The future of Distance Education?

educationeducation (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

This was the Executive panel session for DEANZ 2012, and it was kicked off with the suggestion that the Distance should be taken out of education and it should just be called education. However, there is concern that education isn’t working, and if we just continue what we have been doing, we will continue to get the same results. Diana Oblinger brought to the fore notions such as, for example, using analytics, to create a personalised learning experience. The focus at Te Kura, it was asserted that the focus needs to be on the strengths of students, rather than always focusing on the deficits. The concept of being educated is perhaps under review…what does it actually mean to be educated, and how do we ‘measure’ this?

The requirement to have cooperation between institutions rather than competition is part of the solution, as is integration with the community…where parents, community, businesses, iwi, and hapu are involved in the design and development of the learning process. It is in part developing relationships that have relevance for the future. For example, for Te Kura, each student experiences an internship.

The continuing advance of the Internet are changing how we are learning. New course development is technology enabled, and apps are being developed to engage with learners and deliver learning. Developments in online delivery has made it easier for international students to access distance learning, and education can be ‘exported’ (for example, to China, India, and the Pacific Islands). EPortfolios are also gradually gaining in popularity and usage.

BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 24:  A prim... (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

There is a bit of a revolution just around the corner for education…although it was admitted that a revolution has been predicted many times, and has failed to happen! However, it was mooted that a simple shift is underway in people’s minds around the role of the teacher and learner…away from a ‘traditional’ mode of classroom teaching. I remain rather sceptical. Is this shift really happening? For parents, for communities…for policy makers? How is this reflected in ‘National standards’ and standardised testing in schools? And, once someone has worked through a school system, how do their learned behaviours and expectations impact their learning experiences going forward?

That does not detract from the potential for learning that the opening of the world via increased connectivity, and people’s awareness of opportunities (a simple example being access to experts across the world…you are not ‘stuck’ with the person who is facilitating a specific course). The risk for educationalists is that this whole period of change will flow past, while they are all focused on ‘quality’ and design as shaped by previous conceptions of learning. It was asserted that the learners (mainly in tertiary???) are now driving change by expressing their requirements for flexible, supported,mobile, rich, authentic, personalised learning experiences.

But it is still slow going….

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About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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