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Distance Education | Browse Education

Distance Education

Different Types of Distance Education


If you are wanting to return to college to finish your degree, you may feel that you cannot commit to a college program that requires you to meet on campus at a particular place and time. Many working adults have other family and professional obligations that hinder them returning to college. Thankfully, there are many different types of distance education programs currently available.

Distance education is divided into two different overarching categories, asynchronous and synchronous. Synchronous instruction requires that all students participate at the same time. The method of delivery is usually interactive and includes telecourses, teleconferences, web conferencing, and internet chat sessions. This mode of distance learning instruction is far less flexible than asynchronous because it requires students to be online at a specific time.

Asynchronous is far more flexible because this mode of instruction does not require simultaneous participation by all students in the class. These modes of instruction give students the freedom to interact with the material and instructor at a time that is convenient for them. However, the one drawback is that students are responsible for their own motivation in getting the work down. Some examples of asynchronous distance learning include online courses, videotaped courses, and correspondence courses. These tend to be more popular among students who are also working professionals.

Due to the upgrades in computer technology and the easy access to the web, online courses have continued to grow in popularity and are now the most popular out of all of the distance education formats. According to a report issued by the Sloan Foundation, online programs continue to grow at a rate of 10 to 15 percent each year. With online programs, students have a digital classroom they can access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They will typically have discussion board postings, readings, and assignments that must be done by a particular day of the week.

Correspondence courses differ slightly from online courses in the fact that they provide the student with even more flexibility in their program. Students use printed material that is often supplemented with audio or videotapes. Lesson plans and study guides are provided to the student and they can submit their assignments at any time during the course. Courses typically have a time limit associated with them. Some may be as long as a year to complete a course.