The definition of distance education has evolved. In the 1800s, it referred to correspondence courses, most of which taught short-hand. As radio and television became more mainstream, schools used them both to disseminate lectures to learners in classrooms. Later the first wave of computer-based training courses began to appear. Because computers were not as readily available as they are today, computer-based training was not very convenient.
Online education took off when computers and Internet access became mainstream in the 90s. The term distance education now not only refers to correspondence courses, but also online learning from accredited universities (synchronous or asynchronous) as well as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Less formal forms of distance education include podcasts and videos from sites like iTunes and YouTube. Distance education has even made its way into corporate settings. Trainers are taking advantage of less travel and high scalability through online learning platforms.
Modes of Distance Education
The most popular type of online learning courses are those delivered by accredited schools and universities. It is rare to find an undergraduate or graduate student that has not taken at least one online course. Many learners are opting to do their entire degrees online. This gives older and working students a lot of flexibility and the ability to maintain a work/life balance. Online universities may opt to teach their online classes synchronously (where everyone is online at the same time) or asynchronously (each student accesses the material on their own time).
MOOCs are courses open to the public to serve a large group of participants. Large could mean anywhere from hundreds to thousands of students participating in a course at any given moment. Anyone interested in taking a MOOC can sign up for a course through several different institutions. MOOCs are similar to traditional courses in that they typically last 4-12 weeks and have formative and summative evaluations. Assessments may be evaluated by an instructor or by peers in the course.
Yet another form of distance education includes audio and video podcasting. iTunesU was one of the first platforms to offer university course materials in the form of audio and video podcasts for free. Audio and video podcasts have since become a popular method of sharing lessons and tutorials developed for the masses.
Distance Education in the Workplace
More organizations are opting for methods that reduce trainer travel time and can be scaled. Not unlike education-based distance education, workplace training can also take many different forms. Some organizations have fully online curricula designed around formative and summative assessments, much like universities do. Many onboarding programs are built this way to ensure that new employees all enter into the organization with the same knowledge. Other organizations prefer to use MOOC style training where they can host long online sessions attended by employees from different locations. Some organizations create audio podcasts or video tutorials to disseminate information to their employees.
All of these types of training can be hosted on a learning management system, such as Mindflash. Mindflash gives organizations the flexibility to train their employees from anywhere on nearly any device. Request a demonstration of the Mindflash platform. See for yourself how easy the Mindflash LMS is to use.