How Does Distance Learning Work?

How Does Distance Learning Work?

Distance learning removes the traditional boundaries of time and location to offer you the flexibility not often found in other academic situations. You can set your own pace and choose the most convenient time and place to study.

Classes designated as distance involve a variety of delivery methods, and require that students have access to equipment such as a desktop computer or laptop, a DVD player, or landline phone access. The student is not required to participate in a physical classroom, but may be required to return instructional materials by mail in some courses.


The course recordings can be viewed on DVD players and on computers with DVD-ROM drives. DVDs are campus lectures (recorded in the classroom, with discs shipped on a regular basis) or pre-recorded lectures (classroom recordings from past semesters, shipped to the student at the beginning of the term).

In most courses, discs are provided at no additional cost and may be kept by the students. In some courses, discs must be returned to the originating department or office at the end of the term and/or may need to be purchased at an additional cost. Many courses which use DVDs also provide access to the recordings via streaming video or download. Details are provided in the individual course descriptions.


These courses use printed materials sent by U.S. mail. Students use study guides, textbooks, and other materials in place of classroom instruction. Using these resources as a guide, students complete assignments and mail or email them to CSU Online or the department office for evaluation and grading. Most courses require supervised examinations using a proctor. Successful completion of a course is based on meeting all course requirements, including assignments and exams.

Audio Conferencing

Students call into a conference bridge number and are connected to the on-campus classroom through a conference phone. Students may ask questions and join the on-campus discussion. Students are required to join the class as it is occurring, to pay for long distance phone charges, and to use a speaker phone with mute capability.

Distance Learning Blended with Classroom Instruction

Some programs combine distance learning with classroom instruction. Course instruction is provided to students through online or distance delivery methods as well as taking place in the classroom with other students and the instructors. The amount of time that students are required to be in a physical classroom varies, so it is important to check each program or course webpage for detailed information.