Difference between distance education and online learning

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Introduction of Distance education and Online learning

Distance education, also called distance learning, is a type of study in which students are not required to always appear physically at an institute or university. The courses included in it are called distance courses, generally the technology-mediated type of education where both teacher and student correspond via email, phone, post letter, or have weekly sessions other than regular classes’ session.

Online learning is the evolution of Distance learning in which teachers and students connect through digital methods such as calling, video, audio, and recording. This type of course is known as an Online Course, where students can connect according to their flexible timing.

History of Distance Education and Online Learning

Distance education was first advertised in 1728 by Caleb Philipp, teacher of the new method of Short Hand, with the help of the Boston Gazette (A newspaper published in Boston, British North American Colonies) to teach students who want to learn the skills through weekly lessons.

Sir Isaac Pitman provided the first modern distance education in the 1840s by mailing texts transcribed into shorthand on postcards, which has proved highly successful. It established formal courses three years later and later formed Sir Isaac Pitman Colleges nationwide. In 1858, The University of London became the first university to offer distance learning degrees and set an external program; later, after a few decades, in 1894, the first distance learning college in the UK was formed as the name of Wolsey Hall, Oxford, and the University of London which later spread all over the world.

Online Learning was offered in 1984 through interlinked computer terminals by the University of Toronto. In 1989, the University of Phoenix started offering online degrees in bachelors and masters. Later, it expanded worldwide with the development of the Internet. In 2018, UGC DEB started promoting Online Learning.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Online Course demands increased with technology development and needs mainly for working professionals and remote people. Online Learning provides a better platform to fulfill skill and course requirements cheaply.

Comparison between Distance Education and Online Learning


Distance Education

Online Learning





















Not Involved








Not Required




Live and Recorded




  • Classes: In distance education, types are offline mode precisely and occasionally unlike regular classes; some courses may be through virtual methods. In the case of Online
  • Exams: In distance mode, all semester exams are always in the offline medium; in Online, all exams will be done in Online medium through the help of an electronic device.
  • Cost: Distance education course fees are comparatively more than online courses in India with top NIRF-ranked UGC-recognized Universities.
  • Flexibility: Distance education has moderate flexibility as compared to online education. Online education provides flexible timing, ease for working professionals, and better learning facilities for remote people.
  • Courses: Distance education has various methods and specialization choices, while online education has some limited and specific classes available in India.
  • Interaction: In distance education, students interact face-to-face with teachers for learning. Online learning involves digital interaction by electronic devices through Google Meet, Zoom, or any other application with the help of an Internet connection
  • Travel: Distance education requires traveling for weekly or scheduled interaction with guides or teachers for learning and updates, while in Online learning, students are not required to meet teachers face to face.
  • Accessibility: Distance education does not have different access like digital study materials or old lecture recordings. They have to go through the university library, publications, website, and many other books and shops to collect and gather the required information. At the same time, Online learning provides all of the facilities and benefits in mean time.
  • Schedule: There is a fixed time to learn and interact about courses and specializations in distance learning, while in Online learning, there is flexible timing to learn and interact.
  • Internet: In distance learning, there is no requirement for an Internet or any electronic device for interaction, while in Online learning, there is always an Internet connection and electronic devices such as PCs, smartphones, or Tab to learn and interact with the University.
  • Lectures: Only face-to-face live classes are available in distance learning. There may be some virtual lectures, but in the case of online learning, live digital lectures, as well as recorded lectures, are available for learning and have the benefit of revision during exam time.
  • Acceptance: Both distance education and online learning are globally accepted and have significance all over the industry.

Benefits of Distance Education and Online Learning

Both courses have specific benefits, values, and specialties on their own. It depends on the student’s requirements, what they need, and what benefits they want to get. Both degrees are available from UGC-recognized and approved Institutions.

There are then More than 70 UGC-recognized universities in India provide distance education, while more than 55 UGC-recognized universities provide online learning in India with various courses and specializations.

Distance Education Bureau

Distance Education Bureau (DEB) is a bureau of the University Grants Commission (UGC) in New Delhi, India, established in 2012 to replace the Distance Education Council. It regulates Open and Distance Learning (ODL) and Online Learning (OL) universities in India. It allows students to learn and fulfill study and skill requirements without attending traditional regular classes.


Both Distance Education and Online learning have their importance and significance. In India, many top UGC-recognized Universities provide both types of courses. Distance education has a variety of choices for students, while online education is developing every day to a wide variety. Both the course usefulness and choice depend and vary according to student needs.

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