Global Perspectives in Open and Distance Learning and Open Learning Resources

By Gutierrez, Ileana P. | Distance Learning, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Global Perspectives in Open and Distance Learning and Open Learning Resources


Gutierrez, Ileana P., Distance Learning


It is widely recognized today that technology is playing a critical role in preparation of students in higher education, with significant moves towards globalization (Mason, 1998). And although availability of the technical means for distance education course delivery such as computers for web-based courses, video, and interactive television varies from one region to another in the world, it is cornmonly accepted that distance education is becoming a reality of the educational environment not only in the US but also worldwide

The higher education community is experiencing a change in the way they conduct business. Primarily, the globalization of the world marketplace, the growth of technology, the rapid way in which new information is flooding our minds, and changing the way we work, has increasingly caused higher education to offer a more convenient method of learning to its students. Increasingly, distance education seems to be apropos for the new change occurring in higher education throughout the world. More and more distance education classes are being offered worldwide to meet the needs of students globally, whose needs require flexibility in learning.

Some factors that have contributed to the success and expansion of distance education are technological advances (particularly the Internet and the Web); that have made it possible to teach more subjects at a distance the provision of increased opportunities for updating, retraining and personal enrichment; improving the costeffectiveness of educational resources; improving the quality of existing educational services; harmonizing inequalities between age groups; offering access to education globally; and the provision of fast and efficient education and training for different target groups.

Global open learning is sustained by the sharing of courseware, theories, media, equipment, materials, and human capital not solely across borders, but across continents, with different cultures, languages and modes of interaction. The influx and union of new communications systems, different media formats, methods of publications, along with the flexible learning of distance education have made open learning a global reality.

There is a distinction between distance education and open learning. The development of e-education has enabled distance education to overcome the lack of interactivity inherent in earlier forms of distance education based on correspondence and mass media. Open learning places greater emphasis on the requirements of diverse learners in diverse settings - to which providers of learning opportunities need to respond. Distance education is mutating "into a complex open education organism" (Evans, Murphy, & Haughey, 1995 p. 256), and "the 'instructional industrialism' of distance education ... is evolving into the global instructional corporatism of open education" (Evans et al.). Global organizations such as the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) have directed their attention to the cultural differences and a better understanding of the relationships between different identities by the promotion of cross-border collaboration in distance education. It is the goal of these global organizations to use effective pedagogies in distance education that acknowledge these differences. Establishment of genuine democratic forms of social and educational programs serves the interests of developing countries. Organizations now collaborate internationally in order to enrich academic environments and programs for students. According to UNESCO (2009b).

Governments worldwide are promoting more and more the use of open and distance learning as a complementary approach to traditional educational structures in order to meet the new and changing demands for education and training in the 21st century and to limit as much as possible long-term effects caused by lack of resources, demographic trends, the HIV and AIDS pandemic and military conflicts, (para. …

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