The evolution of technology and the numerous and varied educational institutions, each providing a number of courses or degrees, has led to a confusing variety of terms in the field of distance education - distance learning, e-learning, online learning, virtual education, blended learning, flexible learning, etc.
What do they all have in common and in what way they are different? If youre considering pursuing an online course or a distance learning degree, you will first need to understand what each type of learning offers. That way, you can make an informed decision and avoid any mix-up.
Definition of online and distance learning concepts
e-learning can refer to the situation where the interaction between the students and the teacher is done online. Basically, the students receive the training and are taught through an online medium, even though the teacher may be in the same building with them. It is simply students and teachers choice for instruction.
2. Online learning
In online learning, the key element is the use of internet and is described as the learning experience that is realised with the use of some technology. Online learning can encompass both e-learning and blended learning, as it generally refers to the idea of using online tools for learning.
3. Distance learning
Although distance learning is understood and is often used as a synonym of the online learning term, it was initially introduced in order to attract students from all over the world. Universities are offering distance learning degrees dedicated to everyone, as long as they meet entry requirements and qualifications. So it became possible for students from Europe for instance, to easily attend an American college without the need to travel.
4. Blended learning
Blended learning is a combination of learning at a distance and the traditional on-site learning (in a class-room). Basically, students will have a (more or less) fixed schedule where they will have to attend a part of the classes at the educational institution and for the rest, they can make their own schedule, attend the rest of the classes and do their coursework and assignments online.
Different terms many applications
Most of these different concepts of learning refer to the use of technology and the location where the actual learning takes place (class-room / at a distance / online). Another important distinction refers to the medium that actually supports the learning (ICT, internet, books, etc.). Technology and medium may be used to overcome the barriers of your learning activities, to combine study and work, etc.
The interest in distance learning has not only grown due to available technology, but also due to the fact that research proved that the use of computer assisted instruction and integrated learning systems technology significantly increases study results. However, based on this research, the best results were obtained in blended learning situations and for this reason, many distance learning institutions are using different (online and ICT-mediated) media to deliver course materials and to stimulate interaction between students and teachers. Most institutions use Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or Learning Management Systems (LMS) for that purpose.
Choosing the learning style that really suits you!
One of the most important aspects for your study success is to become aware about how you choose to learn. Today, learning and the overall results of your learning depend a lot on the situation and the environment of your learning experience.
Even more important are the teaching methodology designed by the different learning institutions. E-learning can be used in a class-room or an online setting. Additionally, it can be used to simulate and intensify the authentic/work-based learning situations.
Compared to e-learning, the diverse palette provided by online learning does not offer anything else than the same learning activities as used in a face-to-face / classroom situation. However, some online and distance learning courses make better use of the real potential of information and computer technology by truly enhancing your learning experiences through innovative approaches.
Further your knowledge about online learning
If you wish to understand further classifications of online learning better, some important elements you can analyse and do some research about are: chronology (i.e., synchronous and a-synchronous intervention), the roles one has in education (e.g., multi-disciplinary groupings of learners), the focus / aim of online learning (instructor-directed versus learned-directed), personalisation, epistemology of education offered (e.g., active learning, cognitive constructivist, social constructivist, situational, associative, etc.), the openness of education, etc.
Remember that all these concepts have been developed to support you in your learning. So think about how you would like to learn and make use of tools like DistancelearningPortal to find your perfect fit.