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Major differences between distance education and online learning

Online Learning

Blog Date
December 4,

Technological advancements necessitate digitization in all fields, including education. Learning trends have changed significantly with the advent of Covid-19 and the subsequent closing of schools, colleges, and universities. Learners started to look for ways and means to continue their education in a much safer and comfortable environment. And they are usually presented with two learning modes, online and distance. How to choose between them? 

There may be a lot of ambiguity in the terms and methodologies used as education becomes more digital. As a result, individuals frequently use the terms “online learning” and “distance education” interchangeably. However, did you know that online education is not the same as remote learning? Let’s learn about each category in detail and the advantages they offer. 

What is distance learning? 

Distance learning, also known as a correspondence course, is a type of education that does not require an individual to be physically present at the learning center (school, college, etc). In this mode, the students receive their course materials and other resources by email or post. 

This type of learning places a heavy emphasis on independent study, with little teacher interaction. Students are expected to use the course materials to complete the curriculum on their own. Teachers and students rarely interact at places called study centers. But it is important to follow the deadlines for exams and project submissions. 

There are some distance learning courses that demand a student’s actual presence in the classroom at certain times, such when attending workshops. These programs, which combine regular classroom instruction with distant learning, are also known as hybrid, blended, or correspondence courses. 

Also read: Regular graduation vs online graduation 

What is online learning? 

When it comes to education, online learning offers the student greater flexibility. The students are free to choose when and where they want to learn. This program is designed for students who want to complete their education totally online without having to visit a traditional campus setting. With the development of technology, students now have a wide range of alternatives, ranging from online master’s degree programs to undergraduate degree programs.  Today, many reputable colleges offer some of the top online MBA programs. 

Compared to distant learning, online learning is far more interactive. In this form of learning, students get access to a vast e-learning content and online lectures (live and recorded). Many discussions take place between teachers and students through an online digital platform. 

Online education has become incredibly popular after the Covid-19 pandemic hit. This medium has been widely adopted because schools and universities have no other method to educate students. 

Also read: List of accredited online degree programmes 

Differences between online learning and distance learning 

Aspect Distance learning Online learning 
Course delivery mode Primarily through printed materials or CDs sent by mail. Some may have limited online components. Entirely conducted over the internet using a learning management system (LMS) or other online platforms. 
Curriculum standard May vary in terms of standardization and accreditation, depending on the institution. Can adhere to global standards and accreditation, often offering a wide range of courses from various institutions. 
Duration Typically, more flexible, allowing students to study at their own pace. May not have strict deadlines. Offers flexibility in terms of learning, assignments, discussions, and exams. 
Recognition Recognition can vary; some programs and institutions may not be widely recognized. Generally recognized, especially if offered by reputable institutions or through established online education platforms. 
Student-teacher interaction Limited interaction, often through email or occasional virtual sessions. More interactive with live online classes and communication through discussion forums, chat, video conferences, and email. 
Peer Interaction Limited interaction, mainly through occasional meetups or forums. Regular interaction through online forums, discussion boards, group projects, and collaborative activities. 
Cost-effectiveness Cost-effective as it reduces the need for physical infrastructure and resources. Cost-effective as there are no commuting, boarding & infrastructure expenses.  
Learning materials Traditional materials like textbooks, printed modules, and CDs. Digital materials, e-books, multimedia content, and interactive simulations. 
Practical knowledge Limited hands-on experience, practicals may be challenging to implement. Depending on the course, there may be simulations, virtual labs, or opportunities for real-world applications. 
How exams are conducted Typically through written assignments sent by mail or local exam centers. Online exams, quizzes, and assignments conducted through the learning platform, often with remote proctoring. 
Career opportunities Recognition may depend on the reputation of the institution and the program. Widely accepted, especially by employers who recognize reputable online education providers and institutions. 
Student Support Support may be limited, primarily through email or occasional phone calls. Robust support systems with online tutoring, tech support, and academic advisors available. 

Advantages of online learning over distance learning 

Convenient learning mode 

Online learning employs a wholly online methodology, with all students participating in scheduled virtual classes. These classes are overseen digitally by a teacher who also guides students through the online lessons and tasks. The Learning Management System (LMS) is used for digital assessments and exams. Online learning is therefore not location-specific and simply depends on the online accessibility of both students and teachers. 

