Distance learning and online learning: a common mistake!

There is a common mistake in considering that distance learning is synonymous with learning via the Internet, and in fact, learning via the Internet is one of the means of distance learning, but due to the spread of the first, it was often considered a synonym for distance learning.

Distance education is one of the educational methods that includes a set of basic elements of the classic education methodology. This method differs from other traditional methods is that it is based on the presence of the learner in a different place from the source in which the lecturer may be located or the scientific material or even the rest of the learners. The principle of distance learning is based on transferring the educational program from its place on the campus of the educational institution to geographically separate places. It aims to attract persons who want to learn who, for one reason or another, the normal circumstances did not allow them to continue in a traditional educational program or to attend a normal course for accredited education centers.

So how did this type of learning develop? Distance education began in the early Eighties through some European and American universities that were sending different teaching materials through the regular mail to the student, and these materials included books, tapes and videotapes, and the learner, in turn, was sending his homework using the same method. Then it developed in the late Eighties to complete this process through cable and TV channels, and the British News Network was a pioneer in this field. After the Internet revolution in the early Nineties, the latter became the alternative, fast and easy means of communication to replace e-mail with regular mail. In the late Nineties, the famous sites that provide integrated service for education via the web appeared, among them are international and famous platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, Linda, Riwaq, Edraq, and many others. The services of these platforms included the content of self-education in addition to the possibilities of communicating and sharing with classmates through the same website or e-mail. And recently, interactive education emerged, which allows the lecturer to deliver his lessons in a direct way (Streaming) to hundreds of learners all over the world without being bound by the place. Rather, these tools have evolved to allow learners to participate in dialogue and intervention. As for distance education or e-learning (E-learning), it is one of the means that support the educational process and transforms it from the stage of indoctrination to the stage of creativity, interaction, and skill development, and collect all electronic forms of teaching and learning, as it uses the latest methods to provide educational content with what it contains exercises, images, files, audio, electronic libraries, search and follow-up mechanisms, and remote or class interaction through the use of advanced software stored on a computer. Its applications include online learning, computer learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. The technological development has led to the emergence of new patterns of learning and education, which have further entrenched the concept of individual or self-education, whereby the learner continues his learning according to his energy, ability, and speed of learning according to his previous experiences and skills.

Types of e-learning:

  1. Concurrent e-learning: It is direct broadcasting or Streaming, which requires the presence of learners at the same time in front of computers, to conduct conversation and discussion between learners and teachers through chat rooms, and one of its drawbacks is the need for a good communication network, and new tech devices and its positives are that: it is low-cost and saves time and effort as a result of dispensing with going to the school, and the learner gets immediate and immediate feedback.

  2. Asynchronous e-learning: It is indirect education, which does not require the presence of learners at the same time, such as recorded videos, obtaining experiences from CDs, or from available websites, or through e-learning tools. This type is characterized by many positives, namely: the learner’s access to study at any time he finds appropriate for it, the ability to refer to the material, and to re-study it again, and its drawbacks are increased isolation, and the learner’s inability to obtain immediate and immediate feedback from the teacher.

E-learning tools:

  1. Concurrent e-learning tools: are tools that provide the opportunity for the user to communicate directly with other users on the network, and these tools include:

    • Conversation: It is the ability to talk to other users via the Internet at the same time by using a program that is a virtual station that brings all users on the Internet to speak in pictures, writing, and voice.

    • Voice conferences: It is an electronic technology that uses a regular phone, and a telephone conversation mechanism in the form of telephone lines that connect the speaker with a number of recipients in different places in the world.

    • Video conferencing: These are conferences that allow communication between a group of individuals who are separated by distance via a high-capacity television network using the Internet, where every existing individual can ask questions, conduct any discussion with the speaker, and he can also see the speaker.

    • Whiteboard: It is a blackboard similar to a traditional blackboard, where the user can make drawings and explanations that are passed on to others.

    • Satellite programs: These are programs related to computer systems, which are linked directly to the communication network, which facilitated the possibility of making use of visual and audio channels in teaching and education processes.

  2. Asynchronous e-learning tools: They are tools that allow the user to communicate with other users indirectly, without the need for the presence of users on the network at the same time, and among its tools:

    • E-mail: It allows the ability to exchange messages and documents via the computer through the Internet.

    • Web network: An information system that displays different information on interconnected pages, and allows the user to access various internet services.

    • Mailing lists: It is a list of the mailing addresses added to the institution or person, where messages are forwarded to from one mailing address.

    • File Transfer: The function of this tool is to transfer files from one computer to another computer connected to it via the Internet.

    • Interactive video: It is the technology that provides the interaction between the learner and the subject presented, with the aim of making education more interactive.

    • CDs: are the discs through which the curriculum is prepared, loaded onto students ’devices, and then referenced when needed.

In the next article, we will talk about e-learning, its benefits, its importance for individuals and companies, and we will talk in detail about the challenges of e-learning and the proposed solutions.

Now, are you with the synchronous e-learning (live broadcast) or asynchronous (pre-recorded based) e-learning method?


  • Harvard Business School, Case Study on Distance on Education, 2015/2018

  • Wikipedia, free online encyclopedia

Prepared by: Roula Hamwi

Managing President

OUSOS Training & Human Resource Development LLC.

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