Critical Components in Distance Education  

For a distance education program to succeed, some critical components need to be observed.  Depending on the type of DE program and on the method of delivery, these concepts may vary.  Because of my extensive involvement in online education, I will focus on some of these critical components as they pertain to online programs.  

  1. Knowledge of Technology

For a DE program to start, all involved should have sufficient knowledge of how technology can be applied (Khan 2001, p.32).  Lack of knowledge may promote resistance and deprive the institution from its ability to develop strategic plans (Berge 2000).  

  1. Availability of  Viable Information Technology Infrastructure

Unless the institute provides the access and the support needed, a DE program is doomed to fail (Khan 2001).  I had this experience at Long Beach College in Southern California many years ago.  After I developed and designed the course, there was no support for it to launch.  

  1. Access

For a DE program to meet its objectives, access must be available to all involved.  Institutions ought to recognize this “new circumstance” and do what they can to provide access to available technology (Khan 2001, p.27).       

  1. Competent Educators

Not only that an instructor be competent in the subject matter s/he is teaching, but also competence in technology is essential (Khan, 2001, p.25).  In order for an instructor to provide an effective course, s/he must be able to utilize new and available technologies.  

  1. Understanding the Nature of DE

Not all teachers make effective distance educators.  A distance educator has to be able to give up some of his/her control and traditional role as the sole provider of information.  In DE, the instructor is a facilitator who provides challenging objects and who guides the learner to think critically (Kearsley & Marquardt  2001).   

  1. Effective Content Organization

Because of the nature of DE, course materials must be clear, well organized and easily accessed.  Content must integrate available technologies to enhance learning and to improve the chances of meeting course objectives.

  1. Effective Course Platform and Course Design

It is essential that learners surf through course materials with ease.  A complex and cumbersome design will impede learning.  Thus, how a course platform is designed may play a significant role in outcome.  

  1. Motivated Partners

Both the teacher and the students should be motivated and self-disciplined.  The instructor must may available to provide feed back.  The learners must not be intimidated and must be eager to participate (Khan 2001, p.24).  

  1. Individualized Learning

Teachers in DE ought to know the various learning styles and attempt to accommodate some individualized instructions using available technologies such as chat rooms (Khan 2001).  

  1. Valid and Reliable Assessment  

Assessment is crucial for the success of a DE program.  Assessment here does not  refer only to the learner’s performance, but also to the program itself (Khan 2001, p.47).  


Khan, B.H.. 2001. Web-Based Training. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey : Educational Technology Publications.