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Preserving the Social Mandate of Distance Education


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Presentation made to the CREAD conference, Niteroi, Brazil, July 2005

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Preserving the Social Mandate of Distance Education

  1. 1. Preserving the Social Mandate of Distance Education Mark Bullen BC Institute of Technology Canada July 21, 2005 Niter ó i, Brazil
  2. 2. Freireian Principles <ul><li>Dialogue vs. curriculum </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ banking” view of education </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Praxis </li></ul><ul><li>Conscientization </li></ul><ul><li>Situating educational activity in lived experience </li></ul><ul><li>Emancipatory role of education </li></ul>
  3. 3. Freireian Principles <ul><li>No specific reference to distance education </li></ul><ul><li>Current thinking about distance education </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Constructivism not “banking” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learner-centered </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dialogic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social/emancipatory role of distance education </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Equality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Economic development </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Distance Education Under Attack <ul><li>DE threatened by new movement: e-learning </li></ul><ul><li>Ironically, focus on efficiency, effectiveness and quality has made DE vulnerable </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Our focus on these issues has blinded us to the emergence of this new movement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More significantly, it is the prevailing organizational and management model of DE that is making it vulnerable to this new movement </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Threat is to DE in conventional higher education but has implications for all of DE </li></ul>
  5. 5. Distance Education Under Attack <ul><li>What is the threat? </li></ul><ul><li>What is e-learning? </li></ul><ul><li>How are quality, management, sustainability and organizational issues related to this threat? </li></ul><ul><li>What can we do about it? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Qualifications <ul><li>Argument based on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>observations and experiences with DE in Canada & US </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In conventional universities </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Relevance to Latin American DE? </li></ul><ul><li>Relevance to single mode DE? </li></ul>
  7. 7. What is e-learning?
  8. 8. The Meaning of E-learning <ul><li>E-learning means different things to different people </li></ul><ul><li>Massy & Zemsky (2005) suggest three categories of e-learning: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E- learning as distance education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E-learning as facilitated transaction software </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E-learning as electronically-mediated learning </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. The Meaning of E-learning
  10. 10. The Meaning of E-Learning <ul><li>The term “E-learning” has been appropriated by people whose main interest is in e-learning as technology-enhanced teaching, not distance education (ELTET) </li></ul><ul><li>This new movement has little interest in the distance learner or the historical mandate of DE to provide access </li></ul>
  11. 11. The Meaning of E-Learning <ul><li>Main priority is providing technologically-enhanced teaching to on-campus learners </li></ul>
  12. 12. What is the threat?
  13. 13. The Threat to Distance Education <ul><li>E-learning is emerging as a movement in conventional universities </li></ul><ul><li>Competing for same resources </li></ul><ul><li>Gaining attention of university administrators and academics </li></ul><ul><li>New movement is much closer to the core mission of traditional universities </li></ul><ul><li>Threatening to displace DE </li></ul><ul><li>Distance educators need to pay attention to this new force or else gains may be lost </li></ul>
  14. 14. Social Mandate of Distance Education <ul><li>DE has had a mandate to provide access to underserved populations, particularly in developing countries </li></ul><ul><li>DE has been extremely successful at providing quality education to disadvantaged groups </li></ul><ul><li>Existed on the “margins” of conventional universities for many years </li></ul>
  15. 15. Social Mandate of Distance Education <ul><li>Acceptance of DE grew as more and more conventional universities began using it </li></ul><ul><li>Most North American universities now have DE programs </li></ul>
  16. 16. The Threat to Distance Education <ul><li>Status and respectability of DE due in part to the acceptance it has achieved in conventional universities </li></ul><ul><li>Single mode institutions like UNED, UOC, UKOU have contributed greatly to the legitimacy of DE </li></ul><ul><li>But the legitimacy has been enhanced by growth in DE in conventional universities </li></ul>
  17. 17. The Threat to Distance Education <ul><li>Why is e-learning a threat? </li></ul><ul><li>ELTET has a different philosophical orientation than e-learning as DE </li></ul><ul><li>No social mandate </li></ul><ul><li>If resources are diverted from distance education to ELTET, the social goals of DE may be longer be addressed by higher education </li></ul>
  18. 18. The Threat to Distance Education <ul><li>Growth of ELTET will cause DE to lose its newly-gained status and recede to the margins of conventional universities </li></ul><ul><li>This will have an impact on the DE professional community and ultimately the status of DE </li></ul><ul><li>The future of distance education as a socially-progressive movement is in danger </li></ul>
  19. 19. How are quality, sustainability and management of DE related to this threat?
  20. 20. Organizational Issues <ul><li>Modern DE has been obsessed with quality, efficiency and effectiveness </li></ul><ul><li>Organized very differently from traditional higher education </li></ul><ul><li>Creates an inherent conflict in traditional universities </li></ul>
  21. 21. Organizational Issues <ul><li>Two types of e-learning tend to be organized differently: </li></ul><ul><li>E-learning as distance education: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>organized and funded centrally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>managed approach with professional staff </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>courses developed by teams </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>attention to quality and sustainability </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. The Project Development Process
  23. 23. Organizational Issues <ul><li>E-Learning as technology-enhanced teaching (ELTET): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Faculty/department-based </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Driven by individual professor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Funded on a grant or project basis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quality is variable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sustainability not usually a consideration </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Sustainability, Quality & Management <ul><li>Organizational culture is a key issue </li></ul><ul><li>Berquist (1992) - institutional cultures: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Managerial </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collegial </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Developmental </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Negotiated </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Clash between two distinctly different organizational cultures: collegial & managerial </li></ul><ul><li>Sustainable, high quality distance e-learning requires a managed approach </li></ul>
