What is Distance Learning? Definition, Examples and Types To Expect In 2021

by | eLearning

Distance Learning refers to the act of learning or being taught in a way that is considered nontraditional; specifically in that the teaching and learning are done asynchronously in different times and locations than would be typical, for example teaching and learning from within one’s own home instead of in a classroom.


What is Distance Learning, and is it Different From eLearning??

The Encyclopedia Britannica equates the words distance learning, eLearning, distance education, and online learning with one another: they’re all ways to say learning done outside the classroom, typically with digital tools. Since COVID-19 has thrust many into the role of distanced learner or distant teacher, the term comes up more and more and can concrete some confusion. Whichever phrase is used to say it, distance learning has become a reality in the lives of many people across the planet. 


Types of Distance Learning

There are a few different types of distance learning. 

Live-Lecture Style

A live-lecture style of distance learning seeks to emulate the more traditional form of teaching; that of an instructor in front of a class. This is typically done live through Zoom or some other video sharing platform, and the attendees must log in and view the lesson as it happens in real time. As this method mimics the most traditional form of learning that most students are accustomed to, it can be easiest for large groups to transition to a live-lecture style of distance learning in the beginning.

Asynchronous Video Learning

Asynchronous video lectures are less traditional than the live-lecture style, but still rely on digital technology and distribution to get videos in front of the student. Lessons done in this style typically use vicarious learning theory and do not rely exclusively on a lecturer; instead the teaching is done through video content that is prerecorded and available for the learner to access whenever they wish. The versatility of this approach to distance learning frees instructors and learners both from needing to all log in at the same time, but it lacks the responsive question-and-answer approach afforded by a live-lecture. 

Self Motivated Learning

Self motivated distance learning relies on the learner to take the initiative in their distanced education. Typically media of many forms is given to the learner through an LMS and the learner is tasked with examining and consuming that media at their own pace; but typically in time for a test or other evaluation. Self motivated learning usually provides media in the form of videos and recorded lectures in addition to images, excerpts from books, visual cues, snippets from newspapers, and photographs.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Distance Learning

While in many cases (such as COVID-19) there is sometimes no choice to be had between doing distance learning and not, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages of in-person versus distanced learning. In-person learning tends to benefit students who are charismatic and do well interacting with others, while distance learning benefits those who learn at their own pace and might be more shy. Additionally, the flexibility of distance learning can also make life easier on students who find themselves learning from home.

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