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Distance education or distance learning is a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy/andragogy, technology, and instructional systems design that is effectively incorporated in delivering education to students who are not physically "on site" to receive their education. Instead, teachers and students may communicate asynchronously (at times of their own choosing) by exchanging printed or electronic media, or through technology that allows them to communicate in real time (synchronously). Distance education courses that require a physical on-site presence for any reason including the taking of examinations is considered to be a hybrid or blended course or program.

Types of distance education courses:

  • Correspondence conducted through regular mail
  • Internet conducted either synchronously or asynchronously
  • Telecourse/Broadcast where content is delivered via radio or television
  • CD-ROM where the student interacts with computer content stored on a CD-ROM
  • PocketPC/Mobile Learning where the student accesses course content stored on a mobile device or through a wireless server


One of the oldest distance education universities is the University of South Africa, which has been offering DE courses since 1946. The largest distance education university in the United Kingdom is the Open University founded 1969. In Germany the FernUniversität in Hagen was founded 1974. There are now many similar institutions around the world and these are listed below.

There are many private and public, non-profit and for-profit institutions offering courses and degree programs through distance education. Levels of accreditation vary; some institutions offering distance education in the United States have received little outside oversight, and some may be fraudulent diploma mills. In many other jurisdictions, an institution may not use the term "University" without accreditation and authorisation, normally by the national government.

Major institutions offering distance learning programs

Caution Some organisations describing themselves as Distance Education institutions are nothing of the sort and their actions may bring the sector into disrepute. Refer to Diploma mills and List of unaccredited institutions of higher learning.


Go to


  • Correspondence schools are run by state education departments for students in remote areas, where they are too far away to attend any school. Students and teachers use the postal system to communicate.
    • Queensland - Department of Distance Education
  • School of the Air is a system similar to Correspondence schools but use radios developed in the 1920s for the RFDS to link students and teachers.

Universities which have comprehensive distance education programs:

Edith Cowan University

University of New England, Australia

Deakin University

Monash University

Charles Sturt University

Macquarie University


  • Pôle Universitaire Euclide / Euclid University




  • The Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK)
  • School of Professional and Continuing Education, The University of Hong Kong (HKU SPACE)


  • Centre National d'Enseignement à Distance (CNED)


  • FernUniversität in Hagen
  • AKAD Privathochschulen
  • Diploma Europäische Hochschulen
  • Europäische Fernhochschule Hamburg
  • Fernfachhochschule Riedlingen
  • Hamburger Fernhochschule
  • Private Fernfachhochschule Darmstadt


  • Indira Gandhi National Open University
  • School of Distance Education, Andhra University
  • Sikkim Manipal University
  • Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham


  • Payame Noor University

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  • Kilroy's College


  • Open University of Israel


The Netherlands

  • Open University (Netherlands)


  • University of the Philippines Open University
  • Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila


  • Universidade Aberta



  • Singapore Institute of Management-Open University Centre (to be accorded university status as SIM University in 2006)

South Africa

  • University of South Africa



  • AKAD Hochschule für Berufstätige
  • Fernfachhochschule Schweiz
  • (see also "International" below).


  • Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University


United Kingdom

  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Open College of the Arts
  • The Open University (also provides the OUVS verification services for degrees awarded by other institutions such as the Maryvale Institute)
  • University of London
  • University of Wales, Lampeter (including certain courses offered by Midlands Bible College)
  • International Correspondence Schools
  • The International Extension College
  • The National Extension College
  • Napier University
  • The University of Glamorgan

United States

  • Baker College
  • Breyer State University
  • California State University, Dominguez Hills
  • Capella University
  • Cleveland State University
  • Charter Oak State College
  • City College of San Francisco
  • Coastline Community College
  • Colorado Technical University
  • Empire State College
  • Excelsior College
  • Goddard College
  • Harvard Extension School
  • Heritage College & Heritage Institute
  • Imperial Valley College
  • Kennedy-Western University
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Pacific Oaks College
  • Saint Joseph's College of Maine
  • Saint Leo University
  • Strayer University
  • Thomas Edison State College
  • Union Institute & University
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of Phoenix
  • University of Maryland University College
  • University of North Dakota
  • Utah State University
  • Norwich University


  • European Graduate School in Switzerland and the United States.
  • Euclid University in Belgium, Central Africa, Pakistan and the United States.
  • Universitas 21 Global, an online university affiliated to the Universitas 21 alliance


In Distance Education, students may not be required to be present in a classroom, but that also maybe a question of option. For example in the Open Universities in India, especially in the Indira Gandhi National Open University, week end contact sessions are held. These are optional, but for certain courses which have practical components such as those for computers, attendance to the tune of about 90% is compulsory. The National Open University in India is based on the United Kingdom Open University model (though it is many years since the latter has done so). As for an electronic classroom or Virtual Learning Environment, it may or not be a part of a distance education set up. Electronic classrooms can be both on campus, and off campus. We would call such institutions as using a 'flexible' delivery mode.

Distance Education may also use all forms of technology, from print to the computer. This range will include radio, television, audio video conferencing, computer aided instruction, e-learning/on-line learning et al. (E-learning/online-learning are largely synonymous). A distinction is also made between open learning and distance learning. To clarify our thinking we can say that while 'open' education is the system in which the student is free to choose the time and place, but distance education is a teaching methodology used when the student and teacher are separated by time and place. Thus it follows that not all open-learning institutions use distance education and not all organisations that use distance education are open learning institutions. Indeed there are many cases in which students are in traditional classrooms, connected via a video-conferencing link to a teacher in a distant classroom. This method is typical in geographically dispersed institutions.

Distance Education has traversed four to five 'generations' of technology in its history. These are print, audio/video broadcasting, audio/video teleconferencing, computer aided instruction, e-learning/ online-learning, computer broadcasting/podcasting etc. Yet the radio remains a very viable form, especially in the developing nations, because of its reach. In India the FM Channel is very popular and is being used by the national open university (the Indira Gandhi National Open University) and its consortia plus the state open universities, to broadcast educational programmes of variety on areas such as teacher education, rural development, programmes in agriculture for farmers, science education, creative writing, mass communication, in addition to traditional courses in liberal arts, science and business administration.

In short then, though a range of technology presupposes a distance education 'inventory' it is technological appropriateness and connectivity, such as computer, or for that matter electrical connectivity that should be considered, when we think of the world as a whole, while fitting in technological applications to distance education.

Delivery systems

Older models of distance education utilized regular mail to send written material, videos, audiotapes, and CD-ROMs or other media storage format (e.g. SDRAM or CompactFlash cards) to the student and to turn in the exercises. Today's distance education course makes use of E-mail, the Web, and video conferencing over broadband network connections for both wired physical locations and wireless mobile learning. In some countries, the material is supplemented by television and radio programming. To compete with the conventional sector, course material must be of very high quality and completeness, and will use modern technologies such as educational animation.

Full time or part-time study is possible, but most students choose part-time study. Research study is possible as well. Distance education is offered at all levels, but is most frequently an option for university-level studies. A form of educational program which is similar to this but which requires some amount of presence during the year is a low-residency program.

Distance education programs are sometimes called correspondence courses, an older term that originated in nineteenth-century vocational education programs that were conducted through postal mail. This term has been largely replaced by distance education, and expanded to encompass more sophisticated technologies and delivery methods. The first subject taught by correspondence was the Pitman Shorthand, a tool of stenography. Primary and secondary education programs were also widely available by correspondence, usually for children living in remote areas.

See also

External links

de:Fernunterricht es:Educación a distancia he:אוניברסיטה פתוחה pt:Educação à distância ru:Дистанционное обучение

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