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One of the most significant developments in the field of education during the last
two decades has been the acceptance, spread and growth of distance education
through open learning systems in most parts of the world.
The terms 'distance education' and' open learning' have been used in different
contexts with some what different meanings. Distance Education has been defined
as an educational process in which a significant proportion of the teaching is
conducted by someone removed in space and/or time from the learner. Distance
Education programmes have often used a combination of educational media, old
and new, varying from print to broadcasts to audio and video recordings, and
included opportunities for face to face study as well as learning from recorded
The term 'open learning' has been used to refer to the process of making learning
available to learners no matter who they are or where or when they wish to study.
The term 'open' has been taken to imply open access for students regardless of their
previous qualifications or age. International experience shows that distance
education and open learning tend to complement each other.
The term distance education is a fairly recent one, but the concept it expresses is
150 years old. It gained formal recognition in 1982 when the four decades old
International Council for Correspondence Education (ICCE) changed its name to
the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE). This was an acceptance
of the fact that distance education was no longer primarily associated with the
printed word and had successfully incorporated the use of multi- media in the
teaching- learning process.

Distance education is now internationally recognised and accepted as an alternative
channel for providing broader access to education in a cost-effective manner; wider
and diversified curricula and a means for continuing life-long education.
Increasingly new categories of clients are seeking better education; the young who
for one reason or the other are not able to join a college or university; adults who
want to acquire a diploma or degree; professionals who want to keep pace with
technological change; persons required to discharge responsibilities for which their
formal education does not equip them; those who do not want to get uprooted from
their environment and do not want a disruption from their responsibilities at home
and/or in their offices; and those who look for education at their door step. Many of
these categories may not fit in with the normal admission criteria and find that their
aspirations may not be fulfilled through the conventional system of education.
This is also a time of convergence between the worldwide need to extend and
develop educational opportunities and the development of new communication
technologies viz. sophisticated printing methods, audio based technology, video
technologies; computer based technologies; and satellite communication, making it
possible for learners to get access to the world's knowledge from the remotest and
most inaccessible areas.