What is distance learning: from mailing lists to virtual reality

The approach began to be practised in Europe in the 19th century, but then it was called differently – “correspondent learning”. Students received study materials by mail, did their homework and sent them to the professor for review. They took exams in the same way.

One of the earliest attempts to launch “correspondent education” was recorded in 1728 – in the “Boston Gazette” published an announcement by the teacher of stenography Caleb Phillips, who offered to teach stenography to young people from letters that he would send by mail.

Whether Philips succeeded in recruiting students is not known for certain. It is believed that the first to use the deleted format was another scientist-stenographer – British Isaac Pitman.

Being a democratic person, Pitman believed that everyone should have the opportunity to get a good education – nationality, religion and finances do not matter. So he began teaching stenography by mail to students from all over England.

In 1874, the University of Illinois offered a mail-order program. 18 years later, the same department appeared at the University of Chicago. Gradually, the idea of ​​distance learning swept the whole world.

Distance and e-learning – what’s the difference

Over time, new formats arose in such training – radio, telephone appeared, the first educational programs began to be shown on television. The end of the 80s was the beginning of the era of personal computers.

Distance learning is often confused with e-learning today. If you are reading a book from your phone or flipping through a presentation on a computer, then you are studying in electronic format.

Distance learning will become if you connect to the Internet and go to Wikipedia through a tablet. The line between the two approaches has almost disappeared.

Types of distance learning

Experts from the World Association for Educational Technologies divide distance learning into two types: synchronous and asynchronous.

Synchronous. For example, you are watching a webinar with others. At any time, you can ask a question to the teacher in the chat and immediately get an answer. This is the main advantage of synchronous learning.

Asynchronous. You study separately in your free time, for example, take an e-course or watch a video tutorial on YouTube. You do not need to adjust to the teacher’s schedule, but there is no one to ask a question.

Distance learning methods

Having studied the experience of 40,000 thousand clients, iSpring analysts found that the quality of the distance learning program and the involvement of students depends on the format of the content that the methodologists use in their work. Let’s consider the most popular distance learning formats that should be added to the program.

Distribution of useful articles

Isaac Pitman’s method is still relevant today. Newsletters are used by 60% of surveyed corporate customers of iSpring. Online schools build entire courses based on mailings.

The mailing format is not suitable for every task. For example, you can teach the rules of business correspondence or the basics of SEO promotion, but you can hardly ride a motorcycle or swim.

By mailing out lectures, you lose control. It is impossible to track how many people have read the letter to the end and what they have learned from what they read.


This is an online seminar: you give a lecture to employees from a dozen regions at once, only while sitting at a computer in the central office, cafe or at home.

A webinar is similar to a Skype conversation: you can also speak into a microphone, write in a chat, show a presentation or show your computer desktop.

The advantage of the format is that you can broadcast knowledge to thousands of employees at the same time. At the same time, listeners can immediately ask a question and get an answer.

Video lessons

Video tutorials make the training as clear as possible. The format is suitable for almost any task. The main thing is to decide on the presentation of the material. It can be a screencast – a recording from a computer screen and a voiceover commenting on what is happening.

For another course, a video with a “talking head” is more suitable – this is when, in addition to the presentation, you also see the speaker’s face. This format, for example, is used by Dodo Pizza for training restaurant managers.

Dialogue simulators

They help to memorize the script and practice speaking skills on various topics: negotiations with a supplier, retail, product presentation, employee feedback, conversation in a foreign language.

Typically, an interactive simulator is a small business case in the format of a text quest. The user receives information about the situation and must correctly conduct a conversation with the virtual field trips for students’ character, for example, consult a bank client.

The advantage of the format is that the user can practice communication skills without the risk of disrupting a deal and losing a client.

Software simulators

They help employees to quickly master a computer program: CRM, 1C: Accounting, Excel.

Since the simulator copies the program interface in detail, the user can practice basic commands here. However, it will not delete important information and will not break anything. For example, Kaspersky Lab has released an anti-virus simulator for this purpose.

Electronic courses

The symbiosis of the above educational formats. In the course, you can combine an article or presentation, add voice-overs or music, a video or a self-test.

For example, Baltika Breweries uses this format to adapt to newcomers. In particular, through e-courses, new employees will learn about all sales channels of the FMCG market.


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