In 1994, Sir Geoffrey Holland, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, affirmed that "by the year 2020 every education and training programme leading to a qualification or a credit towards one will be available in three modes: full time, part time, and through distance learning."
Distance learning or distance education can be described as mode of education that is received at another geographical location. Over the period of years it has really gained popularity as distance education increases access to learning opportunities.
• Individuals who cannot attend classes on daily basis
• Individuals with financial limitations.
• It also serves an option for slow learners.
• Individuals, who wish to go for higher education and expand their knowledge base to enhance their careers.
According to a survey conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans, employees rank continuing education as more important than child care, flextime, and family leave. Most of the students enrolled in distance education courses are above the age of 25, already working and have college experience. Nearly half of them are women.
Earlier, students who chose distance learning as a medium of studies would receive their education through correspondence. But with the advancement of technology, many other options are also available.
Distance learning has progressed significantly since the time of correspondence courses where the learner would obtain study resources including course books and other course supplies through post. Even though correspondence courses still exist, they will soon be replaced by online courses, which not only offer guidance from teachers, but also with the possibility of interaction between fellow students.
There are many types of distance learning courses.
Synchronous distance learning: Learning by chatting online, teleconferencing and sitting in a classroom. This type of learning offers less flexibility and affects the student’s life to an extent. It is, nevertheless, the most popular form of distance learning and continuing education programmes, as it makes interaction between students and professors easy.
Synchronous learning is best suited for degree programmes that draw attention to communication, such as nursing, counseling psychology, general psychology, and general education.
Asynchronous distance learning typically has set weekly time limit, but otherwise provides the students with the freedom to work at their own free will. Students have more communication with other fellow students and communicate through online notice boards. Asynchronous learning might get difficult at times because for the students the only information received text medium. However in some classes, video or audio option is also available.
Programmes dominated by assignments and projects work well in asynchronous format because they provide the students with more time to focus on their work. Degree programmes that work well in this format include healthcare administration, marketing, educational/instructional media design, legal assistant or paralegal and advertising.
Hybrid Distance Learning
Hybrid or Blended courses are a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Hybrid learning courses are in which the students are required to be available at fixed time in the Internet chat room or classroom. Though, the students are allowed to complete assignments at their own pace and later submit them online..
Computer Based Distance Learning
Computer based learning; here the students are required to assemble in a computer lab or in a classroom at a fixed time.
Fixed Time Online Courses
In these courses the students are required to log-in to their online accounts at a specified time. Such courses are the most common form of distance learning. Although they are absolutely online, but live chats are a regular part of the course.
Open Schedule Online Courses
This type of online courses gives you the maximum freedom. The students are provided with mailing lists, email, Internet-based textbooks and bulletin boards to finish their assignments. At the beginning of course, the student are provided with a schedule, but are allowed to work at their own velocity as long as the students stick to the schedule.