Re-Thinking Learner Support in Distance Education: Change and Continuity in an International Context

Re-Thinking Learner Support in Distance Education: Change and Continuity in an International Context

Re-Thinking Learner Support in Distance Education: Change and Continuity in an International Context

Re-Thinking Learner Support in Distance Education: Change and Continuity in an International Context

Synopsis

Distance learning is becoming an increasingly popular way of studying, and most universities now provide courses using these methods. Today's students, though, are demanding high quality, consumer-focused and flexible courses and learning resources and active learner support. This means that providers of distance education need to reconsider key issues about their learner support systems, ensuring that this is delivered appropriately and effectively. This book considers the changing needs and demands of distance education students. It draws together contributions from the UK, USA, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, South Africa and Botswana, to offer an international perspective on: *The challenges and opportunities of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) *Quality assurance, commercialisation and the learner as consumer *The impact on learners of cultural differences on internationalised curricula *The implications for learner support of a wider range of learners This book should be read by all those involved in developing and delivering distance education courses.

Excerpt

We have the technology, now what shall we do with it?

Louise Aylward

Introduction

This chapter examines some of the issues that arise when a university with a strong 'second generation' Open and Distance Education culture, operating in a society that is technologically advanced yet still heavily influenced by its Confucian tradition, adopts, within a relatively short time, new communication technologies in course delivery. It looks at the likely impact of these technologies on tutor support and considers some of the institutional decisions that will have to be made if the new technology is to be integrated successfully.

Setting the scene

The OUHK

The Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) started out as the Open Learning Institute (OLI), which was established by government ordinance in 1989. Its goal was (and is) to provide high quality and flexible further education opportunities for adults, primarily through distance learning. The Institute was granted self-accrediting status in 1996, and became the OUHK in May 1997. That first October 1989 semester, 4,237 students enrolled on the first eight courses; today the OUHK has more than 26,000 students and 16,000 graduates, and offers more than 100 postgraduate, degree, associate degree and sub-degree programmes. It is a self-financing, non-profit-making organisation.

The OLI took as its model the UK Open University, and the first courses it delivered used minimally adapted OU UK course materials. The medium of instruction was English and a typical course materials package consisted of printed study units, a textbook, possibly an audio or video cassette, and in some cases, TV programmes broadcast on Sunday mornings. On registering for a course, each student was allocated a tutor to support his or her learning; tutor groups contained up to thirty students. A flexible credit system was adopted - students earned credits for each course and accumulated credits towards a degree (a Bachelor's degree requires 120 credits; a bachelor's degree with honours, 160). Courses were run by course co-ordinators (CCs), academics who had dual responsibility for academic . . .

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