They say that learning is a lifelong process. In recent times, lifelong learning has gained recognition, thanks to professional development and job training programs. Lifelong learning is a voluntary, long-term and self-motivated way of knowledge enhancement and personal development.

Online learning has widened the scope of lifelong learning. India is currently witnessing a digital revolution as it becomes one of the largest markets for e-learning. The government continues to make active efforts towards this reformation.

The digital education boom started with the distance learning methodology. A previously unpopular method, distance learning provides an effective solution that not only democratizes but also globalizes education.

  1. What Is Distance Learning?

  2. What Are The Different Types Of Distance Learning?

  3. Does Distance Learning Have Value?

  4. How Can Distance Learning Be Effective

  5. Unpacking Distance Learning With Harappa

What Is Distance Learning?

Distance learning is a form of education that involves the physical separation of instructors and students, otherwise known as remote learning. This teaching method goes beyond classroom learning, and technological advancements such internet, video calling or emails have made this possible.

Distance learning began as an attempt to lower the cost of higher education among underprivileged students. Universities wanted to extend their student base beyond their immediate areas and overcome the limitations that come with a physical presence. In India, poor attendance in conventional universities and colleges was a key factor driving distance education. In an age when an increasing number of individuals are trying to access knowledge and training, various types of distance learning have opened new doors.

What Are The Different Types Of Distance Learning?

As distance learning gains popularity, different methodologies continue to emerge. Different formats lead to several advantages, including multimedia educational experience, teacher support and long-term professional networks. There are various ways to structure distance learning courses and different types of approaches or delivery models result in substantially different learning experiences. Here are the different types of distance learning categorized on the basis of delivery methods, pacing models and modes of delivery.

  1. Delivery Methods

It refers to the broad ways in which distance education courses or classes are conducted. There are two key delivery methods

  • Online

Distance learning that’s primarily and exclusively conducted through the internet refers to online learning. With the growth of high-speed internet and video conferencing applications, online learning has become one of the most common delivery methods.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for this methodology as schools and colleges continue to conduct classes online. Video lectures, instant messaging platforms with educators and discussion forums have made this shift possible.

  • Correspondence

The correspondence method is what gave birth to other forms of distance education. It’s carried out more conventionally—sending learning materials, assignments and examination papers via emails or other online platforms. While several institutions have moved beyond this learning method, there are many universities that continue to rely on this process.

There are both pros and cons of the correspondence method. While it slows down the distance learning process, it allows individuals to access learning materials despite not having a high-speed internet connection. Additionally, it allows learners more flexibility as the materials and resources are sent in advance.

  1. Pacing Models

It refers to the time taken for a learner to complete a course or a module. It indicates how quickly someone is able to progress. Pacing models are of two types

  • Paced

The pace or speed of progress is monitored by the education provider (e.g., schools). It means that every learner needs to complete the course within a stipulated time period. There are clear start and stop dates for the courses and the modules within. Deadlines and examination dates are the same for everyone.

A majority of academic institutions prefer this paced education method as it allows them to create well-defined course structures, plan lessons and maintain the learning progress at the same speed. However, a big disadvantage is that not every learner has the same learning style i.e., everyone learns and progresses at a different pace.

  • Self-Paced

As opposed to the paced model, the self-paced model allows greater flexibility and autonomy when it comes to scheduling timelines and making progress. The speed at which someone completes a course will depend on how much time they’re willing or able to invest. Someone who dedicates more hours per day or per week is likely to progress faster.

Self-paced courses are a boon for individuals who don’t have the time or capacity to follow a specific curriculum. This is why an increasing number of working professionals rely on self-paced courses to enhance their learning experience. For instance, a self-paced learning style is ideal for someone who decides to pursue higher education while working a full-time job.

  1. Modes Of Delivery

It refers to the ways in which content is delivered to learners. There are two types of delivery modes

  • Synchronous

When educators and learners interact with each other at the same time but from different locations, the process is known as synchronous distance learning. It takes place in real-time and learners may be encouraged to participate in different in-class activities. Group chats, polls or virtual exercises are some of the common ways to engage learners. This method allows for close collaboration as members of the learning group interact with one another.

