Learner Support Common Questions
Distance Learning? Online Learning? E-Learning?
What does all this mean? What are the differences? Does it matter?
Here are definitions to get you started.
Distance Learning - Usually defined as any teaching-learning environment where the learner and the teacher are physically separated, and technology (i.e., voice, video, data, and some face-to-face communication) is used to bridge the instructional gap.
Online Learning - Online learning is "on demand" training stored on a server and accessed via a browser. It is self-directed learning anytime to any individual who has access to the Web.
There is no easy definition of online/distance/e-learning. You must define for yourself what online learning is for you. You must determine what definition is right for you, keeping in mind that these terms are used pretty much interchangeably, though there are slight differences in their definitions.
Distance learning ranges from text only to full audio and video real time interaction with an instructor streamlined through the Internet and viewed through a browser. It is at least a presentation of information, but ideally it is instruction. Generally, all online learning is to some degree self-directed and self-paced, and can be group or individual instruction. It is as multimedia rich as bandwidth, hardware and software allows.
Online learning can include text and graphics, animation, audio and video, discussion boards, email, chats, testing and some form of progress reports.
E-Learning - E-learning is the unifying term to describe the fields of online learning, web-based training, and technology-delivered instruction.
Come to class whenever it's convenient for you by choosing when and where you participate in class. You choose the place - at home, at school - wherever you have access to a computer, modem, and an Internet Service Provider (ISP You'll get the same high-quality instruction and course content that you demand, but without the day-to-day obstacles that prevent so many of us from pursuing other goals.
Why Participate in Online Learning?
Bandwidth - slow performance for sound, video and intensive graphics
Firewalls - Firewalls can sometimes keep your students from accessing or downloading information
Technology Challenges - not all students will have the exact same processor speed, modem speed, browser version or collection of plug-ins
There is sometimes a lag time in student feedback compared to instructor led learning - in the classroom questions may be answered immediately; online, they are answered anytime from a few hours to a few days.
Not all courses are delivered well this way.
The Partner Training Section (PTS) delivers distance learning topics primarily through the internet. All of the PTS courses are launched through the PTS Learning Center.
Asynchronous delivery of online learning means that students login to access training from anyplace at anytime.
The advantages of this type of training are that it is available at anytime and is very self managing. The problems however, are that there is a high percentage of individuals not completing the entire course, and the retention of material is not very high because of the lack of interaction between the students and the material.
Examples – workbooks, PowerPoint presentations, Computer Based Training programs, and websites.
Synchronous delivery means that students access training from anyplace, but at the same time.
Synchronous delivery has a higher rate of interaction.
Examples – WisLine Web, videoconferencing, teleconferencing.
The ideal solution is a combination of both of these.
You saw the methods used by PTS in the examples above under asynchronous and synchronous delivery. Here is more information on the primary methods PTS uses to provide training.
Workbooks/Instructional Documents - These are typically Adobe Acrobat files created to provide information and related exercises. These can be downloaded and printed.
PowerPoints - These are slide shows that provide information and related exercises. Often there are links to be printed within the slide show, but the entire slide show is not intended to be printed.
Computer Based Trainings - These are interactive programs that provide instruction on a particular topic.
Websites - Often you will find references to websites that provide additional information; or, in some cases the website has been developed by PTS to provide instruction as well as links related to a particular topic.
WisLine Webs - These are synchronous activities in which you access a slide show presented by an individual along with a teleconference. You must register to participate and sign in to the WisLine Web at the designated time.
Hardware and Software Requirements
- Pentium III or higher
- 128Mb memory or higher
- High speed Internet connection
- Sound card/speakers
- Internet browser
- Authorware web player
- Flash player
- Powerpoint viewer
- Adobe Acrobat reader
All software and readers needed can be downloaded through the Distance Learning Tools page of the PTS website.
Online learning offers you the flexibility to learn at your own pace, on your own schedule, and to concentrate on the areas that are important to you. You’re in the driver’s seat, so take advantage of being in charge of your own training.