IATE Term of the Week: Distance Learning


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It is always interesting to explore the ways in which negatively charged words – in terms of what kind of emotional impact they cause upon humans – can change and acquire a positive meaning, raising feelings of optimism and joy. One of these examples is the IATE term of this week ‘’Distance Learning”.

“Distance Learning” is one of the alternative ways of learning that have been generated and have become applicable thanks to technological progress. Simply put, Distance Learning is the concept of learning which can be achieved without students’ physical face-to-face presence. The development of information and communication technology tools have made this restructured study mode applicable.

There seems to be a confusion between Distance Learning and Online Learning, since both these educational methods use the internet and technological tools to enable educational activities. But there is a major difference between these two types of education. Online Learning can be achieved through the use of online educational tools and activities while learners are physically present in a classroom. By contrast, Distance Learning as a concept excluded physical presence.

According to technology specialists, the concept of distance education has gained a different dimension through the use of Web 3.0 internet tools instead of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 tools. Educational institutions have created new opportunities thanks to the development of the internet and its increasing use, while also providing e-learning environments to provide web support for Distance Education. Distance Education is hence a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy, technology, and instructional system designs that aim to deliver education to students who are not physically “on site” in a traditional classroom or campus.

IATE entry Distance Learning
Click on the image to access IATE entry.

Etymologically speaking, ‘distance’ comes from the English ‘distaunce’, via the Old French noun ‘destance’ and meaning ‘a dispute, a controversy, civil strife and rebellion’. The initial stem is the Latin noun ‘distantia’, meaning ‘a standing apart’ and deriving from the present participle of the Latin verb ‘distare’, ‘to stand apart’, from the prefix ‘dis-‘ meaning  ‘apart, off’ and the verb stare ‘to stand,’ from the PIE root *sta- ‘to stand, make or be firm.’

Learning comes from the old English ‘leornian’, meaning “to get knowledge, be cultivated; study, read, think about,” from the Proto-Germanic root *lisnojanan (which led to the present-day German verb ‘lernen’).  

Technology unites these two words, giving birth to this alternative way of being educated and helping people cope with the stressful to-do lists of their everyday routines without being deprived of learning opportunities. Distance Learning has been mainly considered to be popular mostly among working adults who wish to seize education opportunities or to achieve their own learning objectives.

However, the unpredictability of life has brought Distance Learning into the spotlight, since the events related to the Covid-19 virus have asked for quarantine measures. Even students of younger ages have had to adjust to this way of learning so that they could continue their education as normally as possible.



Online Cambridge Dictionary. 2020. Meaning of Distance in English by Online Cambridge Dictionary [ONLINE] Available at:  https:// dictionary.cambridge.org /dictionary/ english /distance?q= DISTNACE [Accessed 09 July 2020].

Online Etymology Dictionary. 2020. Distance, Origin and meaning of the word Distance by Online Etymology Dictionary. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.etymonline.com/word/distance    [Accessed 09 July 2020].

Online Etymology Dictionary. 2020. Learn, Origin and meaning of the word Relief by Online Etymology Dictionary. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.etymonline.com/word/learn     [Accessed 09 July 2020].

Maria Papamargariti pictureWritten by Maria Papamargariti, Greek and English Philologist, writer in the field of children’s literature.