Choosing a distance learning course is not always easy for an interested party. Therefore, we have prepared some tips that can guide the analysis of important aspects of this learning modality.

Tip 1: Analyze your desire and availability to take a distance learning course
Remember that motivation is a key that opens from the inside. The distance learning course is flexible, but requires time and study dedication.

It is necessary to have the will and / or availability of time to take a distance learning course in order not to face greater difficulties.
Tip 2: Analyze the type of course you want to take and research the institutions´ offer
There are distance learning courses that need MEC approval to work, and others that are free are independent of approval. Here we will offer some tips on how to choose a distance learning course.

Distance learning course offerings are available at different levels and present in public and private institutions. Try to observe the level of the course you want and its characteristics.

Regulated courses Regulated courses are those that depend on the authorization of an educational agency to be considered valid. Try to choose courses from well-rated institutions.

Undergraduate courses Undergraduate courses depend on MEC approval to operate. For a university degree to be valid, it must be recognized by the MEC. To choose a distance course, check the indicators of the faculty and the chosen course.

Indicators for colleges with distance learning courses

      • IGC (General Course Index): considers all graduations of the institution.
      • CI (Institutional Concept): it is attributed by face-to-face evaluation carried
      out by specialists.
The grades range from 1 to 5.
1 and 2: indicate that the university has not reached the quality standard required by MEC.
3: grade considered satisfactory for operation.
4 and 5: notes that indicate good and excellent quality standards for operation.

On the MEC website it is possible to find the notes of the distance learning undergraduate colleges:

      • Access the e-mec portal.
      • Click on the "Advanced Query" tab.
      • In the "Search for" field, select "Undergraduate Course".
      • In the "Course" field, type the name of the course you want to search for.
      • In the "Modality" field, select the "Distance" option
      • In the "Situation" field, select the "In Activity" option from the menu.
      • Click "Search". Just below the form, all the colleges that offer that course will appear, as well as the MEC concept for each one. You can see more details by clicking on the name of the institution.

Indicators for distance learning courses

To evaluate distance courses, MEC uses three indicators:

      • Course Concept (CC)
      • Preliminary Course Concept (CPC)
      • Student performance at Enade

The grades also vary from 1 to 5.
1 and 2: if one of the indicators receives these grades, it needs to adapt to reach the quality standard required by MEC. If the low grades persist, the course may be terminated and even the college may be disqualified.
3: it is a grade considered positive or satisfactory for MEC.
4 and 5: are notes that indicate a good and an excellent quality standard by MEC.

Note: MEC recognizes thousands of new courses annually and not all are evaluated.
Postgraduate courses There are two types of postgraduate courses offered in distance learning:

      • Stricto Sensu: master´s and doctorate, with an average duration of 2
      and 4 years, respectively. It is a postgraduate course focused on research and
      academic status.
      • Lato Sensu: specializations aimed at the job market.
      The Master Business Administration (MBA), for example, has a minimum
      duration of 360 hours, according to the criteria defined by MEC.

The body that regulates and evaluates stricto sensu postgraduate courses (master's and doctorate) in Brazil is CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel), a foundation linked to the Ministry of Education (MEC). Like undergraduate courses, graduate courses are evaluated by CAPES to obtain recognition. Diplomas will only be valid when issued by institutions recognized by CAPES.

To locate master's and doctorate courses and universities there is a search system on the CAPES website for consultation regarding postgraduate courses. The website is (In Portuguese).

The lato sensu postgraduate courses are regulated and approved by the MEC. Lato sensu distance postgraduate courses can be offered by higher education institutions as long as they have accreditation for distance education. Public and private scientific and technological research institutions may only offer lato sensu in person and at a distance upon specific accreditation request, pursuant to Resolution No. 5, of September 25, 2008, which consolidates the rules for special accreditation of non-educational institutions. Thus, consultation on the MEC website is recommended to observe the accreditation of the institution that offers the lato sensu graduate program.
Basic Education Courses The State and Municipal Education Secretariats are the bodies that administer the education system in the respective states and municipalities. They have didactic-pedagogical and administrative autonomy for authorization, regulation and recognition of public and private institutions of basic education (infantile, elementary and high school), technical and distance.

