The University of Western Australia

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Alternative Modes of Teaching and Learning

Alternative modes of delivery

Distance Education


Distance teaching is commonly defined as teaching that takes place at a distance from the learner. (Hodgson, Mann, & Snell, 1987, p.162).

It usually involves an attempt to support student learning at a distance by the provision of instruction, tutoring, assessment and counselling in ways that facilitate flexible access. Significant emphasis is placed on the development of learning materials (text, audio, video, multimedia, web-based) and the incorporation in particular of instruction, tutoring and assessment into their design.

In distance teaching the learning materials developed by the educational institution take over the responsibility for instruction from the individual teacher, and the means of instruction become centralized and depersonalized. The constraints of traditional teaching which are thus removed include the need to attend a class at a particular time and place and to follow what is being taught at the pace chosen by teachers according to their judegment of the class as a whole. Furthermore, the dependence of the learner on an individual whom they may not like or who may not like them, and other such pesonality and social factors are also avoided.(op cit, p. 162) Distance teaching has significantly contributed to opening up access to education by removing the need for the learner to be in the presence of the teacher.

Hodgson, V.E., Mann, S.J. & Snell, R.S. (Eds) (1987) Beyond Distance Teaching - Towards Open Learning, Milton Keynes, UK: SRHE/Open University Press.

Education via the communications media (correspondence, radio, television, and others) with little or no classroom or other face-to-face contact between students and teachers

from ERIC Search Wizard 2.0


  • Allows learners to access learning opportunities at a time, pace and place to suit individual needs
  • Allows for the internationalisation of learning opportunities
  • Materials provided often incorporate instructional processes
  • Centralised resources can produce higher quality materials for distribution
  • Has the potential to equalise access to education


  • Depends on individual motivation and initiative
  • Minimises group learning opportunities
  • Potentially less group support for learners leading to isolation and possible non-completion of programme
  • Time lapse between need for learner support and resolution
  • Demands large effort and cost to develop appropriate materials and infrastructure

Resources and References

Distance Learning Resources

Distance Education Report
Relevant Resources

The Open University

The Shroud of Lecturing

Distance Learning Demonstration Projects

LearnWell Online, Distance Learning Internet Courses for free or for a fee for CEUs or college credit

Adult Distance Education Internet Surf Shack

Oregon Community College Distance Education Consortium

TeleEducation NB

Distance Education Report

Moving Beyond Campus-Bound Education

Universities in the Digital Age

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