Throughout the history of human communication, advances in technology have enabled paradigm shifts in education. It is the modern communication technology changes that have led to big shifts in culture in general and education in particular, ultimately reshaping the process of distance education. Distance Learning, also known by various names such Distance Education, Distributed Learning, Remote Education or Correspondence Education, is defined by the criterion of the teacher and students being separated by distance. The instruction is delivered via print, voice, video or computer technologies. The communication is interactive in that the student receives support and feedback from the teacher. The feedback may be immediate or delayed. In a country like India, where a basic graduation degree is mandatory to get a decent employment opportunity and where the number of aspiring students outnumber college seats available, distance learning programmes have become the choice of many.
Distance learning can be roughly divided into two delivery types:
1. Synchronous: In this type, the teacher and the student interact with each other in "real time" such as, two-way video-conferences, interaction with "live" video of an instructor and telephone conversations.
2. Asynchronous: It does not take place simultaneously. In this case, the institution may deliver simply study materials including instruction via postal or internet medium and the students respond at a later time.
Distance education can be seperated into two systems:
1. The Regular System : The qualification requirements for enrolment are similar to those prescribed for the normal university courses.
2. The Open System : The courses are open to any person who may not even possess any formal qualifications. But in some institutions, they should have attained the age of 18 years for undergraduate and diploma courses and 21 years for postgraduate courses. Enrolment in some courses is subject to qualifying in a written exam as well.
Distance learning in India has emerged as the contemporary system of imparting education to the students. This mode of learning is really very advantageous for learners who live at a distance from the teaching institution or education provider. A clear advantage of distance learning is the significantly enhanced level of flexibility when compared to traditional courses. Distance learning can also be fitted around existing professional and personal responsibilities, allowing people to gain a new qualification while maintaining their earning power, family life and leisure time. With distance learning, you progress at your own pace and submit work or take exams when you are fully ready to do so. Distance learning is not only convenient, it is also effective and affordable. One of the benefits of distance learning is that there is wide variety of materials that can meet everyone's learning is that there is a wide variety of materials that can meet everyone's learning preference at least part of the time. Besides, educational inequity is a major issue in India. Rural schools often have less contact with educational trends, fewer qualified teachers, and more need for technology. Distance learning offers great potential for doing away with these issues.