Difference Between Online Learning & Distance Education
Education is a primal and essential element for human growth. It independently determines one’s course of life. Although the beginning of the idea of imparting education goes back to the 11th century, and its rapid amplification in terms of the depth of research, progressiveness and technology has been inexplicable. It went on from studying around a tree to attending schools to online learning through your computer screens. Today, you can find various online courses and certifications and distance education courses. In this article, we will explore the difference between online learning & distance education that is rapidly transforming the learning of tomorrow.
The first distance education course was introduced by Sir Isaac Pitman in the 1840s where he used the ingenious technique of a shorthand system which is still widely operational and relevant. eLearning however, is a more recent and trendier concept first coined in the 1960s when the first CBT (computer-based training) program was launched. Both these terms are very frequently used synonymously but are entirely different connotations. This has made online learning courses and distance education courses accessible for every student worldwide and they are in high demand now.
View more: A Complete Guide on Distance Education In India
Online learning is a virtual technique of disseminating knowledge where the educator records and uploads lessons and related resource materials for the recipients/ students to access or go through concepts whenever, wherever, however, and whatever number of times. You can pursue today online degree courses from anywhere and any time at your own pace.
Distance learning programs, however, are better described as a correspondence courses. This idea revolves around self-study where the universities, colleges or educational institutes offer online learning courses that can be attended from home or any location. The study material is delivered to the enrolled candidates via mail, post or through online resources.
Also read: Books vs e-learning: Which is best?
The Difference Between Online Learning & Distance Education
As you understand what online learning and distance education are, let’s find the difference between online and distance learning.
One of the first factors creating a difference between online learning & distance education is availability. Online learning courses have gained a lot of popularity in the past 4-5 years. It is like an extended and broader version of picking up recipes, searching for certain topics for your exam the next day or finding out hacks and codes for certain things from YouTube. Online learning courses come with micro educational videos opportunistically identified the market for online training and bombarded the market with such courses usually for a duration varying between a few hours to 2 weeks. As a result, you can find online learning courses or online certification courses in almost every skill and domain that are possibly teachable or learnable and relevant for self-development and personal growth.
Distance education courses, on the other hand, are an upgrade or alternate of regular academic qualification. It is available in only those subjects and modules in which the full time or regular schooling curriculum offers education. There are some online degrees that you can do in both education formats such as online diploma courses.
This is another factor creating a difference between online learning & distance education. If we compare the level or extent of interaction between the mentor and mentee in distance education courses and online learning courses, we will be able to identify major differences. In the former, the interaction between the professors and teachers of the curriculum or subject opted for is minimal to nil as this method intends for students to self-study and learn through study materials. There might be a basic option of contacting the teachers in case of queries, however, it is not a major feature or characteristic of distance learning. Online learning varies from this notion in this context. Firstly, online learning courses are a recorded version of teaching with real virtual lectures instead of just study material or notes. Secondly, when courses are uploaded by trainers online on a portal or website, they usually offer live communication through comments, direct reach and other social media interactions such as Facebook groups and networks. They provide full assistance in regard to their courses even after years of publishing them.
Another difference between online learning & distance education is the time duration taken by distance education courses and online learning courses. The time for a distance bachelor’s degree will naturally be much more than any online learning. A minor diploma or certificate course on a distance learning platform will be of a minimum of 2 months to 1 year, and a major degree or even diploma can vary between 1-5 years depending on the choice of subjects and streams. Online learning courses, on the contrary, can be as short as 2 hours to as long as 8-9 weeks. You can also learn online courses & certifications from top providers within a few minutes or 1 hour.
Another difference between distance learning and online learning is Scope. Distance education course or diplomas are usually concluded with a degree/diploma certificate recognized, approved or offered by some validated government bodies. These certificates qualify students in their distinguished skills by the government. On the contrary, online learning courses might or might not be issuing certifications from an authoritative or relevant body i.e., it is mostly signed and provided by the trainer and the portal or online platforms which have published it. In case of more recognition, the maximum a certificate on the completion of an online course offers is that the course is provided by a university, which might be government recognized. So, online learning in no aspect makes a student more qualified or acclaim any seniority from the previous level of education they have. This is the major difference between online learning & distance education. However, you can choose courses that best suit you.
