This is a learning method that allows students to study from their workplace or from home. Student and teacher are in different physical locations and the teaching activity itself may take place at different times, or in an asynchronous manner. The teaching material can be delivered through various channels. The very first examples of distance learning were traditional correspondence courses, which developed with the evolution of communications technology into new opportunities for learning on-line.
This term refers to the software that generates a virtual learning environment in which it is possible to provide training courses, manage and monitor the learning progress of users and access a series of linked communications tools and services, such as forums and tutoring. At present, the market offer two types of platform: first generation platforms, more oriented toward delivery (meaning the provision of content/courses, and so have come to be known as Content Delivery Systems), and second generation platforms, more oriented toward managing the entire educational process (and so known as Learning Management Systems).
On-line Learning (e-Learning, distance learning)
This is a form of education accessible via the Internet and managed through e-Learning software infrastructures. The educational programs and services provided on-line can have different levels of complexity. In addition to the on-line courses, the most modern and sophisticated versions of e-learning also include learning tools such as: group discussions with colleagues or experts, on-line monitoring and links to other material resident on the Internet. Web-based courses are often preferable to traditional classroom courses because they are more practical for working professionals seeking refresher courses, and are totally free of limitations in terms of space and distance.
Synchronous/Asynchronous (study activities)
These terms refer to the way the learning process is implemented. ‘Synchronous’ means that the courses are provided in real time, that is to say, with all the people involved (students, teachers and tutors) interacting at the same time, even though in different places. Examples of synchronous mode include virtual classrooms and video conferences. This mode has the advantage of permitting a good level of interaction between the various participants. The main disadvantage, however, is that it requires that all the people involved meet at the same time. On the other hand, ‘asynchronous’ mode does not require the simultaneous presence of all participants, and so while not permitting simultaneous interaction, this mode has the advantage of giving users total freedom to utilise the courses whenever they choose.