We have multiple types of delivery formats available to us, however, many times we use words interchangeably and never think about what they really mean. This causes problems when talking to clients because what they envision as eLearning might be what you consider distance learning and all of a sudden your final product does not meet their needs. So its always best to define and describe during your proposal so that an operational definition can be established. In this post I will describe some of differences between all of these common terms so that you can more easily describe to clients what you are designing.
Online learning – Online learning is any type of learning that takes place online. However, to most people this refers to 100% asynchronous learning where there is no live meeting and the learners have 24/7 access to the content
eLearning – Self paced learning that is computer or mobile based. The module is completed without an instructor. A lot of people also refer to this as online learning and use the two words interchangeably.
Distance learning – Again, this is another term that people use interchangeably with online and elearning. However, distance learning means learning that takes place at a distance without an instructor. There is no technology requirement but it can exist. In fact, the first distance education courses were developed in the 1800s.
Virtual learning – Learning that takes place in a virtual environment, that is live, and uses video conference technology.
Face to face learning – learning that happens real time in a classroom.
As you can see, there are real differences between all of these but most clients wont know those differences so you need to be careful when discussing them to make sure that you and the client are on the same page.