, students must pace & plan their daily study schedule by themselves as (normally) no instructor is instantly available for coaching.
Difference Between Distance Learning and Traditional Learning

Contrary to the mode of traditional learning, distance learning education calls for enhanced commitment and dedication at the end of course enrollers and students.

Individuals who are self organized and good time managers can benefit the most out of such programs as the medium primarily relies on self regulation and responsibility.

Advantages of Distance Learning
Benefits for the Learners
Time Constraints are Met Effectively

One of the primary advantages of distance learning is that it overcomes time-constraints that bind individuals due to various factors.
Second Chance at Academia

Individuals who could not or did not perform well during/till high school get a second chance in life to attain better academic credentials & standing. The opportunity opens the doors to better career prospects even at later ages in life.
Simultaneous Handling of Personal Commitments

Individuals bound or restricted by personal factors such as physical disabilities, living in remote areas, or the burdens of single parenthood can make use of this academic medium and get diplomas or degrees in their preferred field of study despite the personal responsibilities they are faced with.
Benefits for the Programs Organizers & Institutes
Additional Credibility

At a commercial level, institutions benefit both in monetary terms & with regards to winning favorable reputations/goodwill from the populace.
Cost Effectiveness

It reduces and (at times) eliminates the need for a physical structure to be constructed; this, reducing the fixed expense cost factor.

It makes studying cost effective for the students as well since they don’t need to spend resources such as time while stuck in traffic jams and money either on fuel (if they have their own vehicle) or on purchasing tickets (in case they make use of a public transportation facility).

Author's Bio: 

This article has been submitted by Ozzy Mirza. www.learnalearning.com is the place to read more on distance learning.