What is the difference? In the book “Distance Education, A System’s View” co-authored by Moore and Kearsley, we learn about the systems required to facilitate a distance education experience. In distance education the learner is physically at a distant from the learning environment and the instructor. Thus, the use of distance education in the classroom is totally opposite of what eLearning courses are developed for. In distance education the magic is in the instructional facilitation and the creativeness of the learning institution to create that classroom feeling online. Social presence is one of the key elements that makes the learning transfer very successful. Teaching presence and cognitive presence being the other two. Without these elements then the learning experience becomes a struggle throughout the duration of the course. The technology helps to enhance this phenomena but it is still up to the instructor to utilize all the available tools to conduct a successful class.
In eLearning the learning is self-directed and learner centric. In that the individual wanting to learn more on a particular subject/topic will take it upon themselves to do. Then eLearning becomes a viable tool for this type of learner but the development of the course is very critical in that the delivery must create a learning environment within the technology. There is no facilitation and there is no synchronous communication with the instructor or classmates. The key in eLearning is that the course needs to be built (developed) in such a way that the technology drives the learner to the knowledge and guides him through the learning process. There is distance and there is technology but there is no faciliation to drive the learning. That is the major difference in distance education and eLearning in the aspect of using technology to enhance online learning. I am sure there some arguments for both but I favor the distance education platform more because of the enhancement the technology can bring into the classroom. Like integrating Web 2.0 tools to promote interaction and engagement in a more creative manner.