Distance education is not identical to face-to-face education, but it can be equivalent. To prove this point, consider a circle and a square. They cannot be identical, but if they have the same area, they will be geometrically equivalent. Online and face-to-face education have the same learning outcomes and provide equivalent learning experiences to meet those outcomes.
Distance education, also known as “self study at a distance”, can be defined as formal education in which the learners and teachers are geographically separate.
In Dr Michael Simonson’s book, The foundations of Distance Learning, Dr. Michael Simonson divides distance education into two categories – distance learning and distance teaching. Distance learning is rapidly becoming a popular choice for continuing professional education, mid-career degree programs, and lifelong learning of all kinds.
Distance teaching requires the inclusion of technology, new skill sets, new ways of thinking, new time and resource management skills, new ways of communicating and new communication boundaries, additional workers, and interdepartmental coordination for it to be successful.
Institutions of higher education will not abandon face-to-face courses but they are gradually adopting distance education technologies and are offering more hybrid courses. Distance Education has many advantages for both institutions and students:
- It increases access for students and thus their motivation to learn.
- Students can learn in their free time and schedule learning around their jobs.
- There is no need to travel to a campus.
- Businesses and institutions save their training budget and benefit from the increased return on investment.
Some universities in the Middle East have already started adopting distance education as their default method. Their students are keeping their jobs and gaining formal education at the same time. As per my experience, studying and working at the same time enhances your skills in multitasking and time management.
In the past few years, distance learning has had a positive effect on education. Through history, it has been the solution for all learners who were separated from their teachers by time and space.
With the increased popularity of the internet, colleges and universities see distance education as a way of sustaining growth. If we look at past patterns in educational technology, we can expect exponential growth of distance education to continue.