Basic education courses for adults are called EJA (Youth and Adult Education). The state secretariats regulate the development of distance education in several educational institutions. To enroll you must be 18 years old and have completed elementary school. To find out which institutions are approved, it is necessary to contact the Education Department of the respective state.
Technical courses The technical course is of medium level, also called vocational course. To enroll, the student must have completed elementary school and the institution must be recognized by the MEC. The axes of technical training are:

      • Control and Industrial Processes
      • Educational and Social Development
      • Management and Business
      • Information and Communication
      • Infrastructure
      • Food production
      • Artistic and Cultural Production and Design
      • Industrial production
      • Natural resources
      • Health and Aesthetics
      • Safety
      • Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure

MEC offers free vacancies in 2020 in several technical courses. Vacancies are indicated on the website
Technological Courses Technological courses train technologists, professionals who will work in a specific area of expertise. The difference between a technical and a technological course is that the technician is of medium level and the technological is of higher level (faculty). The technologist course lasts between 2 and 3 years and can also be done at a distance. This modality has several options in several areas of knowledge, most of them in private colleges. Institutions like SENAI, SENAC, among others, also have several training offers for technicians and technologists.
Free courses Free courses are not regulated by any educational body, they are aimed at initiation, training, extension and professional specialization, and are continuing education courses. There are thousands of offers in the most varied areas of expertise.

The duration of free courses can vary from a few hours to a few months, and they do not usually request proof of schooling. Courses also vary in terms of methodology and forms of assessment. They can be offered by institutions and individuals. The certification is generally for participation and is issued by the institutions / individuals that offer.

When choosing a free course, check the characteristics and history of the institution or the qualification of the professional who offers it. Respected institutions in the market usually offer quality offers.

When searching for information about the course, it is possible to evaluate the institution's service in relation to availability, seriousness and customer service.

To check the suitability of the institution, it is important to consult the curricula of teachers and course coordinators, as well as consumer protection institutes such as PROCON and DECON and websites such as Reclame Aqui, to identify complaints and problems and the responses provided to requests.

Consulting students and / or former alumni of the course is another possibility to expand information about the institution and the course. Data (name and contact) can be provided by those responsible for the course.
Tip 3: Analyze whether the course is entirely online or semi-face-to-face (hybrid)
There are courses that are completely online and others that require a face-to-face part. If the choice is for a semi-presence course, try to find out about the location of the face-to-face center and the proximity to the place where you live. It is important to schedule a visit to the center to learn about the available infrastructure, such as libraries, laboratories, professionals and the methodology used in the course.

Today, there is a trend towards the development of hybrid courses, which offer part of the distance course and part of the face-to-face learning.
Tip 4: Analyze the body of professionals responsible for the course
The training of specialists responsible for a course is one of the indicators of quality and this is no different for distance courses. Get to know the training of tutors and teachers who will develop the course.

Teachers and tutors, in addition to specific training in the course area, must have specific qualifications for the development of distance learning courses.
Tip 5: Analyze the technological requirements of the course
Analyze the technological requirements according to the equipment you have for the course. For example, if you intend to take the course with the exclusive use of a smartphone, you need to know if this is possible.

Get to know the technological platform used in the course, some are more robust and have a greater number of tools and resources. The platform offers the virtual environment for the course, in which are the teaching materials and communication and interaction tools.

It is also necessary to know how the technological support will be carried out. These are some questions that can guide the investigation: if there are problems, who should the student address? How long does it take to receive technological support and how will it be done?

Technological resources and support are indispensable conditions for the smooth running of a course.
Tip 6: Analyze the content, objectives and educational materials that will be offered
When analyzing the content and objectives of a course, it is important to verify that they meet your needs or interests.

When analyzing the educational materials that will be used in the course, it is important to check if they have different formats, such as texts, videos, animations, simulators, games, among others. The greater the variety, the more conditions are offered for learning.

