for e-Learning Environments
The University of Melbourne, Australia
DISTANCE LEARNING (ODL)
Contemporary open and distance learning (ODL) is widely known for spearheading and refocusing our attention on several aspects of teaching and learning. The most pervasive of them all, perhaps, is the recognition of the important role and function of instructional design. Others include the role and function of electronic publishing and distribution of study materials, use of alternative and noncontiguous delivery technologies in teaching and learning (i.e., alternative to face-to-face instruction), asynchronous communication among participants in learning and teaching, and ownership of intellectual property and copyright.
In much of traditional face-to-face education, what passes for instructional design was and still is, rightly or wrongly, the sole responsibility of the teacher in charge. This situation changed with the advent of nontraditional distance teaching and learning practices. Teachers in charge, largely as subject matter experts, could no longer be seen to be responsible for the entire teaching and learning transaction. The development of printed and other types of study materials for independent study by distance learners required a team effort with significant input in the educational process from instructional designers and media producers. This brought into the educational process specialized skills in various types of media production, subject matter representation, and in supporting student learning in technology mediated educational environments.
Despite this growing recognition of the important role and function of instructional design in ODL, educators have, on the whole, failed to make the best use of the opportunities that alternative delivery technologies can provide. Evidence of this is all around us in the form of innumerable university course Web sites that contain little more than the schedule, a brief outline of the course content, PowerPoint slides of the lecturer's notes, and sometimes, sample examination papers. Instead of exploiting the unique attributes of information and communications technologies, such practices replicate the “education is equal to the transmission of