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Varying Definitions of Distance Education

Distance education continues to evolve since the development of
correspondence education due to the advancement of technology. As in the past,
distance education allows students to study without constraints of time or place and
has made it easier than ever to create curriculum that is adaptable and personable
to each student or groups of students. Although distance education has been
around for centuries in some form or another, the definition of what distance
education is and what it entails varies based on individual experiences and
expectations. Some definitions encompass a broad spectrum, while others are
more specific to certain situations.
Moore and Kearsley (2012) define distance education as, “teaching and
planned learning in which teaching normally occurs in a different place from
learning.” Due to the physical separation of student and teacher, communication is
incorporated through the use of technology. This definition describes the bare
basics of distance education – the student is learning somewhere apart from the
instructor. To balance the distance, technology is key as communication must occur
in order to ensure learning has occurred.
However, distance education is more than just learning in a different place
from where the lessons are being taught or created. As distance education has
progressed it has become more complex. Students now have options as to how
they want to be educated as well as a plethora of tools to utilize to communicate
with their instructor(s). Students can learn asynchronously or synchronously. They
can utilize tools such as mail, phone, email, and text messaging to communicate.

Students can elect programs that allow them to work in complete solidarity, or
those which focus on collaboration and open discussion.
Distance education has also allowed schools to place a focus on personalized
learning. As Peter. O. (2004) states, “[distance education] must be open, learnercentered, outcome-based, interactive, participatory, [and] flexibly…” Technology
has made it easier for instructors to adjust individual curriculum allowing students
accessibility to material appropriate to their academic level. Struggling students can
now have the ability to remediate on standards that they struggle on, while more
advanced students can move forward with their lessons and/or provided enrichment
activities. This has been a driving factor for some students, who feel the speed in a
traditional school setting has not be conducive to their level of learning.
As education moves forward and technology continues to advance, so will
distance education. Regardless of how distance education is defined, it provides
students and educators options that are not available in the traditional school
setting. Students driven toward distance education in lieu of a traditional setting;
whether due to the need for flexibility, social reasons, or lack of physical options;
distance education will continue to be an option that will allow students to study
anywhere, any place, any time, and any space.

Moore, M.G., & Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance education: A systems view of online
learning. USA: Wadsworth-Cengage Learning.
Peters, O. (2004). Distance education in transition: New trends and challenges (4 th
edition). Oldenburg, Germany: BIS-Verlag der Carl von Ossiertzy Universitat