It is also important to know how the materials will be made available. For example, there are courses that offer study texts in the form of books, e-books or printed handouts, and others, which rely on students to print the texts. What is the best way for you?

Another point to be noted is whether the educational materials are interactive and allow students to participate in the process. For example, a video lesson can be previously recorded or it can be live, allowing students to interact.

The greater the students' interactivity with the materials and the greater their participation in the process, the better the conditions offered for learning.
Tip 7: Analyze the forms of interaction and communication channels of the course
For the good development of a distance course, it is necessary that the institution has a good communication channel with the students, to solve doubts about content or technological access. The answer to some questions can help the student to identify if the institution's communication area is satisfactory. Check the questions below.

     • How will the interaction be made with the student in the course
      (by e-mail, forum, chat, phone, social networks, etc.)?
     • How can the student contact the tutor?
     • What is the maximum time for the tutor to answer possible questions?
     (A reasonable time is 24 hours for responses.)
     • Will there be only individual jobs or are there group work?
     • How will the work be carried out?
     • How will interaction with colleagues be?

The interaction with the tutor and colleagues is very important for learning and, for that, there must be multiple and effective communication channels.
Tip 8: Analyze course evaluation methods
The student´s evaluation in the course is an important variable and some questions can help in the investigation. See below.

     • How will the student be evaluated (in-person, online, presentation of papers, etc.)? If there is more than one assessment, it is important to know the "weight""" of each one.
     • What score is required for approval?
     • What happens if the necessary score is not reached (recovery, make-up test, etc.)?

The greater the number of assessment strategies, the better the conditions offered to identify whether there has been learning.
Tip 9: Review the course schedule
It is important to evaluate the average time foreseen for the realization of the course units and to analyze the time you have available to study and carry out the planned activities. It is good to know the deadline for opening each unit and the availability of time offered for the study.

The compatibility between the average study time foreseen by a course and that available for the student can favor the performance in the course. Not having the necessary and estimated time for the study can lead to a delay in the planned activities and even, many times, to the withdrawal from the course.
     With the collaboration of Profª Ivete Palange - member of the ABED Fiscal Council
Copyright - Associação Brasileira de Educação a Distância - ABED
Discontinuity of Distance Education Course and Supplier Catalogs on the ABED website

ABED (Brazilian Association of Distance Education), a non-profit scientific society dedicated to the development of open, flexible and distance education, informs that the Distance Learning Courses and Distance Learning Solution Providers Catalogs, published on the website of Association, have been discontinued since June 1, 2020.

The Distance Learning and Distance Learning Solution Providers Catalogs on the ABED website were free and free dissemination tools, created to publicize all types of courses, products, services or solutions offered to the distance education market. Currently, the internet has become a better and bigger search source, and the Distance Learning Courses and Distance Learning Solution Providers Catalog are out of date and no longer fulfill their main function: providing updated information on distance learning courses and suppliers.

The consultation in the Catalog of Distance Learning Courses and Suppliers of Distance Learning Solutions on the ABED website tended to limit research to this universe, and generated the expectation that ABED exercised some type of curation, recognizing, recommending or even indicating the courses or suppliers disclosed there, which is not true, since ABED is not a regulatory body for distance education in Brazil and does not carry out an assessment of the services provided by providers of solutions for distance education and does not teach, certify, classify or evaluate courses.

ABED replaced the Distance Learning Catalog and Distance Learning Solution Provider Catalog with "Guidelines for Choosing Distance Learning Courses" and "Guidelines for Choosing Distance Learning Suppliers. In this way, interested parties will be able to better analyze the courses, products and services offered, evaluating important aspects for choosing a course or hiring a supplier.

Whenever you are looking for a course or need to hire a product, service or solutions for distance education, consult the Guidelines for Choosing Distance Learning Courses and the Guidelines for Choosing Distance Education Providers, on the ABED website, and make a good choice!

Distance education is the most socially inclusive teaching modality!