E‐learning: what the literature tells us about distance education

Pete Williams (CIBER, School of Library, Archive and Information Studies, University College London, London, UK)
David Nicholas (CIBER, School of Library, Archive and Information Studies, University College London, London, UK)
Barrie Gunter (Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

Aslib Proceedings

ISSN: 0001-253X

Publication date: 1 April 2005



The CIBER group at University College London are currently evaluating a distance education initiative funded by the Department of Health, providing in‐service training to NHS staff via DiTV and satellite to PC systems. This paper aims to provide the context for the project by outlining a short history of distance education, describing the media used in providing remote education, and to review research literature on achievement, attitude, barriers to learning and learner characteristics.


Literature review, with particular, although not exclusive, emphasis on health.


The literature shows little difference in achievement between distance and traditional learners, although using a variety of media, both to deliver pedagogic material and to facilitate communication, does seem to enhance learning. Similarly, attitudinal studies appear to show that the greater number of channels offered, the more positive students are about their experiences. With regard to barriers to completing courses, the main problems appear to be family or work obligations.

Research limitations/implications

The research work this review seeks to consider is examining “on‐demand” showing of filmed lectures via a DiTV system. The literature on DiTV applications research, however, is dominated by studies of simultaneous viewing by on‐site and remote students, rather than “on‐demand”.

Practical implications

Current research being carried out by the authors should enhance the findings accrued by the literature, by exploring the impact of “on‐demand” video material, delivered by DiTV – something no previous research appears to have examined.


Discusses different electronic systems and their exploitation for distance education, and cross‐references these with several aspects evaluated in the literature: achievement, attitude, barriers to take‐up or success, to provide a holistic picture hitherto missing from the literature.



Williams, P., Nicholas, D. and Gunter, B. (2005), "E‐learning: what the literature tells us about distance education", Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 57 No. 2, pp. 109-122. https://doi.org/10.1108/00012530510589083

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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