Technology allows higher education organizations to tap into a vast array of resources to allow students to work away from campus. Most higher education organizations leverage technology to reach learning objectives, for example, by using educational software or a learning management system to organize courses.

However, when it comes to differentiating remote from virtual learning, there can be certain misconceptions. While both systems rely on IT to operate, there are essential differences between them. Understanding these differences can help organizations to understand which solution is best for their students.

What is virtual learning?

With virtual learning, the learning experience is enhanced by technology, regardless of the space in which it takes place (such as school or home). Virtual learning has been used in some form for a number of years.

Virtual learning is usually designed for self-paced or live web conference learning and is carried out completely online with access to a wide range of educational resources from anywhere in the world. Usually, virtual learning provides a completely online experience, allowing courses to be completed in the student’s own time.

What are the advantages of virtual learning for schools and students?

Online education offers important advantages to schools and higher education organizations

  • It is highly scalable, and it’s easier to reach students from different backgrounds
  • Helps to optimise resources. While it is recommended to have dedicated faculty staff to guide the educational process, a remote course requires less time from educators than a traditional classroom course.
  • Adapts to each student’s individual situation. Students who work full time or have other important commitments can still access their lessons and work on their activities, regardless of time and/or geographical constraints.

What are the limitations of this type of distance learning?

One of the biggest limitations of this method of online educations is the student’s access to technology, the devices they use to access their virtual classrooms and their access to high-speed internet. There’s also a limitation because virtual learning lacks face-to-face interaction, which is essential for some courses.

What is remote learning?

Remote learning can follow a structure similar to traditional learning, in which the main source of knowledge is the instructor. Remote learning also heavily relies on real-time interactions between student and teacher.

Remote learning can be conducted both completely remotely or as a hybrid approach to learning. Many higher education organizations have implemented remote learning facilities for students so that they can study anytime, anywhere, alongside their face-to-face teaching hours.

Many higher education organizations looked to implement a completely remote way of teaching throughout the COVID-19 pandemic but are now looking at it as a more permanent, effective and long-term solution for their students.

What are the advantages of remote learning for schools and students?

The main advantage of remote learning is the continuity of education that it can offer. By relying on technology, courses can continue when there are issues that prevent students and teachers from being in the same place (for example, students received emergency remote teaching as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic). However, it is now being widely considered by higher education organizations around the world as a more permanent solution to allow students to study whenever and wherever they want.

By leveraging technology, students have on-demand access to learning resources, which allow for a streamlined learning experience. It is also a highly cost-effective method of teaching and providing resources for organizations and IT departments.

What are the limitations of this type of distance learning?

As with any type of IT-based education, an important limitation is each student’s access to technology and the quality of their internet connection.

When it comes to higher education, in particular, an important limitation to take note of is the disciplines themselves, as some fields require students and instructors to be in the same place (for example, disciplines related to the healthcare field).

What is the difference between remote and virtual learning?

There are key differences in the way that virtual and remote learning are carried out that should be considered when differentiating from the two.


Virtual Learning

Remote Learning


Significant investment in IT systems and course production is required, including educational materials and software. After this, the system is highly scalable and courses need to be updated.

A requirement to invest in software but less need for course production investment as teachers are still engaged in synchronous instruction.

Impact on Students

Intended for remote instruction, and activities and course materials are designed for a virtual learning environment that lasts through the full school year. Students who opt for this should be aware of hardware, software and internet connection requirements.

Students may need time to adjust to remote education and organizations must make arrangements for online instruction.

How it’s conducted

Usually used as a standalone teaching method in which the course and work is completed online.

Usually something implemented by organizations to complement face-to-face teaching methods or replace face-to-face teaching to serve as an emergency teaching method during unforeseen circumstances.

What do remote learning and virtual learning mean for the future of higher education?

Distance education has a significant impact on teaching and learning. Online learning tools allow higher education institutions to optimise resources, which can allow for more research-based teaching, mentorship, and personalised learning processes. Researchers believe that the future of higher education relies on blended or hybrid learning, which means that students and instructors will still have face-to-face interactions but will be able to leverage technology to improve the learning experience.

To find out more about solutions such as AppsAnywhere that can help to facilitate remote or virtual learning, please get in touch with our team today.