Distance learning refers to students who learn from a teacher but who are not physically in a classroom, but rather some distance away but connecting with the teacher and lesson via technology, such as an internet browser or other software. Distance surveying is basically the same principle in that it refers to surveying individuals from a distance via technology, such as telephone, email or the internet.
I'm currently involved with a child protection research project in Iraq. One component of the research is to survey key informants on child protection mechanisms, regulations and policies. These key informants include people from Iraqi ministries and agencies, lawyers, United Nations officials, local and international NGOs, and child protection professionals inside Iraq, both in the Arabic and Kurkish speaking governorates. The distance to travel as well as security issues makes conducting face-2-face interviews costly and risky.
A wonderful tool for distance surveying is Google Forms. It is a flexible form for survey development than includes a built-in data collection system and it does not require any coding and is free of charge! The only "catch" is that you must have an internet connection and a Google Gmail account. Once have get, or if you have a Gmail account, go to Documents and select Forms. To develop a survey tool is quite intuitive but for those who would like some help go here: Google Forms Tutorial
Also, you may have noticed that to use this type of distance survey the respondents will need to have access to an internet connection and an internet browser. Most of the key informants I mentioned above have access to an internet connection and an internet browser.
The survey process involves finding a "survey champion" in each of the groups, for example one person in the UN who will promote the survey among colleagues. The survey champion would call or send an email telling their colleague about the survey and the importance of their participation. A follow-up email would be sent with the link to the Google Form survey. Each key informant would complete the questionnaire. For those key informants who did not complete the online survey in the requested time would receive a follow-up from the "survey champion" in their group.
Once completed all responses are automatically compiled into a Google Spreadsheet which can then be analyzed online, using Google analysis, or downloaded into other data analysis software such as SPSS.