What is Academic Education

By ACS Distance Education on November 23, 2022 in Animals & Education | comments

Academic education explained

An "Academic" Education is sometimes defined as education which has content learning as its primary purpose. Some institutions and educational systems have equated academic with learning that takes place in a university or tertiary education institution. 

Expectations about academic education can include:

  • Specific types of learning environments such as lecture theatres, libraries, and laboratories
  • Specific types of assessment tasks such as essays, examinations and vivas (oral examinations)
  • Specific styles of delivery – teachers, tutors or lecturers may be required to deliver large amounts of information in a short period of time, making explicit teaching a requirement. While some variety may be possible within tutorials or seminar classes, these are not always the norm.

However, this is not the case for all types of academic education. 

In contrast, Vocational education usually focuses on "preparing students to perform in a workplace"; or "life education". Vocational education may be oriented towards developing a student’s awareness of and ability to use specific skills across a range of contexts. While formal assessment processes may be part of vocational education, the general expectations around vocational education include:

  • Varied types of learning environments – these may involve specialist equipment to support skills development in a safety (such as workshops for electrical, carpentry or metal work, salon environments for beauty, hairdressing and massage therapies).
  • Varied types of assessment – practical assessments are often equally weighted (or preferentially weighted) against theoretical assessments. Assessments may include short answer questions (both written and oral questions)
  • Varied delivery styles – teachers or tutors are often positioned as learning guides instead of occupying a strongly hierarchical position in the classroom. They may encourage students to develop their own interests and explore these within the context of the class.

These different education approaches have their origins in the past; but are still often adhered to by traditionally bound educational systems. In some cases, students are encouraged to choose either an academic course or a vocational course, without understanding how the different approaches might influence their learning experience. This is a topical issue in today’s post-COVID world as people come to realise that the experience of going to university is not what it used to be. Without the social, cultural and emotional factors that used to contribute to the university experience, some students are left wondering whether the costs of attending university are worth the effort.

In circumstances like these, contemporary models of distance education come into their own. In the past, distance education has sometimes been regarded as a simplified form of education that was not as demanding as academic education and not as practical as vocational education. However, these views are changing as distance learning is now perceived as a more convenient and accessible route to education that puts less strain on the students’ resources. 
Some of the more common types of distance learning include:

  • Asynchronous distance learning – students may have set deadlines for tasks to be completed, but learning takes place at the student’s convenience. This form of distance learning may also rely on the use of video recordings and/or associated transcripts to enhance students’ understanding.
  • Computer managed learning – this form of distance learning involves using computers to monitor the student’s acquisition of knowledge. A student may not be allowed to progress to more challenging material until they reach a specific level of accuracy in assessments. This style of distance learning is used in courses like the theory aspects of learning to drive, some online first aid qualifications and the qualifications involved in the responsible service of alcohol.
  • Fixed time online courses – students participate online at specific times. These courses may involve videoconferencing, webinars or similar
  • Hybrid distance learning – combines both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Students work at their own pace.
  • Interactive training simulations – these are immersive experiences that recreate real-life situations allowing participants to practice the skills or knowledge needed to manage the situation should it happen to them. The training simulations can be relatively low-stakes (such as conversation-based simulations for retail training) or high-stakes (diagnostic training for allied health professionals).
  • Mobile learning – this involves students accessing most of their learning via their mobile devices. 
  • Self-paced learning – this model breaks information or skills down into smaller, manageable portions that are easy for learners to absorb. Key skills or information are introduced and then developed in a range of ways, embedding the important elements in the learner’s long term memory. Learners choose how and when they want to study, developing their understanding at a speed that suits them.
  • Synchronous distance learning – this was frequently used by schools during the pandemic lockdown. It involves a group of students and their teacher(s) meeting online at the same time. This relies heavily on video conferencing platforms and the real-time engagement of students. Participation may be expected in both spoken form (participating in conversation during class) and written form (writing comments in the associated ‘chat’ forums).

“At ACS distance education, we begin our course development from a self-paced perspective,” says John Mason, Principal of the Australian Correspondence School. “Each course consists of between 8 and 12 lessons which are broken down into manageable chunks that focus on one aspect of a topic. Key ideas will be introduced and then revisited in a different context, helping the student to understand how skills or knowledge can be applied in different circumstances. Video recordings and a range of assignments emphasise real world applications. We also use problem-based tasks in some courses, especially where it will benefit students to have a deeper understanding of how theories covered in some lessons will be applied in context. While other forms of distance education may be easier for teachers and tutors to manage, self-paced learning focuses education where it should be: on the students’ experience of learning.”


To learn more about different types of education, consider the following courses.

  • Advanced certificate in applied management – instructional skills
  • Advanced certificate in education support
  • Certificate in alternative education
  • Certificate in teaching
  • Classroom delivery skills
  • Course writing and development
  • Delivering distance education
  • Educational psychology
  • Instructional skills

Or contact our course counselling team to discuss your learning needs in more detail.