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The distinctiveness of australian distance education – the


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The Australian and New Zealand Keynote Panel presentation by Emeritus Professor Bruce King for the DEHub/ODLAA Education 2011 to 2021- Global challenges and perspectives of blended and distance learning the (14 to 18 February 2011).

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The distinctiveness of australian distance education – the

  1. 1. Bruce King<br />The distinctiveness of Australian Distance Education – the present and the next decade<br />
  2. 2. Plus ça change ...<br />“The Australian education scene has been subject to almost continuous change over the last decade, and distance education has been affected as much as any sector”<br />Keith Harry, 1999 – government policy <br />Equally true 2011 – technological change<br />Predicting 2021 – defensible guesses, likely to fall short of actuality<br />Question: Should we be optimistic or pessimistic?<br />
  3. 3. Distance education?<br />Totality of arrangements made by institution<br />For students separated from teachers<br />For whom some resources & arrangements have to be prepared in advance<br />These might involve special systems & processes<br />Students require well-organised support<br />Includes institutional attention to logistics of communication<br />
  4. 4. My bias ...<br />Distance education is a purposeful, values-driven enterprise<br />“The arrangements” should follow the purposes of the program<br />They should not undermine values base of what we do<br />DE not synonomous with online or e-learning although they have enormous potential to enhance what we do<br />
  5. 5. Distinctive?<br />Any distinctiveness is product of a set of characteristics:<br /><ul><li>Cross sectoral
  6. 6. Strong equity rationale
  7. 7. Almost exclusively dual mode
  8. 8. No national DE specialist institution
  9. 9. Small but hugely dispersed student population
  10. 10. Early involvement with transnational education
  11. 11. Parity with on-campus provision
  12. 12. Limited engagement with notions of openness
  13. 13. Limited use of face to face support
  14. 14. Losing ground to flexible delivery for all
  15. 15. Practitioners have lost their way</li></li></ul><li>Lost their way ...?<br />Fragmentation of distinctive clientele<br />Marginalisation of ethos of DE<br />Breaking down of specialist systems<br />Removal of political support for DE<br />Movement away from any intellectual leadership<br />Sense of personal dislocation in face of change - educational values brushed aside in compromises with technological developments<br />
  16. 16. Changes in context of universities<br />Changing government attitudes<br />Massification<br />Accountability and standards<br />Internationalisation and competition<br />Resources and staffing<br />Impact of technology<br />
  17. 17. Is there a distinctive role in future?<br />If there is, it will be because of we refocus on the needs of off-campus and regional students<br />Need to understand and accommodate their learning milieu<br />Should not just be good followers of technological developments but investigate potential to support distinctive needs of students<br />Focus should be less on teaching and more on student support<br />
  18. 18. Will we retain parity?<br />Only if we avoid cost saving strategies that diminish DE experience<br />Must avoid disaggregation of academic functions, especially assessment<br />Will be faced with real competition over performance<br />
  19. 19. Will we manage technology?<br />Need to remember:<br /><ul><li>Enthusiasm for and expertise with technology is not equally spread
  20. 20. A sense of personal deficiency impacts on all professional functions
  21. 21. In mixed mode, too few have teaching qualifications on-campus and DE adds to personal difficulties
  22. 22. Rate of change of technologies can compound sense of under-performance
  23. 23. Professional development is expensive, time-consuming (although well understood)</li></li></ul><li>Will we be teaching well?<br />Not just a matter of the tools available, but an understanding of ethos of DE<br />Our role should be purposeful and value driven<br />All decisions should be driven by fostering learning, and not privilege other dimensions, e.g. student freedom<br />
  24. 24. Optimism or pessimism?<br />Much that is positive – options seem boundless<br />But we could be confronting a perfect storm:<br /><ul><li>Casualisation
  25. 25. Private challenges to monopoly on professional accreditation
  26. 26. Cost saving institutional strategies
  27. 27. End of dual mode & sense of identity
  28. 28. Potential demise of OUA - less flexibility
  29. 29. For-profits exploiting customer relationship expertise
  30. 30. Danger that we privilege teaching over support</li></ul>Business as usual is just not an option<br />