Educators and society at large find it increasingly important to evaluate the various contributions made to education. This is because of the general desire to safeguard the highest possible educational quality and also to ensure that money is invested in a way that yields the highest possible educational output. Evaluation is a general educational concern with some special implications for distance education. The purpose is usually to find out to what extent teaching and learning lead to expected results and acceptable standards. The knowledge acquired by evaluation studies can be used as a basis for improving the teaching-learning system as well as for describing and judging it.
The term 'evaluation' denotes different things in different contexts. Sometimes it refers to the assessment of students for the purpose of awarding marks, sometimes to the judgement of complete educational systems. Evaluating these implies an appraisal of their status in society, the relevance, quality, quantity, and results of their teaching and their impact on education, training, and the labour-market (Tate 1986) including in many cases consideration of their accessibility to various social groups, i.e. equality. This appraisal of the contribution of educational systems is usually related to the costs that they incur. Examples of such evaluation of distance-education systems are given in Keegan (1990 Part IV).
Particularly in the Anglo-Saxon parts of the world, evaluation of educational activities has been to some extent spurred on
by the barbs of an accountability movement which attempts to respond to economic adversity through 'rationalization' of higher education provision and the promises of an