On the other hand, in distance learning, students must travel to test locations after studying and preparing at home. They might occasionally even be required to attend in-person classes or practicals at Learner Support Centers. 

Course structure is similar to regular course 

Another benefit of online courses is that the structure of such courses is very similar to a regular classroom course. This means that you are not losing out on anything when you choose an online course. You get a lot of flexibility but you also get all the benefits of a regular classroom course. 

Whether it has to do with the course materials or examinations, a good course will let you partake of everything you need to grasp the subject matter well. 

Online degree is equivalent to a traditional degree 

It’s only a myth that an online degree is not as worthy as a regular on-campus degree. If you pursue an online degree from any UGC-recognized university, your degree is as good as a traditional degree and is accepted by employers around the world. 

Better interaction 

The nature of teacher-student and student-student interactions also vary between Online Learning and Distance Education. Online learning programs typically use virtual courses and clearly defined modules. Additionally, they have a more interactive pattern. They adopt a blended digital learning style, making them more engaging whether they are group activities or one-on-one projects. There are also forums and groups where students can converse and share knowledge. 

There are extremely few interactions in distance education. Due to the lack of resources and infrastructure, this interaction is especially rarer in rural places. There are a few dispersed online groups and forums where students can connect with other students. 

Effective pedagogy 

Online education aims to simulate in-person instruction in a digital setting. The teaching methods used in this online degree program are quite similar to what students would encounter in traditional classroom settings. To make learning enjoyable, online programs use blended teaching methods. 

When it comes to remote learning, the teaching approach is usually straightforward. Students receive the study material, and they use it at their own pace to learn. 

Web-proctored exams 

Students enrolled in distance education must show up at designated exam centers. For online learning, students just take the tests from any location in a web-proctored setting. The administrative team is also ready for any back-end assistance, such as rescheduling tests, placements, internships, and more. 

For distance mode exams are usually conducted at regional test centers that require students to travel and take the exam. 

Networking opportunities 

Online learning provides students with the opportunity to connect with various industry experts and build meaningful relationships with them. Networking with mentors and industry experts is often neglected but has great importance since they have the ability to provide insights to the students and guide them on the right path. 

Check out: Online degrees vs on-campus degrees 

Choose the right university 

If you have decided to go for online education, there are certain things to look for. 

  • UGC recognition: This is important. It will ensure that your degree has a lot of value in the job market. 
  • Easy fee payments: Getting an education of your choice should not burn a hole in your pocket. When there is an option for easy payments (EMIs), it makes the financial burden a lot more bearable for students and their parents. 
  • Alumni network: Being a part of the alumni networking of a great university will help you in future career growth. 
  • Industry exposure: The right industry will give students an opportunity to get industry exposure to pave the way for success. 
  • Career assistance: You will definitely require career assistance. So, choose a university that provides you with any help you may need like writing your resume and interview tips goals. 

Get a UGC-entitled online degree from the NAAC A+ accredited Manipal University Jaipur 

It is worth getting an online degree that’s widely accepted by employers and other higher education institutions. Manipal University Jaipur (MUJ) offers UGC-entitled online degrees through its online platform Online Manipal. Online Manipal has a state-of-the-art Learning Management System (LMS), expert faculty, huge repository of e-learning material, and placement assistance for those who complete their degree. The curriculum of the courses is designed by industry experts and is similar to a regular on-campus degree. So, you don’t need to have second thoughts when you want to pursue an online degree. It is highly legitimate given the university you’ve chosen has the necessary recognitions and accreditations 


Online mode of learning has clear advantages over distance education in many ways. For starters, when anyone opts for an online degree, they can enjoy the self-paced aspect of learning without any trade-off in the immersive classroom experience. So, Online learning is inarguably the way to go! 


Information related to companies and external organizations is based on secondary research or the opinion of individual authors and must not be interpreted as the official information shared by the concerned organization.

Additionally, information like fee, eligibility, scholarships, finance options etc. on offerings and programs listed on Online Manipal may change as per the discretion of respective universities so please refer to the respective program page for latest information. Any information provided in blogs is not binding and cannot be taken as final.

  • TAGS
  • online degree
  • online education in India

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