In the Distance Education mode of education, students may not be required to be present in a classroom, but that also maybe a question of option. For example in the Open Universities in India, especially in the Indira Gandhi National Open University, week end contact sessions are held. These are optional, but for certain courses which have practical components such as those for computers, attendance to the tune of about 90% is compulsory.
Distance education these days are offered as an electronic classroom or Virtual Learning Environment that it may or not be a part of a distance education set up. Electronic classrooms can be both on campus, and off campus. We would call such institutions as using a ‘flexible’ delivery mode.
Distance Education may also use all forms of technology, from print to the computer. This range will include radio, television, audio video conferencing, computer aided instruction, e-learning/on-line learning through internet etc.
Distance Education has traversed four to five ‘generations’ of technology in its history. These are print, audio/video broadcasting, audio/video teleconferencing, computer aided instruction, e-learning/ online-learning, computer broadcasting etc. Yet the radio remains a very viable form, especially in the developing nations, because of its reach. In India the FM Channels are becoming very popular and is being used by the national open university ( Indira Gandhi National Open University) and its consortia plus the state open universities, to broadcast educational programs of variety on areas such as teacher education, rural development, programs in agriculture for farmers, science education, creative writing, mass communication, in addition to traditional courses in liberal arts, science and business administration.
Older models of distance education utilized regular mail to send written material, videos, audiotapes, and CD-ROMs or other media storage format (e.g. SDRAM or Compact Flash cards) to the student and to turn in the exercises. Today’s distance education course makes use of E-mail, the Web, and video conferencing over broadband network connections for both wired physical locations and wireless mobile learning. In some countries, the material is supplemented by television and radio programming. To compete with the conventional sector, course material must be of very high quality and completeness, and will use modern technologies such as educational animation. Distance education also involves time to time interaction with the faculty of the University that offers the course.