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24 Feb 2022

What Are The Differences Between Distance Education And Online Learning?

What Are The Differences Between Distance Education And Online Learning?


As the competition in the educational sphere increases every day, students feel a need to upskill while working full time or participating in co-curricular activities. With institutions covering more ground and branching out with a broad spectrum of courses throughout the educational sector, a sharp increase in online and distance learning has been observed. Although distance learning degrees existed before the online phenomenon hit the academic corridors, their need, too, has increased dramatically with the rise of online learning. One often gets confused between online learning and distance education because of the similarities they carry. Let us individually understand what they mean.

What is Distance Education?

Distance education or distance learning is when a student receives the study material and relevant content resources at their doorstep and does not have to attend regular classes taken by the institution. The Student can study and learn from the comfort of their home at their own pace and give their examinations when conducted.

In specific courses provided by distance learning universities, the students need to submit assignments from time to time which is then evaluated by the institute and marks of which are added to the final scorecard. A distance education course can be done either entirely online or in a blended format which is both online and offline, known as a hybrid form of learning.

What is Online Learning?

Online learning happens virtually on the internet where the student/students are learning together on collaborative white or blackboards, moodle, etc., along with the teacher by utilizing the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which is a digital platform where assignments or projects, discussions, interactive sessions are worked on.

Online learning has gained momentum, especially after the pandemic struck the world, as learners find the method interactive and innovative. Online education has made tremendous strides in recent years with personalized and self-paced learning. It is being preferred by a majority of students as it gives them the flexibility and opportunity to do other co-curricular activities on the side.

There is a lot of confusion between the terms online education and distance education and how these two operate. So let's understand the difference between the two and their way of functioning.

1. Interaction

The fundamental difference between online and distance education is how the institute and the Student's interaction occurs. In Online learning, the teaching and all forms of communication occur online. All the activities are carried out like offline learning but virtually.

In distance learning, there is no interaction between the teacher and the Student. The Student gets the course material and other resources via mail or post and has to study at their own pace. There is no teacher present but study centers that help the Student get through the course.

2. Teaching

With the help of various AI-based tools, teachers interactively teach students when undertaking online classes because the idea is to create a similar environment as offline. The students are monitored and accessed through various assignments and post-class quizzes.

With the absence of teacher-student interaction in distance learning, the students have to prepare the given course material and submit assignments for evaluation.

3. Learning Material

Most of the study material is crafted in digital format in online learning. Even the assessment and post-class quizzes are done on internet documents. Live interaction with the teacher helps the students to clarify their doubts and have a better understanding of the concept being taught.

In distance learning, the study material meaning physical books or content is either couriered or sent via mail to the students. They are expected to learn the concepts and submit assignments to their regional centers for evaluation.

4. Location

Since online learning happens virtually, the Student must log in and log out of their systems in specific durations according to the classes scheduled. In online degree programs and school regimes, students are given login information that they access and are monitored throughout the session or classes carried out by the institute.

However, in distance learning colleges, since no classes take place, the Student can learn at their own pace and acquire credits in their own time.

Both distance and online learning have their pros and cons. Still, online education, a replica of offline learning done virtually, has the upper hand as it is more interactive and innovative in its approach to teaching and learning. An online degree is a full-time program whereas distance education is not. Whether one chooses Online or distance education, the primary objective is that they both serve as pillars to upskill and excel in either schooling or the professional sphere for learners. Suppose one doesn't want to commute to an institute, be a part of regular classes, and be capable of self-learning. In that case, opting for distance learning courses seems like a more viable option, whereas if someone wants an on-campus form of learning from the comfort of their home, then opting for an Online system seems a better fit.

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