Distance education institutions, students and staff have often had to overcome negative perceptions about the overall quality of their programmes and qualifications. In this paper, we identify four of the major challenges cited as undermining the credibility and effectiveness of open, distance and e-learning (ODeL): the quality of teaching, learning and quality assurance processes; outcomes; access; and the perceptions of students, staff and employers. We conclude with reflections on current and future developments in ODeL, including the impact of massive open online courses (MOOCs): how far do they have the potential to address the challenges identified? We argue that some of these have been, or can be, resolved in many contexts, and are now the same as those faced by all teaching and learning programmes. We should shift the main focus of distance teaching and learning programmes from inputs such as media adopted, to outcomes, in terms of students successfully achieving their intended goals in education, employment and future livelihoods. This will impact on employers’ and others’ perceptions of ODeL. Examples are drawn from all sectors and are, therefore, necessarily selective, and, unless specified, are relevant to all modes of ODeL.