Distance education is neither an isolated concept, nor in its practice an isolated creation. It is education of a special type, like all types of education dependent on and influenced by values, opinions, experience and external conditions. While it is different from conventional schooling and has so many characteristics of its own that as an academic area of study it may be regarded as a discipline in its own right (see Chapter 11), its basis is general educational thinking and experience.
Every educational endeavour has a purpose. Distance teaching and learning, like any kind of teaching and learning, can serve different ends. It makes little sense on the basis of purposes to distinguish between education proper and training of certain skills (Wedemeyer 1981). Any learning can be an educational experience. Distance learning primarily serves those who cannot or do not want to make use of classroom teaching, i.e. above all, adults with social, professional and family commitments.
Learning implies more than acquisition of knowledge, for example, abstracting meaning from complicated presentations and interpreting phenomena and contexts;' [it] is the process of transforming experience into knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, senses and emotions' (Jarvis 1993:180).
Regarding learning as acquiring the capacity to provide a number of replies that are correct (stage 1) is a primitive view that, at least according to William Perry (1970), ordinary university students give up fairly early. The reason why they do so is