  • Asynchronous

Asynchronous learning involves self-study to a great extent. As opposed to synchronous learning, the instructors and learning don’t meet in real-time i.e., attend live sessions. Different learners complete tasks and progress at their convenience. People access learning materials on a more on-demand basis. While there is plenty of flexibility, educational institutions lay down certain structures by setting clear deadlines. Therefore, there is some level of monitoring and control in this method.

Does Distance Learning Have Value?

Studies suggest that India’s (k-12) education technology (EdTech) market is likely to increase 6.3 times by 2022, thereby creating a $1.7 billion market. Distance and online learning are receiving an overwhelming response as the Indian online education sector continues to expand. The advantages of distance learning that contributed to its success include

  1. Quality

With the rise of education consultancies and EdTech startups, there has been an increasing focus on the quality of content. A majority of businesses prioritize quality by bringing in top educators and instructors in the field. Offering dedicated advisors who also act as mentors is an effective way of ensuring quality learning.

  1. Personalization

A majority of distance learning programs are designed in ways that allow a learner to gauge their strengths and weaknesses. A majority of courses provide self-evaluation tests that help individuals analyze potential areas of improvement. Learners are likely to go the extra mile when they’re not just learning but also applying the lessons in real life.

  1. Effectiveness

Studies suggest that unconventional teaching methods have a greater success rate than their conventional counterparts. In addition to an enhanced learning experience, distance education improves retention rates. The flexibility, ease and remoteness increase the effectiveness of online programs. Learners—irrespective of geographical location, age or gender—can access the programs from anywhere in the world.

How Can Distance Learning Be Effective

Distance learning has its own sets of challenges and often requires additional clarity, reviews, doubt clearance and prompt feedback. Here are some of the best practices for distance learning that leading education providers follow.

  • Having a proper understanding of learners’ needs and customizing content accordingly

  • Applying game-design elements to courses i.e., using a gamification model to reward learners and keep them motivated

  • Making the online curriculum as interactive as possible with relevant self-evaluation exercises and other activities

  • Keeping the program design simple so that learners are able to follow instructions easily

  • Providing certificates for course completion, which not only builds credibility but also incentivizes learners to try out other courses and expand their knowledge and skills

Over time, businesses have realized that capacity-building is one of the fundamental tenets of organizational growth. Whether it’s increasing job satisfaction or retaining employees, efforts towards upskilling and reskilling can be transformational for businesses. Here are various ways in which businesses can encourage distance learning among employees—leading to better productivity and innovation.

  1. Prioritize Learning Goals

In addition to meeting deadlines and delivering quality performance, organizations should focus on learning goals. By connecting learning to performance, employees will be encouraged to align their personal goals with the overall organizational objectives.

  1. Room For Self-Directed Learning

Every employee has a different background and life experiences, besides having unique interests and expectations. Organizations should gauge what different individuals are passionate about. By gaining deeper insights into learning needs, businesses can choose the types of learning programs needed.

  1. Recognize And Reward

Completing a course definitely enhances knowledge but it doesn’t result in positive outcomes unless an employee’s efforts are recognized. Managers and team leaders should celebrate new learning opportunities and actively involve employees in relevant tasks and projects.

Unpacking Distance Learning With Harappa

The Harappa 10 on 10 program has been developed to help organizations tap into employees’ potential and drive peak performance. Harappa is a premier learning institution that drives organizational growth through high-impact learning and development programs. Several in-demand programs—Manager Excellence Program, Sales Excellence Program, Communication Excellence Program and Women’s Leadership Program—will help employees build necessary 21st century cognitive, social and behavioral skills. The programs include interactive learning elements such as workshops and masterclasses that provide learners an immersive and application-oriented learning experience. Innovative technology-driven delivery offers the flexibility to address different learning needs and ensure no learner is left behind. Learn with Harappa today!

Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as Must-Have Skills For Leadership, Understanding RACI Matrix, Who is a Project Manager, The Guide to Distance Learning & The Key Skills Of A General Manager, which will help organizations tap into their employee’s potential.

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