Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-17, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 4 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2017.


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Distributed education

core definition

Distributed education occurs when the teacher and student are situated in separate locations and learning occurs through the use of technologies (such as video and internet), which may be part of a wholly distance education programme or supplementary to traditional instruction.

explanatory context

Distributed education is similar but contrasted with distance education because it includes both education delivered wholly off-campus and elements of traditional education made available remotely. It is, thus, similar to blended learning. 

analytical review

According to Tarleton State University (2004):

Distributed Education is not just a new term to replace the other 'DE,' distance education. Rather, it comes from the concept of distributed resources. Distributed education is an instructional model that allows instructor, students, and content to be located in different, non-centralized locations so that instruction and learning occur independent of time and place. The distributed learning model can be used in combination with traditional classroom-based courses, with traditional distance learning courses, or it can be used to create wholly virtual classrooms 


According to Brown and Wheeler (2001):

Distributed education is a term referring to flexible and location independent course delivery. It covers a range of provision including campus-based learning, distance education, work-based and home-based learning. Distributed education provision is currently being driven by a new generation of technologies. The convergent action of technologies is facilitated by telecommunications, in either cabled or wireless format.


Camosun College (2005a) stated:

Distributed Education is learning and teaching that includes choices from a variety of learning technologies. For students, Distributed Education offers flexibility and accessibility that would not otherwise be possible. Students taking DE courses may spend less time on campus than students who are engaged in more traditional courses. 

 Camosun College (2010, p. 13) revised the earlier definition to:

Distributed Education is delivery of course material using a variety of learning technologies such as online, the radio, by correspondence or a combination of distance education media with on-campus components. 

University of Alaska Anchorage (2002) defines:

Distributed education is learning that takes place where the course instructor uses traditional and new delivery technologies such as videotape, two-way videoconferencing and web-based instruction to provide services to students at a distance or to extend and enhance traditional classroom instructions.


Much the same view comes from Partlow and Lavagnino (undated) of the Committee On Institutional Cooperation (CIC):

Distributed education is an instructional model that allows instructor, students, and content to be located in different, non-centralized locations so that instruction and learning happen independent of time and place. The distributed education model can be used to augment traditional classroom-based courses, to deliver traditional distance education courses, or it can be used to create wholly virtual classrooms.


Texas Higher Education Co-ordinating Board (undated) states:

Distributed education is education provided through instruction delivered other than face-to-face on a student’s home campus. It may be delivered through electronic modes of distance education including television, interactive video conferencing, or computer networks, or it may be delivered off-campus by faculty travel to distant sites.


University of Missouri-Columbia (undated) notes:

At MU distributed education features three distinct levels. These levels may be viewed either as distinct efforts or as levels on a continuum, with one level leading into the next:

·        Distributed Education - Level 1 (Face-to-face sessions with supporting use of instructional technologies - i.e., a syllabus on the Web, use of an electronic gradebook)

·        Distributed Education - Level 2 (Significant use of instructional technologies with reduced number of face-to-face sessions - i.e., Web pages with substantive content, interactive group projects via email or chats)

·        Distributed/Distance Education - Level 3 (Instruction and interaction almost totally delivered via video, computer, and/or audio technologies).

These levels, however, have common characteristics. Distributed education is often defined to include the following:

·        Teacher, students, course or curriculum, and acknowledgment of teacher and learner roles.

·        Physical separation of learner and teacher for some or all of the instructional program.

·        Physical separation of learner from the classroom for some or all of the instructional program.

·        Students taught, assessed, given guidance, and prepared for evaluation or assessment individually or in groups.

·        Use of two-way communication, often via computer, video, audio, or print to extend and enhance teacher-student and student-student interaction.


In their White Paper, the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE) (2003) define distributed learning as follows:

Distributed Learning (DL) or distributed education is “…any educational or instructional activity in which students are separated from faculty and other students” (Council for Higher Education Accreditation, p.1, 2002). Moore and Kearsley, describe DL as:“…planned learning that normally occurs in a different place from teaching and as a result requires special techniques of course design, special instructional techniques, special methods of communication by electronic and other technology, as well as special organizational and administrative arrangements” (1996, p. 2). Although the terms“distributed learning” and “distributed education” are used interchangeably, distributed education is the process while distributed learning is the result. Within the literature the terms “distance”, “distributed” and “distributive” are commonly used; no terminology consensus yet exists for this type of education and learning.


