What Is Distance Education And Online Learning

Distance learning and online learning are a modern day phenomena on college campuses, but what is it? Follow these simple steps and become a higher education expert on distance education and online learning.

Distance education has been a tenet of learning for the last 50 years or so. It was first made popular by teacher training, degree-granting institutions and hobbyists around the world. High-quality distance education today is available to anyone, anywhere from any computer. Following are a few questions you may have about distance education.

How is distance education different?

Distance education in all its forms (online or offline) doesn’t just emphasize distance as a factor but also embraces today’s skills and technology.

The practice of distance education began when teachers realized that it was more than possible to have dynamic classes – actually a more immersive class – that served everyone. Educational institutions started to teach students courses online, and a lot of times, they also taught them at a campus of some sort. Having classes spread out to end times around the world was unthinkable then.

In today’s world, online classes and traditional classroom activities have become so intertwined that many programs will make use of both. For example, you might have experienced an online course or class from a college in the U.S. that has collaborated with another college in Japan or India to offer the same program.

Technology is also a key factor in distance education. Today, resources that used to be luxuries are in some instances found at the campus or in a distance classroom. You can take notes and learn at your own pace on your computer, tablet or mobile device. Also, if there is a discussion and you have lots of questions, it’s easy to bring them up and be open to finding information.

What type of distance education can I access?

While distance education has been around for ages, there are a variety of forms and options available today. Obviously, the most widely used form is online learning. However, there are more and more ways to learn and expand your skills.


Edcareer programs like Teach for America (TFA) and Master of Public Administration programs are gaining popularity as part of online learning programs.

MBA programs are another popular option for distance education. The University of Chicago offers Master of Business Administration online courses.

In the masters and PhD programs, you can definitely expect to find some form of distance education. For example, Stanford University offers MBA online courses, and Yale School of Management offers a program called High-Career Minds.

Higher Ed

It would be hard to say there is no form of distance education in higher education. Online education courses and programs are actually abundant. If there’s an instructor you want to follow, it might be best to go for a class with a professor. However, don’t assume that any instructor online can deliver the same level of curriculum as an online instructor, and that they will at least offer new materials or new modes of delivery.

College is also a great place to find more online programs in distance education. Pitzer College offers courses online, and you can check out courses through online learning provider, Coursera.

Take classes with instructors from school

Although you can find online education courses, you may not learn as much as you could if you have someone help you. You will certainly learn how to conduct a course and present it, but you will have someone to ask questions to and feedback from.

There are many online learning courses that can serve as tutors. For example, students can find tutors in courses offered by Coursera, with a virtual “chat” room that anyone can participate in. Many online tutors also provide materials for free that they have posted.

An opportunity for self-paced learning

In all of these online courses, you are going to see a lot of work put into your learning. However, if you don’t want to do that much work (for whatever reason), then it may be better to continue on an offline basis. Students can continue by going for a book or magazine. In a book or magazine, you can continue your research or more interactive sessions with interactive discussions.

Technology is a major factor here, too. You can review textbook chapters online or watch videos that may help you understand or add to your knowledge. It’s a ways off from computers with typing and web browsing or rapid writing, but the advancement in technology means there are probably more online online options for you than ever before.

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