Open and Distance Learning (ODL)

Open and Distance Learning (ODL)

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Approaches that focus on opening access to education and training provision, freeing learners from the constraints of time (asynchronous learning) and place (distance learning), and offering a high level of autonomy and flexible learning opportunities to individual and groups of learners. This flexibility is related with the content of the course, the way in which it is structured, the place, medium and timing of its delivery, the pace of the process and the forms of support available. Types of open and distance learning are correspondence education, home study and independent study, continuing education, self-education, adult learning, technology-based education, learner-centered approach to education, open learning, flexible learning, e-learning, computer-based training (CBT), and distributed learning. Open and distance learning offers a number of advantages to learners and to providers of learning opportunities.

The concept of open and distance learning has the following characteristics [1]:

  1. Separation of trainer and learner in time or place
  2. Institutional accreditation (with the official recognition of a learning institution)
  3. Use of mixed-media courseware (use of radio, television, video, audio, computer-based instruction and telecommunications)
  4. Two-way communication (allow interaction between learners and tutors)
  5. Possibility of face-to-face meetings for tutorials (in libraries, laboratories, and practice sessions)
  6. Used of industrialized processes (in a large scale of open and distance learning, labor is divided and tasks are assigned to various staff who work together in course development teams)

See also: Online Learning; Lifelong Learning; Flexible Learning; Self-Paced Learning; Distance Learning

Link icon.png Web Resources
Link Content
What is distance learning? (1 minute video) Definition of distance learning in a 1 minute video.
Asian Journal of Distance Education The main aim of the Asian Journal of Distance Education is to disseminate scholarly works and information useful to researchers and practitioners in the growing field of distance education in Asia.
Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning The Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning is a refereed journal published annually by the New Zealand Association for Open, Flexible and Distance Learning (DEANZ). It publishes articles from around the world relating to primary research investigations, literature reviews, the application of distance education innovations, and the experiences of teaching at a distance.


  1. The commonwealth of learning (5 March 2008), (09 July 2008)