Distance Education vs Distance Learning: Meanings, types and forms


Distance Education vs Distance Learning: Meanings, types and Forms
Distance Education vs Distance Learning: Meanings, types, and Forms. Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Distance Education vs Distance Learning: What are the meanings, types, and forms?

The definition of distance education or distance learning is simpler than you think in case you have been asking the question: ‘’what is distance learning?’’

In this blog post, we shall be considering the following:


The meaning of distance education or distance learning

Distance education vs distance learning

What is Open and Distance Learning (ODL)?

Types of Distance Education

Forms of Distance Learning


The Meaning of Distance Learning

Distance learning, which can be used interchangeably with distance education, is defined as a method of study where when students are separated from teachers and peers while learning remotely. This means that the students have no face-to-face interactive learning with instructors or other students.

Distance Education vs Distance Learning. What is the difference?

Is there any difference between distance education and distance learning? Using distance education synonymously as distance learning lately notwithstanding, a slight difference in meaning between the two forms of remote learning that existed which centered on learners and control is quite considering:

Distance Education

Distance education is using non-electronic (print) or electronic communications media or information and communication technologies (ICTs) to deliver instruction and facilitate teaching and learning when teachers and learners are separated in place and/or time.

Distance Learning

It is a form of remote learning taking place among people usually in audio clips and video images into an electronic space to help one another learn, functioning as a process or system with distributed resources connecting different learners.

The definition of distance education excludes any form of in-person classroom interaction with a learning facilitator or study peers. Students study at home on their own and the learning is more individualized and varies markedly on speed and timeline according to each individual student’s learning capacity, availability, and mode of operation.

The modes of operation include internet-enabled online video-chatting, mailing, emailing, or/and a combination of e-learning and non-e-learning media.

Despite the slight difference in the meanings of distance education and distance learning, the two e-learning concepts will be used synonymously in this post


What is Open and Distance Learning (ODL)?

Open and Distance Learning (ODL) means an information and communication technologies (ICT)-facilitated form of distance-learning program that makes teaching and learning process more interactive and communicative among learners, learning sources, and facilitators while reducing or removing the remoteness of distance learning, both physically and psychologically.

Open and Distance Learning (open-schedule) is made available remotely, adopting the features obtainable in traditional features of distance education into new technological situations. This form of distance-learning program is asynchronous and can be formal, informal, and non-formal.

In our other related Distance & Homeschool Education posts, you will find:


Distance Education Resources: 10 free educational technology apps

Free at-home learning pack of educational resources

Big 5 reasons parents choose homeschool education

3 reasons traditional school is better than online education

Watch video of Distance Learning: Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning

Types of Distance Education

There are a good number of types of distance learning, but just narrowed down to two: Synchronous and Asynchronous distance learning programs

Synchronous distance learning 

Synchronous distance learning is a type of distance education where the students participate in learning activities in a virtual-classroom scenario together and at the same time with the instructor in a different location. Teachers and students or learning facilitators and learners are digitally connected in video or teleconferencing in synchronous distance learning. Using video conferencing on a computer device in a continuing distance education program necessitated two to three times more delivery time. 

Examples of forms of synchronous learning include video conferencing, fixed-time online learning, computer-based fixed-time online learning, hybrid distance learning.

Advantages of synchronous distance education program

– Students or learners can interact with your instructors and fellow students in real-time and get instant feedback.

– It is offered as a less-structured traditional classroom form of learning featuring opportunities to ask questions or to participate in discussions are available.

Disadvantages of synchronous distance education courses

– To guarantee effective participation, it will be needful to have comfort and access to relevant technology which may increase the cost of acquiring the education courses.

– It’s less flexible than asynchronous because learners will have to be available to attend sessions at the scheduled times.


Asynchronous distance learning 

Asynchronous is a less-connected and less-constrained distance learning format whereby students self-study to complete assignments when given learning tasks with deadlines, rather than having live online lessons.

In an asynchronous distance education program, learners are given the opportunity to work through the course materials at their own pace and according to their own schedule of work and are not required to participate in learning activities simultaneously with fellow students.

Audio and videotapes in CDs and DVDs, board messaging, textbooks, online databases, virtual libraries, email, and postal correspondence can all play an important role in the delivery of study material for asynchronous distance learning courses.

Examples of forms of acquiring asynchronous distance learning include open-schedule, correspondence distance education programs.

Advantages of asynchronous distance learning courses

– It is more flexible and convenient than synchronous; it allows learners to freely determine their own study schedule

– Students can work through the course material at your own pace, fostering self-directed learning and learning-to-learn skills. This means that you can spend more time on the sections they find more difficult and less time on the ones they understand better.

Disadvantages of asynchronous distance learning program

– Students need a more self-disciplined approach to be able to study on your own and to stick to their study schedule.

– The opportunity for student-student interaction is limited. The courses are though more democratic but less interactive than expected.

– Correspondence and feedback time are likely longer. It hampers on-a-spot online orientation to the learning environment and providing live technical support.


Forms of Distance Learning

There are four different forms of distance education which are well backed up by established instructional systems. They are:

Online distance learning or online distance education

Online education is a form of distance education. Online learning or online education is a teaching and learning process whereby educational resource tools and services which are accessible on the internet or in computer network connection are being used by teachers to teach their students in a remote classroom like an at-home classroom.

As long as students have a computer device and internet access, they can learn and receive instructions on the program at home (at-home online learning)

Hybrid (or blended) distance learning or education

Hybrid or blended education is another type of distance education. Hybrid distance education involves the combination of traditional classroom settings with remote online learning which can take place or at home (at-home online learning). This can mean that students learn individually at home or in other places remotely and meet up for in-person classroom instructions or lectures at certain intervals during the education program or while studying the courses.

Another form of delivering blended learning is having students physically present in a classroom while others learn the same lesson remotely at the same time.

The amount of at-home learning and in-class learning varies for each hybrid distance learning program.

Conference distance learning

In conferencing learning as a form of distance learning, students meet up for classroom activities in real-time (virtual classroom), whether in a group or on a one-on-one basis with a learning facilitator. Using educational technology tools like video-chatting application software, such as Zoom, Skype, in a computer device (laptops, mobile phones), students and teachers can engage in remote simulated live lessons enabled by the internet services irrespective of distance.

Correspondence distance education

Correspondence distance education consists of students engaging in classroom learning with a learning facilitator via mail or email. Students receive material and assignments through the mail, and they send completed assignments back through the same method.


This blog post on ‘Distance Education vs Distance Learning: What are the meanings, types, and forms?’  is categorized under Distance and Homeschool Education.

Our Distance and Homeschool Education system is about creating and delivering impacting and empowering information to our amiable readers on the use of educational technology education to achieve achieving better learning towards a sustainable future – Eduonwheels 


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