  25. 25. Sustainability, Quality & Management <ul><li>Requires course development that is organized using a project management approach </li></ul><ul><li>Teams of experts: professor, instructional designer, web designer, multimedia developer </li></ul><ul><li>The distance e-learning course is a collective effort </li></ul>
  26. 26. Sustainability, Quality & Management <ul><li>Quality is ensured through the use of professionals, by building in external academic review and by building in formative and summative evaluation </li></ul><ul><li>Sustainability is ensured by paying attention to quality and cost which is intimately linked to managed approach that is used </li></ul>
  27. 27. Sustainability, Quality & Management <ul><li>Most faculty are more comfortable with the “collegial culture” </li></ul><ul><li>Course development is seen as in individual endeavor </li></ul><ul><li>The course “belongs” to the professor </li></ul><ul><li>Online course development tends to be experimental </li></ul>
  28. 28. Sustainability, Quality & Management <ul><li>Costs are not monitored </li></ul><ul><li>Quality is difficult to control because of approach used </li></ul><ul><li>No built in academic review or evaluation </li></ul>
  29. 29. Organizational Issues <ul><li>E-Learning as technology-enhanced teaching much closer to the core mission of the university </li></ul><ul><li>Given higher priority than distance education which serves “other” learners who are often not considered “real” university students </li></ul><ul><li>Organizational model more consistent with traditional university </li></ul>
  30. 30. Organizational Issues <ul><li>DE in conventional universities has borrowed its organizational model from single mode DE institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Garrison & Anderson (1999) distinguish between “big” and “little” distance education </li></ul>
  31. 31. Big Distance Education <ul><li>Industrialized form of higher education </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers are all-powerful </li></ul><ul><li>Students are passive receivers of information, in a &quot;dominated and alienated&quot; position within the distance teaching and learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Uses mass technologies like broadcast television, the large-scale production of correspondence materials, and computer assisted instruction </li></ul>
  32. 32. Big Distance Education <ul><li>Capital (technology of curriculum production) is substituted for labor (classroom teacher) </li></ul><ul><li>Flexibility for the student is provided at the cost of severely reducing interaction and increasing learner isolation </li></ul>
  33. 33. Little Distance Education <ul><li>Maximizes interaction </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>collaborative learning, pacing, learning communities </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Focuses on meaningful learning outcomes </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>challenges the student to dig deeply into the subject content and explore the implications of this knowledge with regard to personal and societal constructs </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Maximizes active learning </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>extensive use of active learning activities, including simulations, explorations and explanatory assessment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Flexible in design </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>course materials are created in hyper-linked, hypermedia format and stored such that they can be easily modified, augmented, annotated, or printed by both instructor and learners as needed </li></ul></ul></ul>
  34. 34. Little Distance Education <ul><li>Supports a systems view </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>effective little DE systems provide for learner support services, registration flexibility, credit transfer, accreditation, provision of learning and research resources through electronic delivery and virtual libraries </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Compatible with research practice </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>creates learning environments focused on problem solving, collaborative projects, and exploration of complex environments </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Cost-effective </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>substantially increases access as courses become available at any time of the day or night and anywhere that Internet access is available. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  35. 35. Big vs. Little Distance Education <ul><li>Most DE in conventional universities is not “big” but perceived as such </li></ul><ul><li>Seen as alien to the prevailing organizational culture </li></ul>
  36. 36. Competition for Resources <ul><li>Resources are being diverted from distance education to support e-learning as technology-enhanced teaching </li></ul><ul><li>Organizational restructuring around the needs of ELTET </li></ul><ul><li>One of the side effects of decisions made without a full understanding of DE and how it differs from ELTET </li></ul>
  37. 37. Examples: UBC <ul><li>Successful DE department with nearly 60 years of experience </li></ul><ul><li>Attempt to “decentralized” </li></ul><ul><li>Rationale: only way that university can increase its use of e-learning and integrate with ELTET </li></ul><ul><li>Reveals a lack of understanding of the differences between two types of e-learning </li></ul>
  38. 38. Examples: UBC <ul><li>Reorganization fails to recognize that DE learners have distinct needs </li></ul><ul><li>Supported more effectively and efficiently by centrally-organized department that specializes in DE than by having each Faculty deal with DE separately </li></ul>
  39. 39. Examples: BC Open University <ul><li>Part of Open Learning Agency (OLA) </li></ul><ul><li>OLA closed </li></ul><ul><li>BC Open University now part of Thompson Rivers University (TRU) </li></ul><ul><li>TRU a dual mode university </li></ul>
  40. 40. Examples: T élé-Université <ul><li>T élé-Université: autonomous campus of Université de Québec </li></ul><ul><li>Now being absorbed into main campus </li></ul><ul><li>No longer an autonomous distance teaching institution </li></ul>
  41. 41. Concluding Remarks <ul><li>Distance educators have been so focused on quality, cost, and sustainability that they have not recognized the significance of ELTET </li></ul><ul><li>ELTET represents a new movement in higher education </li></ul><ul><li>Poses a threat to social mandate of distance education </li></ul>
  42. 42. Concluding Remarks <ul><li>ELTET has stronger connections to the core mandate of conventional universities </li></ul><ul><li>Distance educators need to cultivate support, build connections, seek allies </li></ul><ul><li>Need support at senior levels </li></ul><ul><li>Need to “appropriate” the term e-learning </li></ul><ul><li>Can no longer rely on “marginal champions” </li></ul>
  43. 43. For Further Information <ul><li>Mark Bullen </li></ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>BCIT Learning & Teaching Centre </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>