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How Distance Education Became The New Revolution

Updated: June 19, 2024 | Published: May 6, 2020

Updated: June 19, 2024

Published: May 6, 2020


The days of thirty students sitting upright at individual desks with a teacher and a chalkboard for hours are long gone. With today’s ease of connectivity to others across space and time, why not apply that to your education? Distance education is not just a convenient way to learn, it is a revolution. Find out why below.

What Is Distance Education?

Distance education is the learning of the future, and it has already started! Distance education refers to taking courses that are available entirely online. These courses may be accredited, private courses, and for college credit, high school credit, or no credit at all.

According to the National Education Association (NEA): “The term “distance education” means a form of education in which courses are delivered via the Internet (or other forms of digital technologies that may evolve from the Internet that exists today) without face-to-face interaction between student and instructor”.

University of the People student learning with distance education
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Characteristics Of Distance Learning

There are a number of characteristics that make distance learning uniquely distinct from other types of education including traditional face-to-face education, remote learning, and hybrid classes.

Education is considered to be distance education if the student learns online, and the teacher teaches online. It is education that comes from an institution — it is not self-study online or doing research on your own using the internet.

Online interaction between student and instructor is a characteristic of distance education as well, and it can be over email, websites, or other online platforms.

On top of that, a learning community is established in distance education. This is a central place where students can all access their educational content, submit assignments, have discussions, and more.

History Of Distance Learning

Believe it or not, the first distance education started all the way back in the 1800s. This was before the internet of course, and these institutions were called correspondence schools.

Correspondence Schools

Correspondence schools began in the early 1800s in Europe, and in the late 1800s in the United States. In Europe, due to the high cost and effort to travel, university students would be mailed school materials after completing and mailing in a form.

Distance university was completed entirely through the postal service. The United States caught on and started implementing correspondence schools as well.

Modern Distance Education

In the 1950s, television courses began. These were broadcast by universities and community colleges and included all types of subjects.

Now, almost all distance education is conducted online, making all types of education much more accessible than it was previously.

Technology And The Internet

With the invention of the internet, education has changed forever. The first university to offer online courses did so in 1996. Today, most major universities offer distance education options for courses, certificates, and entire degree programs.

The most commonly studied online programs are psychology, nursing, education, engineering, computer science, accounting, and business administration.

Criteria For Acceptability

The National Education Association has certain criteria for a program to be considered as “distance education.” These criteria pertain to both areas of student learning and educational employment.

University of the People student learning with distance education
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Is There A Difference Between Distance Education And Online Learning?

Yes! There are some very important differences between distance education and online learning, including:

1. Location

In online learning, students and teachers share the same online space, and students can work through digital assignments and lessons while the instructor is ‘present’. In distance learning, assignments and lessons may be able to be completed on the students’ own time.

2. Interaction

Online learning involves instructor-to-student contact on a regular basis, because it is meant to be part of a blended learning experience. Interaction in distance learning may be done in a flexible and asynchronous manner.

3. Intention

Online learning is meant to be a supplement to other types of in-person teaching — a way to mix up the routine. Distance learning, however, has the intent to fully educate completely online.

Which Is Better?

Both online learning and distance education have an important place in education.

Online learning is best used for teachers and students that want a new way to teach, and a new method to introduce. Distance learning is best for students with the discipline to get all the work done without a lot of guidance and prompting.

Synchronous Vs. Asynchronous Learning

There are two types of distance learning: synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning means that all learners are tuned in to the same medium as the teacher, at the same time. Examples include web, video, and audio conferencing.

Asynchronous learning occurs when students and teachers communicate at different times. For example, a teacher may post a lecture video and a student may view it later. They may correspond online at different times as well, through email, for example.

University of the People student learning with distance education
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Benefits Of Distance Education

There are plenty of benefits to distance education. It is flexible, often self-paced, and can be completed at any hour — working with your schedule.

With distance education, students do not have to be location dependent and won’t be affected by travel or moves. Distance education can also save you money — both because distance tuition is usually less, and by saving you money on the commute.

Nas Daily, an impactful social media influencer, often discusses the problems facing higher education today, and puts strong emphasis on the growing costs of learning. In his video below, he also discusses how online education is the future of learning. He believes that, with institutions like University of the People, you can earn your degree without the financial burdens of other universities! This is because UoPeople believes higher education should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few.

Problems With Distance Education

While distance education is a good option for many, it is not for everyone.

First, students must have access to the right technology, equipment, and connection. Unfortunately, if someone does not have access to a computer or the internet on a regular basis, they will struggle with distance education.

Another problem with distance education is staying on track — both for students and teachers. You must be disciplined and self-motivated to be able to succeed with distance education.

Finally, distance education means more time spent on a screen, which may not be ideal for younger students, or students who struggle with attention.

University of the People student learning with distance education
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Start Online Learning With University Of The People

If you’re looking to study online, University of the People is the place to do it. It is fully accredited and offers full degree programs in business administration, education, healthcare administration, and computer science.

University of the People has high-quality professors who create the courses, and the studies can be completed asynchronously — which is great especially for working students.

Last but not least, don’t forget that University of the People is a completely tuition-free university. Not only will you get a degree on your own time, but you’ll get to graduate debt-free as well.

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.