Distance Learning

by : Lucy Bartlett

Students who are not physically sitting in a class room to get their education are taught using technology based instructional systems designed for remote access. This system is known as distance learning or distance education. Students and teachers communicate with each other through printed materials or electronic media or using a technology that provides real-time communications.

Distance learning uses regular mail for correspondence. Real-time or offline internet resources are also used in this system. Television or radio is used to make educational broadcasts to reach the students of distance learning.

Isaac Pitman used the very first modern distance learning system in 1840 to teach shorthand through correspondence.

Since 1946, correspondence courses in the distance-learning mode were offered by the University of South Africa, which is one of the oldest distance learning universities in the world. In UK, the Open University was founded in 1969.

For-profit institutions, non-profit organizations, public and privates institutions are offering degree programs and courses in distance learning. There is varying level of accreditation for such institutions. Some of the institutions in USA have very little focus from the countries outside and some of them are mere diploma mills, which are mostly fraudulent.

The distance-learning program was greatly benefited in the twentieth century by using Internet, television and radio.

Even though the presence of a student is not compulsory in distance learning, with the advent of technology, physical presence or lack of it has become an option. In distance learning, electronic classrooms can be classified as off campus or on campus. It is known as institutions using a mode of delivery, which is flexible. Find more info at

In many cases, students do sit in traditional classrooms and they are connected to a teacher in a distant classroom through videoconference. This technology increases the power of teaching and learning.

During its history, distance learning has passed through the experience of four to five different methods of teaching using the technology available at that time. The technology that was used were print, video/audio broadcasts, teleconference using video/audio technology, instruction aided by computers and computer based broadcasting. In developing nations, the radio is used for distance learning and considered to be a very powerful medium. In India the virtual university and distance learning centers use FM broadcasting which is very popular among the students.

Earlier models of distance learning used regular mail to dispatch written materials. Among the developing nations, this method is still used in distance learning.

In distance learning both full time and part time studies are possible but most of the students prefer part time studies. Even though distance learning is offered at various levels, it is the most popular option for university level studies.

Distance learning is also known as correspondence courses since the teacher and the student corresponded through the regular mail. For children living in remote areas secondary and primary education programs are available.

Testing material caused trouble for distance learning right from its inception. The problem occurs when the student has to complete the assignment and undergo testing. In distance learning a student is completely removed from supervision during the evaluation period.