Correspondence education is part of distance education in which all the course materials are given to the learner via mail or electronic means so that she can master the materials on her own at her own pace. Distance education nowadays means online education with various instructional delivery models, synchronous or asynchronous, using Internet or TV. Both models came into being to implement, overcome or improve the existing brick-and-mortar instructional model.

Differences in the Delivery Methods

Correspondence education relies on the self-paced learning of the student as it does not include any face-to-face interaction at all—an instructor-centered, and not student-centered, one-way communication. It was first developed in the mid-nineteenth century in Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United States to overcome the challenges of access to university education, especially for servicemen, via the improved modern mail delivery system. Unlike correspondence education, today’s distance education takes advantage of ever-improving, fast Internet technology. Typically, the instruction is delivered instantaneously via live chat in the virtual classroom. Some models may incorporate emails and live chats as well as audio or video recordings.

Differences in Academic Rigor

Online education offers a far more interactive environment than the traditional correspondence model does; in fact, the teacher and the student can have a face-to-face, simultaneous interaction during live chats in virtual classrooms. Although they are geographically isolated, they can have a quasi-face-to-face environment, enhancing academic rigor. Most importantly, today’s online education involves lots of learning activities correspondence education could only dream of, such as discussion boards, email, instant messaging, cybraries or ebraries, cell phone applications, teleconferences and weekly assignments. Far more structured than correspondence education, today’s online education is more rigorous because the traditional correspondence education, done through mail delivery, fails to offer any student-to-student peer interaction vital to education, let alone student-to-teacher interaction. In short, correspondence education is static while online education is fluid and dynamic.

Convenience and Flexibility Factors

Both models offer a good measure of autonomy to learners as they do not rely on the rigid schedules of on-the-ground models Of the two, correspondence education typically offers more flexibility due to its “hands off” approach for a self-paced learning process. However, such a benefit may not be a good thing to all learners, as it requires self-motivation and self-discipline. Online education also offers flexibility, especially since most of the live chats are usually archived so that you can check the recordings at your convenience; many working adults will appreciate this feature. However, there are deadlines for posting your reactions on the discussion boards, a good example that attests to how online education is not as flexible as correspondence education.


Sometimes correspondence education is called Correspondence Courses, Extension Courses, Extended Studies, Home Study, Continuing Education, External Studies, Self-Paced Studies, Independent Studies and Distance Learning. Similarly, distance education is also called Cyber Education, Online Education, Virtual Education, Technology-Supported Education, Hybrid Education and Distributed Learning. Some distance education models require on-the-ground classes as well, and such mixing of online and on-the-ground classes are often called hybrid classes.