|Distance Education Practice: Training and Rewarding Authors - Education Research Paper No. 33 (DFID, 1999, 36 p.)|
1. Many educational institutions are developing or expanding programmes of open and distance learning (ODL forthwith), mainly for students off-campus. All face difficulties in ensuring that teaching materials of the right quality are developed and produced on time. Part of the solution to the problem lies in training and part in the policies and management structures that will encourage the timely development of good materials. This report examines aspects of these solutions in two separate but complementary enquiries: the first centres on the training of course development staff in open and distance learning; the second on rewarding the writers of course material for open and distance learning.
2. In both enquiries, our main interest is in developing-country institutions. Nevertheless, we have also drawn on industrialised-country experience partly out of a desire to find good answers anywhere to a universal problem, partly because of the similarity in educational practices even within very different countries. Both pieces of research identify the distinction between single and dual-mode institutions as a critical factor in the analysis of data. Single-mode institutions are those that use only a single mode of teaching. They include both conventional universities, with no programmes of open and distance learning, and open universities. This report is mainly concerned with the latter and with dual-mode institutions. As open universities and colleges are dedicated to teaching only off-campus students, their organisational structures are different from those of dual-mode institutions, concerned with students both on and off-campus.
3. Dual-mode universities themselves vary. Distinctions can be approached in terms of organisational integration or the capacity of an ODL centre. In some cases, for example, only a handful of courses are available through open and distance learning and administrative arrangements for open and distance learning affect only a minority of university staff. In contrast some institutions have moved towards a policy of flexible learning whereby there is a breaking-down of distinctions between on- and off-campus teaching. In some institutions, the capacity of a central ODL unit may be purely administrative. In others, it has overall responsibility for the pedagogical quality of ODL materials, and for staff training.
4 The two reports are intended both to help developing-country institutions and to see how the British educational resource might best be deployed to enhance quality within them. We hope that our recommendations, mainly in paras. 47, 73 to 95 and 138 to 142, will be useful to people within both constituencies. One underlying theme of the reports is the belief that benefits will flow as institutions are enabled to share good management practice. Another is the need to develop professionalism within open and distance learning in order to make the next leap in quality. Both themes can inform institutional practice on the ground and provide guidance for the design of aid projects or programmes.
5. We are grateful to the Department for International Development, which funded the bulk of the work, and to the Commonwealth of Learning for its support. We are also, of course, indebted to the respondents to our enquiry, without whose help the report could not have been written.
Hilary Perraton and Charlotte Creed