Also read: Online/ distance courses offered by SRM
The intention behind enrolling oneself in a graduate distance learning program will be entirely different from those registering themselves for online learning courses. A correspondence course will qualify a person for a higher or a different level of education just like any masters or bachelor's degree or diploma which is usually done to opt for a senior position or intended to be applicable for job growth and an increase in pay. Sometimes, people who wish to become professors and researchers and be identified as doctors might not be able to afford a continuous education journey so they might go for working alongside their masters or a PhD program to support their studies.
The intent behind a person learning through online platforms is usually to either apply for entry-level jobs that might earn them some extra income or self-develop by learning skills such as kitchen gardening to grow organic products for regular consumption or any other relevant niche. Those looking for a serious and valid upgrade in their knowledge will choose distance learning over those looking to enhance their preexistent skills or are amateurs in their fields. This difference between online learning & distance education will be helpful for those who always get confused between these two education formats when they apply for a course.
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In online learning, students can be together in one place via a virtual classroom where an instructor is present with them while working through their digital lessons and assessments. When using distance learning, candidates work online or at home after the teacher assigns work and checks it digitally. In eLearning, there is virtual proximity between the teacher and student which makes it more interactive and similar to any regular classroom discussion. Even though both have similar distance and geographical limitations, the students tutor themselves and not by virtual lectures of a teacher in distance learning.
7. Cost Considerations
This is another important factor making a difference between online learning & distance education. Fairly as the value and worthiness of distance education courses are much more than online learning courses, the former is relatively more expensive than the later. Distant programs cost slightly lower or at least half of the original full-time courses offered by universities. Online learning courses or online certification courses, on the other hand, start from as low as Rs. 300 per course. The idea behind online certification courses is to provide as many courses as possible to expand your knowledge and ideas or concepts. For example, a graphic designer can do hundreds of graphic design online courses even in the same and repetitive concepts to widen and strengthen their grip on their knowledge. A distance learning student, however, is spending much longer time gaining deep, practical, professional and more academic command over their subjects.
8. Target Clientele
The target clients is one of the most crucial factors creating a difference between distance learning and online learning. The target clientele of distance education courses is obviously much narrower than that of online learning courses. This is mainly because distance education courses cost more, so people give it a thought before applying, while online certification courses are usually done by those looking for an improvement in their current stature, salary or job profile. People will not do a distance program just for fun or to fill in their extra time with some productivity or additional knowledge. Online learning courses nevertheless are of a lighter approach and a broader spectrum of the target audience which can be from a 5-year-old learning Block building to 80-year-old learning to knit.
The intensity, relevance and requirement of both these options are different. People from teenagers to middle-aged seniors are the majority clientele of distant learning education given that there is no limitation from the university in terms of eligibility criteria which is absolutely insignificant in an online course.
If you are looking to understand the difference between online and distance learning, you cannot ignore feedback. Distance education courses are a two-way process i.e., it is an education system where a student applies for a degree/diploma, get selected, receives necessary study material, studies for the duration of the course and appears for an examination at the end of the semester or whatever time where he/she receives the certification only when he/she qualifies in their tests. In case of failing, they might need to reappear which is why it is more valuable, considerable and expensive. In online learning courses, the requirement is just to complete a course by watching all the lectures. Students do not require to sit for an exam or showcase their learning. The maximum requirement could be for them to submit projects that they made during class.
This is another crucial factor creating a difference between online learning & distance education. A distance learning bachelor’s degree is as relevant as any other full time or part-time degree from a recognized university. It will not be different or less valuable in terms of value to the employers, authorities or government, but the basic logic indicates that yes, they do lack the essence of classroom learning and first-hand tuition from a qualified, knowledgeable and experienced professional. In online learning courses, there is a variety of options in terms of relevance and that depends on the value of the certificate provided, the experience level and qualification of the trainer, the reputation and accreditation of the authority or platform where the course is published.
These are some critical factors creating a difference between online learning & distance education. Considering these factors will help you choose any learning format and excel in your career. There are a variety of online and distance courses, and you can choose the best through making an online course comparison.
