The PhD is a doctoral degree, specifically called a "doctor of philosophy" degree. This is misleading because PhD holders are not necessarily philosophers (unless they earned their degree in philosophy!). That said, PhD recipients are able to engage in thought experiments, reason about problems, and solve problems in sophisticated ways.
Distance learning is a method of delivering education to students who are not physically present on campus. Various studies have shown that distance learning programmes can be as efficient and effective as conventional classroom programmes sometimes even better!
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