Does Technology Improve Learning at a Distance


Does technology improve learning at a distance? That is a great question! However, such a question is not easily answered.

Think about it. When we look at the world “improve,” we could be talking about the ability, the level, the quality, or even the amount actually learned. Setting aside clear hindrances such as physical education and socialization activities, we must examine this question through the eyes of reason. Let me explain.

According to Paul & Tait (2019), some clear advantages of distance education include increased access, better support, and a focus on technology. Additionally, students can usually fit their classes into their schedules, they can choose where they study, they can learn from almost any university in the world, and distance education often costs less than traditional classes (Rasheed, 2020). For these reasons alone, one could answer the question with a resounding “yes,” as all of these seemingly demonstrate an improved ability to learn at a distance.

However, in light of some high attrition rates, the lack of critical reflection during forced discussions, and the reliance on tools (such as social media) that can invade privacy and that aim to manipulate users, it could also be argued that the quality of distance learning depends on who is teaching and what tools are being used (Anderson & Rivera-Vargas, 2020). This perspective echoes Dr. Rick Reis, who has suggested that “it is not the technology that has an effect; it is the way it is used” (Reis, 2002). Ultimately, Dr. Reis points to the importance of technology in relation to instructional design and says that questions remain regarding quality, regardless of online or on-campus (Reis, 2002).

Quality is relative. While technology opens up a great deal of opportunity, one must remember that lousy instruction can occur regardless of where or how it takes place, and students still have to care. With that being said, we must recognize that surveys continue to find that online education outperforms on-campus education around the world and across all ages (Busteed, 2019). So perhaps the answer to the question regarding quality is also a “yes,” but only with a strong understanding that it can sometimes depend on the program, the tools, the teacher, and the desire of the student to learn.

If you enjoyed this brief article, you might also enjoy my article regarding “The Internet and Distance Education.


Anderson, T., & Rivera-Vargas, P. (2020). A Critical look at Educational Technology from a Distance Education Perspective. Digital Education Review, 37, 208–229.

Busteed, B. (2019, March 05). Online Education: From Good To Better To Best? Retrieved August 30, 2020, from

Paul, R. & Tait, A. (2019). Special Issue: Open Universities: Past, Present and Future. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 20 (4), i–viii.

Rasheed, R. (2020, February 11). What’s distance learning? Retrieved August 31, 2020, from

Reis, R. (2002). Quality in Distance Education Focus on On-Line Learning. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from