Distance Education: Delivery Systems

Older models of distance education utilized regular mail to send written material, videos, audiotapes, and CD-ROMs or other media storage format (e.g. SDRAM or CompactFlash cards) to the student and to turn in the exercises. Today's distance education course makes use of E-mail, the Web, and video conferencing over broadband network connections for both wired physical locations and wireless mobile learning. In some countries, the material is supplemented by television and radio programming. To compete with the conventional sector, course material must be of very high quality and completeness, and will use modern technologies such as educational animation.

Full time or part-time study is possible, but most students choose part-time study. Research study is possible as well. Distance education is offered at all levels, but is most frequently an option for university-level studies. A form of educational program which is similar to this but which requires some amount of presence during the year is a low-residency program.

Distance education programs are sometimes called correspondence courses, an older term that originated in nineteenth-century vocational education programs that were conducted through postal mail. This term has been largely replaced by distance education, and expanded to encompass more sophisticated technologies and delivery methods. The first subject taught by correspondence was the Pitman Shorthand, a tool of stenography. Primary and secondary education programs were also widely available by correspondence, usually for children living in remote areas.