Distance Education and Open Learning

How Important is Distance Education to our education 2021?

Spread the love
97 / 100
Distance Education, or distance learning, is a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy and andragogy, technology, and instructional systems design that aims to deliver education to students who are not physically "on-site".

To explain the above statement in plain man parlance, Distance Education is the dissemination of education to the students who are not physically present at a school.

Initially, it used to involve correspondence through the mail. Now it involves Online Education.

The course curriculum is done by especially prepared course materials for self-study 

Which are delivered to the learners through various media like print, radio television, satellite, audio/videotapes, C-ROMS, Internet, and the worldwide web.

The interpersonal communication between students and teachers is not direct as in conventional classrooms but is replaced by a technological medium mainly the electronic media like telephone, teleconferencing, video conferencing, virtual classroom training, chat session, email, etc.

Distance education courses that require a physical on-site presence for any reason 

Including the taking of examinations is considered to be hybRiD or blended course of study.

Another term that is used interchangeably with distance education is “Open Learning”.Open learning covers a wide range of innovations and reforms in the educational sector.

These innovations and reforms advocated flexibility to the learner with regard to entry and exit, pace and place of study, method of study, and choice and combination of courses, assessment, and course completion.

The open learning system tries to redress inequality in the educational sector and create opportunities that our conventional educational sector system cannot provide. It tries to provide access to education to all sections of society.

Thus, ODL is a term that accepts the philosophy of “openness” and uses the “distance mode” of learning 

Thus Open Learning is a philosophy and Distance Education is the mode used for translating it into reality as the two are complementary to each other.

Paced and Self Paced Models

In Paced model the learners commence and complete a course at the same time. Most distant education institutes use a paced format similar to traditional campus-based models. Student familiarity and pressure help the learners to complete the course well within time. The paced model helps students in community learning and engage in collaborative work. However, the students are tied up and their freedom to spend their time on other activities is curtailed.

The Self Paced model allows students maximum freedom to commence and complete their course at their convenient time. In this model students have the flexibility to complete their course in a very short time, say a few weeks or they can extend the duration to a few years. Unlike Paced model, however, the students are unfamiliar with this type of model and can lead to procrastination and delay in completing their course. Self  Paced models disallow collaborative work and discourage students communities formation.

Kaplan and Haenlein classify distance education into four groups based on “Time Dependency” and “Number of Participants”.

  1. Massive Open Online Courses(MOOCs): Open-access online course allows unlimited(massive) participation.
  2. Small Private Online Courses(SPOCs) : Private online courses offer a limited number of places and require formal enrollment.
  3. Synchronous Massive Online Courses(SMOCs): SMOCs allow unlimited participation in synchronous learning i.e. it requires students to be present at the same time.
  4. Synchronous Private Online Courses(SSOCs): SSOCs offer a limited number of places and require synchronous learning.

History of Distance education

Distance Education and Open Learning
The University of London in 1837

It was as early as 1728, the first attempt for students to learn Shorthand through weekly mailed lessons.

The first distance education course in the modern sense was provided by Sir Isaac Pitman in the 1840s, who taught the students Shorthand through postcards and received transcripts from students for correction.

The early success in Distance education saw the establishment of the Phonographic correspondence society three years later on a more formal basis.

In 1873, the first correspondence school “Society to Encourage Studies at Home” was founded in the United States.

Wolsely Hall, Oxford was the first distance learning college in the UK in 1894.

The University of London was the first university to offer distance learning degrees through its external programs in 1858.

The concept of Open University was founded in the UK by Prime minister Harold Wilson in 1965. The open university revolutionized the scope of correspondence programs and created an alternative to the traditional education system.

The Open University accepted its first 25,000 students in 1971 while the total student population in the UK was around 130,000.

Canada’s first Open university was created in 1970, the Athabasca University.

Now there are several institutions in the world with the name Open University. In fact, some Open Universities have grown into Mega Universities with a student enrolment of over 100,000.

The covid19 pandemic resulted in the closure of all schools and colleges and switching by these schools and colleges to online remote learning through platforms like Zoom, Cisco Webex, Google classroom, Microsoft teams, ByJus, and many more.

History Of Distance Education In India.

Distance Education and Open Learning


In 1962, India’s first Distant learning Institute “Delhi’s school of Correspondence courses and continuing Education” was started by her education commission under the chairmanship of Dr. D.S Kothari.

The 1970”s saw the growth and spread of the correspondence Education system in India by conventional universities opening correspondence course institutes.

The opportunities of access, affordability, and convenience offered by the Distant education system contributed to its increasing popularity and growth.

In 1980” the government introduced the open University system with the objective to further democratize opportunities for higher education to a large segment of the Indian population, especially the underprivileged..

In1982 a new chapter in Distance Education began with the establishment of Dr. BR Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad 1962. It was followed by the establishment of Indira Gandhi National Open University at the national level by the parliament of India in 1985.

In 1987, two more Open Universities emerged, namely, Nalanda Open University Patna, and Vardhman Mahaveer Open University, Kota, Rajasthan. Subsequently, Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, Nashik, Maharashtra was established in 1989.

Distance Education Advantages and Disadvantages


Open Distance learning occupies a special place in the higher education system not only in India but all over the world. Distance Education has been a major contributor in enhancing the student’s enrollment and in democratizing higher education to the large segments of the population and meeting the demand for lifelong learning.

The Distant education system has to a large extent met its objective to democratize education to a large segment of the population especially the disadvantaged groups such as those living in remote and rural areas, working people, women, etc.

