A distance learning university is a university that offers programs on a correspondence basis known as distance education. Students receive and send in assignments through mail or email rather than attending the school in person. In other words, the difference between on-site and remote university studies is physical. Rather than communicate face to face, students are connected to faculty and other students through technology. Many top universities feature distance education programs and courses.
For example, the world renowned University of Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK) is a distance learning university. Oxford offers undergraduate and post-graduate diplomas and certificates in courses such as "Master of Studies in International Human Rights Law" and "Undergraduate Advanced Diploma in Data and System Analysis." Harvard University, the prestigious Cambridge, Massachusetts university, has Internet based distance education courses as well as online seminars and lectures through its Harvard Extension School.
In 2007, the reputable Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, became a distance learning university in two ways. Stanford started the first online high school for gifted students as well as launched an international outreach program that same year. Stanford's distance education high school diploma program, Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY), is designed to be completed by gifted students in three years. The international outreach program adapts Stanford's education programs in collaboration with education models in African and Latin American universities.
A distance learning university usually offers prospective students self-assessment materials to help them discover whether distance education and online programs are right for them. Distance education is not for everyone because it takes an extreme amount of self-motivation and a close attention to deadlines to successfully complete mail correspondence or online classes. Not having much social interaction is a concern for some prospective distance education students, but many distance university courses today include online discussions between students as well as group projects using online technology.
Completing a course or degree on a part-time basis through a distance learning university can be a great option for those with work hours or commitments such as raising children that don’t allow them to attend a university full time in person. Exam delivery varies widely depending on each distance learning university. Not all schools offer exams remotely, and in this case, students may be required to take exams in nearby colleges or universities. Distance education is not something to rush into lightly, but it can be a great opportunity for those needing a flexible alternative to attending university on campus.