The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) (undated) states:

Flexible and distributed learning: A programme or module that does not require the student to attend classes or events at particular times and locations.



NAEMSE (2003) go on to describe the features of distributed learning thus:

Distributed Learning has specific features that differ from other forms of education delivery systems.

·        DL delivery methods comprise print, audio, video, video-conference, interactive

·        CD-ROM/DVD, web-based, and computer-based media, or any combination of these.

·        Communication between instructor and learner, and among learners, can be synchronous or asynchronous.

·        Asynchronous instruction is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

·        The learning environment is student-centered. DL Educators typically create learning environments that encourage or require the student to take more initiative in their education.

associated issues

What is the difference between distance education and distributed education?

According to Tarleton State University (2004):

Although the phrases “distributed education” and “distance education” are often used interchangeably, distributed education has a broader meaning. The primary characteristic of distance education is that learning takes place independently of place and time, allowing students to absorb the content from a distance. On the other hand, the principal goal of distributed education is to customize learning environments to better-fit different learning styles, whether students are on or off campus. In this new pedagogical model, students are encouraged to learn in an interactive and collaborative environment.

Distance education is a subset of distributed learning, focusing on students who may be separated in time and space from their peers and the instructor. Distributed education can occur either on or off campus, providing students with greater flexibility and eliminating time as a barrier to learning. A common feature of both distance and distributed learning is technology. Regardless of whether students are on campus or online, there are many implications of integrating technology into education, i.e., in making learning distributed.


Camosun College (2005b) suggests:

Distributed Education is related to Distance Education but it is not strictly the same. Distance Education implies that learners are remote from the College and that there is no requirement for face-to-face meetings. This may be true for some distributed education courses and programs but not all. Distributed education includes distance education, education that has limited amount of face-to-face (in class) learning, and courses that have the usual in-class schedule with enhancements using technology and every thing in between. Distributed education courses or programs may have a reduced number of face-to-face hours than traditional classroom-based courses or programs.

International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) (2011) refers to distributed learning rather than education and suggests there is little difference from distance learning:

Distributed learning – Any learning that allows instructor, students, and content to be located in different locations so that instruction and learning occur independent of time and place; often used synonymously with the term “Distance learning”.

related areas

See also

Distance education

Blended learning


Brown, G. and Wheeler, S., 2001, ‘An Evaluation of Wireless Local Area Networks in Distributed Education’, paper to be presented at the Telecon East Conference, Washington D.C., USA, April 2001. , accessed 12 July 2012, page not available 3 January 2017.

CamosunCollege, 2005a, Distributed Education,, no longer at this address 2 March 2011.

CamosunCollege, 2005b, Distributed Education - Frequently Asked Questions, no longer at this address 2 March 2011.

CamosunCollege, 2010, Your Guide to Online Registration 2010 available at, accessed 12 July 2012, page not available 3 January 2017.

International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), 2011, The Online Learning Definitions Project, October, iNACOL.

National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE), Distributed Learning Committee, 2003, Internet-Based Distributed Learning in EMS Education, White Paper prepared for the NAEMSE Board of Directors by the Distributed Learning Committee, September, 2003 Approved by the Board of Directors on 10 November, 2003,, no longer at this address 2 March 2011.

Partlow, K. and Lavagnino, M.B., undated, Strategic Opportunities in Collaborative Distributed Education: A Discussion Document A Working Draft, Committee On Institutional Cooperation (CIC).

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 3 January 2017.

Tarleton  StateUniversity, 2004, About Distributed Education, What is Distributed Education?,, no longer at this address 2 March 2011.

Texas Higher Education Co-ordinating Board, undated, Distance Education, accessed April 2005, no longer at this address 2 March 2011.

University of Alaska Anchorage (2002) What is Distance Ed? Distance or Distributed? available at , no longer at this address 2 March 2011.

University of Missouri-Columbia (undated), ET@MO, What is Educational Technology?, available at, accessed April, 2005, no longer at this address 2 March 2011.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2017

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