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Frequently Asked Question (FAQs) - Difference Between Online Learning & Distance Education
Question: How are exams conducted in distance learning programs?
In most cases of government universities the exams are conducted in a written/ essay format at the university examination Centre in the major cities for candidates of that city. In cases of online exams also, the students might have to go to an authorized examination Centre.
Question: Which is the best university to offer a distance learning program in India?
The two major universities that bag the major candidature of distance learning programs are IGNOU and SMU. Both of them are exceptionally good in their own way. IGNOU is a government university to become affordable, student friendly but with appropriately set examinations. It’s degree and certification hold more value than any other. SMU on the other hand is a private university which makes it expensive, it has easier examinations and more comfortable in comparison to a government university.
Question: Can I apply for a government job after doing distance education courses?
As long as the candidate meets the minimum eligibility criteria, it does not matter what was the mode of education. Yes, if you are doing a full-time degree from a recognized university which has a good and stable placement cell then you have access to more opportunities in terms of jobs than a candidate pursuing a distance learning program but that doesn’t uphold or make the distance learning program candidate any less eligible.
Question: Is the distance learning degree program from India valid internationally?
The distance learning programmes are valid internationally in most countries however, it'll be suggested to cross check the recruitment instructions from the recruitment agencies. Also, it is mandatory for your degree to be approved by the UGC & AIU.
Question: Is distance learning education as effective as school education?
It is generally perceived that eLearning can be as effective as first hand instruction, if one has an appropriate setup, nevertheless, for many students the distance learning concept during the pandemic did not inculcate either of these characteristics, in contrary it involved attending lectures at a scheduled time via Zoom / Google meet which made it almost indifferent for full time regular students and distance learning correspondents.
Question: What are the advantages of online learning?
E-learning offers the following advantages -
Online learning can be an additional benefit in terms of student interaction and interest when mixed with the blended learning techniques to enhance the quality and efficiency of education.
Blended learning includes putting a diverse range of instructive resources to use and teaching techniques in order to deliver content in more than one way to eliminate monotony and boring sessions.
Utilising elearning tools to distinguish your instructions from one another might be a good idea as it eases out the process. While applying tools like digital curriculum, you will have more flexibility and hold over your lessons without having to engage in those extra hours the evenings and weekends.
Finally, when you access virtual learning you’ll find that it cuts down on your in planning and grading.
Question: What are some benefits of Distance Learning?
Distance education offers the following benefits -
Distance education can effortlessly proceed without undue disruptions even during events like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because this is an already infamous concept of remote teaching, these types of interruptions won’t affect one’s classes in a similar manner as traditional in-person classes.
Distance learning programs provide a considerable flexibility to students for working at their own pace and review work as and when required.
Question: What are the drawbacks of distance education?
Similar to any other format related to education, the distance education model highlights the following drawbacks -
It’s unaffordable to utilize distance learning facilities if the students don’t have access to devices and the Internet at their homes.
Distance learning education fully depends on students learning remotely from computers or tablets. So, for students that are unable to connect in that way, distance learning will be off the table.
Distance learning makes it arduous to keep checks on whether the students are genuinely participating or not.
Distance learning can make cheating in exams and tests a cake walk even in comparison to online learning when teachers are unable to walk up to their desks as they are all behind their screens concealed from invigilation.
Question: What are some disadvantages of Online Learning?
eLearning depends on students to have complete access to technology in school on a regular basis.
If students don’t have basic access to computers or other devices in the duration of the school, it will be difficult to accurately implement online learning.
Online learning raises multiple concerns in relation to screen time in the classroom.
If one struggles to use online learning from beginning to end in the regular course of classes, it will definitely infuse problems regarding increased screen time.
Question: Which is better Online or Distance Learning?
In the end, online learning and distance learning each have a distinguished and separate space in the education system. One can supersede the other depending on the needs of the requirement of the professors and students. From a general perspective, online learning works most effectively for middle and high school tutors who wish to attempt different techniques for their students to learn.
Distance learning most commonly works best with senior students who have access to consistent technology at home and are motivated to work responsibly on their own. Although, distance learning does have a transparent advantage over eLearing when you’re struck by a situation like the current pandemic to cause unforeseen closure of educational institutes altogether.
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