How is Online learning different from Distance learning?

distance learning

Did you know that online learning is not the same as distance learning?

Learning is an integral part of a child’s education. Education today has expanded and has grown leaps and bounds. Within the last few years, the paradigm of traditional school has shifted. Students no longer have to attend schools or universities to get degrees.

Today with digital technology, the majority of learning is taking place online. Online classes are now available through a computer screen. You can have access to a quality education whenever and wherever you like. Today the students can choose courses and get certificates.

Nowadays, both online and distance education have become popular. Despite its popularity, people get the terms mixed up and use them. While both online and distance learning helps you to pursue education. They also offer a high degree of flexibility. Yet, there appear to be some differences between the two.

Definition of online and distance education?

The practice of teaching through the internet is known as online learning. There is never any face-to-face interaction between the teacher and the pupil. Students use their smartphones, tablets, or computers to study. They are also free to study whenever they want. It is sometimes referred to as e-learning or electronic learning. This type of learning bridges the gap between the teacher and the student.

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Distance education was traditionally called a correspondence course. This type of learning can be taken without having to be physically present in a school or university. Overall, the teaching technique is less engaging. It involves the concept of self-study. The students receive study materials through the mail, post, or online resources. The student can refer and learn from anywhere and anyplace. Also, providing them with flexible learning opportunities.

What is the difference between online and distance learning?

1. Teaching styles

The teaching in a virtual class is similar to that of an in-person class. They make all of the course materials available online. The approaches used in the programs are exciting and unique. They make use of technological resources such as VLE (virtual learning environment). The curriculum is delivered online in videos, slides, study manuals, and so on. The lectures can be pre-recorded or live.

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In most cases, the teaching methodology in distance education is straightforward. Access to online learning materials is included in the distance learning courses. You will be given the study materials and will be able to learn at your own pace. Initially, the materials were delivered to the students via postal service. It is now possible to watch live lectures thanks to technological advancements. This provides predetermined dates and times for distance education.

2. Interaction between student-teacher

Most online learning programs rely on modules and virtual classes. They follow a flexible pattern that is engaging. They have group as well as one on one classes. These classes incorporate blended digital learning methods. There are live chats to discuss and interact with one another.  

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The interaction in distance education is restrictive. There are very few online groups to meet and discuss. There are hardly a few forums where students can connect with other students or teachers. The study material is couriered or emailed to the student. They must study, submit and write exams based on it.

3. Location

The students participate in a virtual class in online learning. The teachers guide students through the digital lessons. Online learning does not depend on a specific location. It relies on the student’s and teacher’s online availability. 

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Distance education does not rely on the internet. Instead, the learning happens through print or face to face. Now with the internet, some of the learning takes place digitally. But the students have to travel for tests and exams. Sometimes they even have to travel in between for some classes. Overall, when it comes to distance education, location does matter.

4. Learning materials

Students enrolled in online learning have access to digital materials. The data and information is used in dedicated learning apps and website through online courses. The module allows the student to refer them. Whether it is recorded lectures, videos, or ebooks.

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Distance education still relies on books or other physical materials. These books are delivered by courier or mailed to the student. Students would be given course materials in the form of textbooks or other written formats.


Online learning and distance learning are both essential and unique in their own ways. They hold a special place in our education system. But somehow, online is preferable for elementary and high schoolers. The young students will have more learning options. Whereas distance learning is suitable for older students. Those who will work with materials more responsibly.

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Depending on the needs of the child, one would be more preferable. Although the learning methods might differ. But the goal is to give high-quality education. Both forms of learning teach you to be self-disciplined and motivated that are valuable skills to have in life.

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