Admit it. When your cousin Gabby was doing a distance learning course in art history, you judged her a little. Couldn’t she go to a regular university like you? Maybe there was a hint of jealousy that she saved thousands of pounds and didn’t have to uproot her life while still getting an education. It’s okay, sit back, read on, and I will teach you all about digital distance learning. You may even want to sign up for some ways to continue your education too! 

History of Distance Education

Learning from home is not a new concept, despite everyone currently taking the time to kit out their home office. Pre-industrial Europe reserved education for affluent males and considered everything that didn’t involve gathering in a stuffy room with fellow students and a man in tweed (okay, I’m not certain on the clothing choices, really) laughable. Distance education came about due to attempts to make the learning process more accessible. Especially radio and television became the new delivery system of education as early as 1920. The digital age would take this even further.

What is Digital Distance Education?

Digital distance education takes the concept of correspondence study, as it used to be known, to new levels. Rapidly improving technologies have taken what started as typed courses to new heights. Nowadays, you can even learn in Virtual Reality classrooms. Countless universities offer digital distance learning courses, and the online learning sector of Fortune 500 companies has become a multi-billion dollar industry. 

The definition of distance education states:

  • it must be institution-based, formal education
  • the learning group must be separated 
  • digital communications must be used to connect learners with their trainers 

5 Key Elements of Distance Education

Let’s get really nerdy for a second; educational psychologist Desmond Keegan is the so-called father of defining distance education. He said what differentiates distance learning from classroom education was:

  1. Permanent (or almost permanent) separation of learner and teacher
  2. Educational organizations must be involved in planning the curriculum and student support
  3. Media used to unite learners and teachers
  4. Two-way dialogue 
  5. Taught in individuals and not in groups, possible occasional meetings of groups for socialization 

Difference Between Digital Distance Education and eLearning

When scouring through the online sources, distance education and eLearning are frequently used mutually. It’s one of those modern terminology confusions that happens all the time because lay-people tend to use them interchangeably, but distance education and eLearning have different goals. eLearning is more about complementing existing methods of in-person education and describes a specific learning style rather than describing a method of attending classes.

Distance Learning Goals

  • Make education more affordable due to cheaper courses and less need to move to a specific city.
  • Accessibility, since you can attend class no matter where you are, it becomes accessible for parents or carers. 
  • Excellent education outside of a classroom setting
  • Create a more democratic distribution of education 

Future of Digital Distance Education

2020’s pandemic life changed the landscape of online learning. Suddenly, the choice of whether to learn at a distance or in-person was taken away. This shift can allow teachers to deliver well-recorded lectures to thousands at a lower cost, freeing time, and funding up for cutting edge research. Additionally, the tech now has a larger group of people interested, which will lead to constant innovation of digital methods. 

Taking some of the educational theory encompassed in eLearning can be applied to distance education, leading to more engaging content and variety in teaching ways. 

Additionally, the buzzword VR (virtual reality) will become a rising concept in distance education, making it possible for learners to engage the outside world and other learners more easily. 


Digital distance education has been called a democratic response to educational crises and cost-saving measures. However, it still struggles to unify people who may not have access to the most up to date technology. In the future, distance education will need to compete more strongly due to new distance education providers entering the market. 

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