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Saturday, 21 November 2009

Issues Encountered by Distance Educators

Recurring Issues Encountered by Distance Educators in Developing and Emerging Nations is the full title of a very helpful article (first pointed out by Tony Bates) from the noble body entitled, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.

I must commend the willingness of authors to publish these articles for open access. There is a whole range of mandatory reading with which I must certainly catch up.
The abstract to the article, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning reads:

"This article explores a number of challenges faced by e-learning or distance educators in developing and emerging countries, provides a context for many of the challenges, and outlines some measures devised to overcome them. These educators must determine a sound rationale for employing online learning, recognize that technology is only part of the educational transformation process, address the lack of infrastructure and the cost of Internet bandwidth and equipment, counter the cultural imperialism of courseware from Western nations, deal with limited educational resources, place a greater emphasis on quality assurance systems and change negative perceptions of distance education, respond to the needs and concerns of both students and faculty, access or develop up-to-date educational resources, and consider the implementation of mobile learning. The continued growth and success of distance education in developing and emerging nations will depend on the extent to which issues covered in this article are addressed as they bear on the quality of the learning experience provided to students. "

Perhaps a further note of caution need to be defined in terms of the actual Teaching and Learning culture. Perhaps where good VLEs have not yet been established, the place of the e-Portfolio becomes even more important. And yet the very climate in the classroom may still be that of "I teach, You listen." Yes, the e-Portfolio can be a good record of a student's learning, of their competencies and interests, all of which can be part of a traditional didactic approach. However, the e-Portfolio also lends itself to collaboration and peer review which might still be beyond the experience of some teachers and lecturers.

Although 'collaboration' is mentioned several times in the paper, it is in terms of institutions' collaborative efforts related to generally economic pressures. It is therefore time that, in such organisations, teachers and lecturers re-defined their curricula in order to build upon those beneficial processes of collaboration and peer review, sharing with mentors and building upon regular formative feedback from tutors. And this, of course is where the e-Portfolio is best able to support Teaching & Learning.

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