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What is Distance Learning?

Distance education takes place when teachers and students cannot be present in a traditional location like a classroom or even a physical campus. Learning at a distance now uses personal computers and internet communication, but the concept dates from the 18th century. Originally, distance education used the mail service to pass teaching materials to students and students’ work back to teachers, who charged fees for what were called “correspondence courses.”

The advent of radio and television introduced education using those broadcasts, and the internet later made dissemination of instruction even more widespread and simple. Today, many reputable universities offer programs online, including paths to a wide array of professional degrees.

While the usual mode of teaching is by computer, you can still take some courses by mail, but you may pay more for the postage and printed material and you must wait for mail delivery in both directions. Taking a course online involves logging into a remote system that delivers your homework assignments, lecture notes, and tests.

Distance Learning information

Advantages of Distance Learning

Disadvantages of Distance Learning

What You Will Need For Distance Learning


Every school has its own student eligibility requirements, but there’s no reason to expect those to differ for distance education. You will need to have either a high school degree or GED. If English is your second language, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), is usually required.


For online learning, you must have a reliable computer and internet connection. Those are essential to success, because you are responsible for securing access to the classes and coursework. Always have a backup plan in case your computer or connection fails to work.

Your contingency plan could be a friend’s computer, library, internet cafe, or a Kinko’s– for renting computer access, just verify location, business hours, and cost ahead of time. Some schools offer technical support to help you connect.

Choosing A School

Do check the credentials of your online university thoroughly before enrolling. If you choose a school that’s an online branch of a well-known traditional university, that job has been done for you by the school’s known history, and consequently you should take that path if at all possible.

The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of recognized accrediting agencies, and that is where your vetting should begin. It is also recommended that you select a nonprofit school rather than an institution that expects to earn money on your tuition.

How To Pay For Your Degree

As distance education moves into the mainstream of education, it has gained access to types of financing, like federal and private student loans, that were once reserved for students at physical universities. There is a useful page on the Federal Student Aid website that helps you calculate the cost of your degree and gives you information on payment options.

As you see, most types of student financial aid are given only to students attending accredited schools, so starting your review of schools with that in mind is necessary. There is more detail about loans available for distance learning here.