3 most important differences between online learning and distance learning

3 most important differences between online learning and distance learning


With the development of different technologies and the expansion of connections among people, many individuals try to approach their education based on their own preferences and schedules.

When the learners prefer their own schedules they choose online or distance learning. For those, who wish to experience remote learning, distance learning may be the best way to fulfill their needs. But for others, who want to acquire knowledge online, online learning is the answer.

Differences of online learning and distance learning

Some wonder why online learning is different from distance learning since they are both done remotely. It is important to know that online learning is considered as a type of distance learning. But distance learning can be proceeded in different forms than only being presented as an online course.

These two types of learnings differ in various ways; For example, the interaction between the teacher and the student, the type of their contents, and the timings which they offered for the learners.

Student-teacher interaction

Distance learning generally comes in the form of different webinar (online seminar) and broadcasts. That’s why it is not expected that the students take part in their specified courses or to interact with the instructors.

However, the situation of online learning is not the same. Teacher-student interactions are considered as an essential part of the student’s learning process. The teachers need to check in with their learners every once in a while to make sure that the have completely learned the presented material.


Regarding distance learning, the content may come in different forms of resources including videos, audio files, pictures, and texts. In this form of learning, the students are free to access the material at any time they desire and there is no limit on the types of content they can access.

On the other hand, online learning provides the content in a multimodal format; meaning that the presented material can be in the forms of videos, pictures, and other types of formats all combined together.

Presented media are not the only distinguishable feature of online education. The existence of human influence can also be regarded to as one of its most unique characteristics.


For people with busy schedules, free time may be a considered as a luxury that they are not able to afford. Therefore, it’s recommended that they choose distance learning in order to pursue their educational passions. This type of remote learning will allow the learners to pursue their courses with any time limits whenever they want.

But in online learning, the students are obliged to respect the timing provided by the instructors and the time in which their classes begins and finishes.

In other words, online learning requires the students to develop the habit of punctuality by attending their courses on time. If students miss their online session, it would be difficult for them to catch up with the material that has already been presented.

Many may think of distance learning and online learning as two equivalent terms, but what few people know is that the latter is considered to be an umbrella term used instead of traditional education. Different online courses can only be considered as a type of distance learning.


In this article we investigated this two types of learning more carefully. It is clearly observed that these two types of educational environments are two distinct domains.

When considering the evident differences between these types of remote learnings, we could easily figure out that distance learning is not similar to online learning in any terms. They differ in different fields as mentioned (its student-teacher interaction, its content, and its timing.)


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