Guide to Distance Learning

Distance Learning may seem like a modern phenomenon, ushered in with the internet and the rise of technological tools such as video conferencing and online chat, but many would be surprised to learn that distance learning has been around since the 1930s, when the first classes and educational seminars were broadcasted over the radio. However, with new technology there has been a considerable upswing in distance learning options available to K-12, undergraduate and graduate studies students. Distance learning includes, but is not limited to, taking classes or entire certifications and accredited degree programs online or via web video.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of undergraduates who were taking one or more distance education classes rose from 8 percent to 20 percent. The adoption of distance learning isn’t only occurring with college and university students but also with K-12 students. In 2011, the Evergreen Education Group reported around 250,000 U.S. K-12 students were enrolled in full-time virtual learning programs showing a growth of 40% from just three years earlier. Distance learning allows students to learn from anywhere provided they have a good internet connection. Students enrolled in distance learning classes can often work their educational goals around their immediate obligations such as family, work or a professional sport more easily than if they were attending traditional classes in a classroom. Distance learning is also a popular choice for students with disabilities because it allows them more flexibility to work with highly specialized educators which may not be available in their hometown or district.


Educators, parents and future students interested in distance education can find a wide range of sources on the internet to answer their questions and get started down the path to learning. From graduating from high school or college to just signing up for a few free ESL classes, here are resources available to everyone.

  • Peterson’s College SearchA complete collection of distance learning programs available around the world. Easy to search and find educational solutions.
  • Online Education DatabaseOver 80 accredited online college options searchable by program, college or degree level.
  • Academic EarthA wide range of online courses from top scholars around the world.
  • United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural OrganizationA comprehensive collection of information including scholarly articles on distance learning, educational organizations and associations, online educational journals, resources for teacher and much more.
  • United States Distance Learning AssociationA resource for educators and students on the latest distance learning research, awards, career support and more. USDLA’s top goals are to advocate for distance learning, promote policy and provide leadership in the field.
  • K12Virtual school opportunities for students in K-12 grades, offering a large collection of accredited schools and courses available for students.
  • Public Administration DepartmentTraining and certification distance programs available around the United States for adult and post-high school students.
  • InfoUSA Department of StateResources for students and teachers looking to learn more about distance learning, administration, special needs education and beyond.


With the rising popularity of distance learning, researchers and educators around the globe are looking into the implications of this massive shift in education. Here is a collection of scholarly resources on the latest research in distance learning.

  • Ten Efficient Strategies for Distance LearningResearched and prepared by Thomas C. Wright and Scott L. Howell, PhD, both of Brigham Young University, this paper delves into ways administrators and educators working in distance education fields can find the resources they need for success.
  • Measuring Success: Evaluation Strategies for Distance Education - Published in Educause Quarterly, this paper present effective ways to measure the success of distance education programs.
  • Distance Learning: Promises, Problems and PossibilitiesDoug Valentine of the University of Oklahoma delivers a concise looks at distance learning today and in the future.
  • Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration – Peer reviewed and written by professionals in the distance learning administration field, the OJDLA is a great resource for new information on how distance learning is providing disabled students with the education they need.


Blogs kept by professionals in the distance learning field are a perfect way to get up to date information on the latest news and research for distance students, educators and administrators.

  • Stephen DownesNews and information on e-learning, new media, distance learning and much more.
  • E-Learning QueenA blog by Susan Smith Nash featuring well-researched blogs, interviews and more on distance training and education.
  • The Thinking StickBlogs from Jeff Utecht, an education consultant with experience in the field of online training and education.
  • E-School NewsThe go-to source for the latest distance education news.
  • Your Tech Vision – A blog from Denise M. Robinson, PhD, on distance education using technology for the blind specifically, as well as students with other disabilities.