Distance education

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Distance education, or distance learning, is a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy, technology, and instructional system designs that aim to deliver education to students who are not physically "on site" in a traditional classroom or campus. It has been described as "a process to create and provide access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both."[1] In other words, distance learning is the process of creating an educational experience of equal quality for the learner to best suit their outside the classroom. Distance education courses that require a physical on-site presence for any reason (including taking examinations) is considered a hybrid or blended course of study. This emerging technology is becoming widely used in universities and institutions around the globe.[2] With the recent trend of technological advance, distance learning is becoming more recognized for its potential in providing individualized attention and communication with students internationally. The most widely cited[citation needed] pedagogical theory of distance education is that of "transactional distance". Distance learning is a flexible form of learning where a student can study from home, work, on the move or wherever else is convenient.[3]



Distance education dates to at least as early as 1728, when "an advertisement in the Boston Gazette...[named] 'Caleb Phillips, Teacher of the new method of Short Hand" was seeking students for lessons to be sent weekly.[4] Modern distance education has been practiced at least since Isaac Pitman taught shorthand in Great Britain via correspondence in the 1840s.[5] The development of the postal service in the 19th century led to the growth of commercial correspondence colleges with nationwide reach.

The University of London was the first university to offer distance-learning degrees, establishing its External Programme in 1858.[6] The Society to Encourage Studies at Home was founded in 1873 in Boston, Massachusetts. In Australia, the University of Queensland established its Department of Correspondence Studies in 1911.[7] Another pioneering institution was the University of South Africa (originally the University of the Cape of Good Hope), which has been offering Correspondence Education courses since 1873. In New Zealand, university-level distance education or extramural study began in 1960 at Massey University. The largest distance-education university in the United Kingdom is the Open University, founded 1969. Spain's Public UNED (which is not an Open University) was founded in 1972. In Germany, the FernUniversität in Hagen was founded 1974. There are now many similar institutions around the world, often with the name Open University (in English or in the local language). More than a dozen of them have grown to become 'mega-universities',[8] a term coined to denote institutions with more than 100,000 students. Currently, with 3,000,000 students, Indira Gandhi National Open University is the largest in the world. The first president of the University of Chicago, William Rainey Harper developed extended education and was considered one of the founders of "learning by correspondence programs". The University of Chicago instituted the first Extension Service in the United States through the use of mail, reaching out to a vast group of students internationally.[9]

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