Distance Learning provides an innovative system of education that is both flexible and open in terms of methods and pace of learning. Distance learning provides learners an opportunity for up-gradation of skills and qualifications.

Distance education has also helped in decreasing the cost of education, especially in higher education.It has been a far more cost-effective form of learning than the traditional form of learning. It has also reduced other costs for students like transportation costs, boarding, and lodging costs on campus, and costs related to traditional learning.

Thus Distance education has developed traditional education into a lifelong activity to enable learners to update their knowledge or acquire knowledge in new areas.


There are barriers to distance education that make it less effective. Some of these barriers are domestic distractions, unreliable technology, inadequate contact with teachers, insufficient support services, and little or no teaching experience due to lack of proper training.

The lack of advanced technology skills can lead to an unsuccessful experience. The schools have a responsibility to adopt a proactive policy for managing technology barriers.

Time management and self-discipline in distance education are as important as complete knowledge of information technology tools.

These barriers can lead to high dropout rates for distance learning students compared to their traditional counterparts.

How do we run distance Education?

Distance Education and Open Learning

India has the second-largest  Education system in the world after China. There are six types of institutions offering Distance education today:

  • National Open University
  • State Open University
  • Distance Education Institutions(DEIs)– Institutions of National Importance – Central Universities-State Universities-Deemed to be Universities- State Private Universities.
  • DEIs at stand-alone universities- Professional Associations – Government Institutions -Private institutions.

Distance Education Technology

Distance Education and Open Learning

Internet technology has enabled many forms of distance learning such as e-learning and MOOCs.Distant education technologies are divided into two modes of delivery :

  • Synchronous learning
  • Asynchronous learning

In synchronous learning, all participants are present at the same time in a virtual classroom, as in a traditional classroom teaching. It requires a timetable. Examples of synchronous technology are Web conferencing, video conferencing, educational television, instructional television, direct-broadcast satellite, internet radio, live streaming telephone, and web-based VoIP.

In asynchronous learning, participants access course materials flexibly on their own schedules. Students are not required to be together at the same time. Mail correspondence, e-mail, video, and audio recordings, print materials, voicemails, and fax.

The two methods can be combined and are called “Blended Learning” or hybrid learning. Many courses offered by both open universities and campus-based institutions use periodic sessions of residential or day teaching to supplement the sessions delivered at a distance.

The first completely online course for credit was offered by the University of Toronto in 1984 through the graduate school of education. The first new and fully online university was founded in 1994 as the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. In 1999, Jones International University was launched as the first fully online university in the US.

Between 2000 and 2008, enrollment in distance education courses increased rapidly in almost all developed and developing countries.

In fact in the US in 2011, it was found that a third of all the students enrolled in PostSecondary education has taken an accredited online course in a post-secondary institution.

Top Distance Education Universities and Distance learning courses in India

Here is the list of the top 10 universities in India that provide quality distance education:

1) Indira Gandhi National Open University(IGNOU)

IGNOU is one of the most reputed universities in India with high-quality staff which is dedicated to knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values through dynamic and interactive methods of learning and grooming of students. IGNOU distance education provides distance learning courses to Undergraduates, Graduates, Post Graduates, and Diploma students in arts, science, commerce, and management fields.

2) Symbiosis center for Distance education 

Symbiosis center for distance learning offers Postgraduate Diploma, Diploma, and certificate programs across a variety of management courses.

3) Sikkim Manipal University


Sikkim Manipal University has contributed to the education revolution in its own way and is recognized by the UGC.

 4) IMT Distance and open learning institute 

The IMT institute strives to create leaders in management and entrepreneurs by helping students to acquire the necessary skills. Some popular distance education courses offered by IMT are a Postgraduate diploma in Management, One year Postgraduate in Business administration, Financial management, operational management, HRM, and Information systems.

5) Madhya Pradesh Bhoj Open University

The University aims to spread and promote higher education among the underprivileged and has set up study centers in remote rural areas. The university aims to provide an easily accessible system of teaching and learning through education, inputs like practical classes, distance teaching, satellite, communication, teaching, etc.

6) Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University

          Dr. B.R.Ambedkar open university has a wide network of 206 centers spread throughout the state of Andhra Pradesh. The University caters to women, working people, and those who want to improve their educational and professional skills.

 7)Netaji Subhas Open University

Netaji Subhas Open University is the premier state open in India. The university has set up 31 study centers to provide the students with distance education in Bachelor Degree Programme(BDP) in Arts & Commerce, Science, and Postgraduate program in science.

8) Maharshi Dayanand University

Maharshi Dayanand University provides a wide variety of courses through means of distance learning. The University has students support services centers (SSSC) is open and distance learning system that are not only confined to interactive counseling or solving the learner’s problem but also includes personality development, soft-skills, career-counseling, community counseling community education, promoting open and distance learning as per the National Education Policy

9)Karnataka State Open University

Located in Mysore, Karnataka State open university is recognized as one of the best open universities in India imparting distance education. The university system is a respected higher-learning organization known for its strengths and relevant learning programs to its learners.

10) Acharya Nagarjuna University(CDE)

Acharya Nagarjuna University was established in 1976. The University offers more than 75 courses. It has a wide network of examination centers for the convenience of the students. It offers a quality education at affordable costs.


1) https://www.aicte-india.org/education/distance-education

2) https://www.ugc.ac.in/deb/pdf/ODLwhatwhyandhow.pdf