What is Distance Learning?

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy wahooschools.org / Distance Learning Image

Distance learning refers to any type of learning that is conducted via a distance, regardless of how the course materials are conveyed.  Many groups can benefit from these sorts of courses.  Such programs can make education accessible to immobilized groups, they can help accelerate existing studies, and they can also allow busy professionals to learn something new in their spare time.  Distance education is a blessing to many diverse groups; the students just have to understand how it works and how to best engage in such studies.

What are the Different Types of Distance Learning?

Distance learning is just as diverse and expansive as traditional in-classroom education.  At the highest levels of study, students can earn graduate and undergraduate college degrees.  High school diploma and career training programs are also a mainstay in this industry.  So, too, are both free and fee-based Bible studies.

Prisoners are one of the major groups that thrive on distance learning since this is often their only mechanism to further an education beyond earning a GED in a prison's education department.  Incarcerated students often engage in correspondence paralegal courses, writing courses, and even courses on how to become a veterinarian assistant.  The same is true with those outside of prison.

What Delivery Methods Are Available?

Distance learning can generally be divided into two different course delivery systems:

  • ·         Online Education

The University of Phoenix model of education -- courses offered via the internet -- is now the most popular form of distance learning.  In this model, the student signs up for their courses via a website, are granted access to the online education portal, orders any required textbooks, and completes their education through the internet.  Many thousands of traditionally-aged college students and adult college students alike have earned their degrees in this manner of study.

  • ·         Correspondence Education

For those who either are unable to engage in online study (e.g., incarcerated students) or prefer a study methodology that does not depend on technology, traditional correspondence courses are a great option.  Enrollment in these distance learning courses is achieved by calling the school, or mailing in a course enrollment form, ordering any required textbooks and course materials, and completing courses in their home or place of business.  Once each lesson or course assignment is completed, it is simply mailed back to the school for grading.  As with online education, countless students currently engage in this form of distance learning.

Who Engages in This Type of Education?

Members of many different groups regularly enroll in distance learning courses.  While we at Prison Education News cater to incarcerated students (who are big supporters of correspondence education), there are several other distinct groups who also appreciate this form of education.  Busy professionals, stay-at-home moms, deployed members of the military, and others regularly engage in distance education.  Two emerging groups who enjoy the distance learning form of study include enrolled college and high school students since they can take their regular courses in-person, and also take several additional courses at the same time to accelerate their studies.

Where Can Information be Found About Distance Learning

We here at / are a terrific source for information about distance learning.  In fact, we are in the process of publishing a massive directory of correspondence programs.  While this directory was envisioned to help assist prisoners and their families in locating quality correspondence programs, it can be used by those outside of the prison marketplace, too.  As we publish new pages containing this information, we will publish notices here.

If you would prefer to purchase a book on this topic, then Education Behind Bars by Christopher Zoukis (Sunbury Press, 2012), available from Amazon, is a great buy, so too is Bear's Guide to Distance Learning by M.P. Bear and T. Nixon (Ten Speed Press, 2009).

Long story short, if you are interested in continuing your education from your home, place of work or prison, there is only one answer: distance learning.