Distance education is broadly defined as the provision and process of learning when the learner and the source of information are separated by distance, time, or both. If any of this learning takes place on-site for any reason (including taking exams), the learning is termed "blended" or "hybrid" learning.
The Internet has made continuing education via distance learning faster and easier for distributors and students. Over the last couple of years the education sector has seen a remarkable rise in the prominence and impact the "virtual university".
Approximately 1 in 5 undergraduate students in North America are enrolled in at least one online learning, continuing education class, and 1 in 20 are now enrolled in an online education degree program. Courses range from the most basic instruction through to masters and doctor programs.
Levels of accreditation vary broadly. Some of the online education "institutions" are nothing more that fraudulent "diploma mills" receiving no oversight. But, in the United States, an institution may not use the term "university" without government accreditation.
Technologies used in distance learning education delivery are divided into two groups:
1) synchronous learning technologies
2) asynchronous learning technologies
Synchronous Learning technology resembles traditional classroom teaching in that all participants are "present" at the same time and there is a set timetable. Technologies used for synchronous learning include Internet technologies such as VoIP, live streaming, and videoconferencing, and broadcast technologies including television and radio (traditional and satellite).
Asynchronous Learning technology allows students to access "evergreen" coursework and exams on their own schedule using the Internet. This, of course, allows more flexibility, but also allows procrastination.
Synchronous and Asynchronous Distance Learning Education are often combined. The Internet can blur the distinction between these two distance education methods.
Developing distance learning technologies include computer games, three-dimensional (3D) immersive environments, and virtual worlds,
which may be streamed in real time and / or downloaded and engaged via a local hard drive.
An all-online degree program via distance education / distance learning allows even a busy traveling professional to take their education on the road. When they get behind, the entire program is readily accessible via Internet to help them get back on track. Online education students have access to lectures within a few hours of on-campus students, even when they're on the other side of the world! Dedicated to meeting the needs of location and time bound students, are you ready to hit the digital books?