Reflecting on my learning process during module 3/OMDE 601 (Foundations of Distance Education)

What aspects of this module further influenced your understanding of DE? Based on what you have learned so far in this course, revise your original definition accordingly, and explain why you have changed your definition in the way you have.

My reflected understanding of DE after module 2/OMDE 601 was:
1. Students and teachers are separated by location and time leading to a communication gap.
2. In the teaching-learning environment two-way interaction can be synchronous or asychronous.
3. Specified administration of the edcuational institution, planned course design, learner oriented instruction and organisation are requirements for high quality courses in DE.
4. For learning and teaching an appropriate mix of media is used based on pedagogical foundations.
5. Guided didactic conversation supports successful learning, and the two variables dialogue and structure can be adjusted to the student’s needs.
6. Distance education can be conducted in the form of collaborative learning within a specified time frame or in the form of autonomous learning.


In module 3 we learned a lot about the institutional aspects of DE. Because of the importance of institutions as well as their classification, I would like to expand/specify statement 3:
3. Specified administration of the edcuational institution, planned course design, learner oriented instruction and organisation are requirements for high quality courses in DE. Educational institutions can be classified according to institutional modes, to generations of technologies or to educational approaches.
And, after reading more about DE (especially in the book of Peters, 2004), I like to add statement 7 and 8. The humanitarian point of view should not be neglected in the definition of DE. DE plays a major role in lifelong learning and provides the opportunity to continue education for many people, people who would not be able to do so otherwise. DE can reform the educational system of a country, in which money is not abundant for general education. This is not only true for poor countries (developing world) – also in Germany, DE will reform the system of the traditional universities. In my research, some universities did already start to develop DE departments, especially the branches of the Fachhochschulen (University of Applied Sciences). By doing so, different students are attracted, students who work in parallel or live outside the country. Lifelong learning is a new trend of our generation.
7. DE is a special kind of education - it has specific students and pursues special pedagogical strategies which are realized with specific media and methods. DE can support lifelong learning, gives opportunities for continuing education and contributes to the reform of a country’s educational system.
By analysing different DE institutions all over the world, I realized that DE is very much dependent on the culture – people are strongly influenced by the government, by politics, by the social and economic environment. Therefore, DE will be understood and achieved differently, dependent on the culture. This should be kept in mind by planning DE courses for an international target group.
8. The definition of DE is dependent on socio-economic conditions and cultures.
In summary, my reflected understanding of DE would include following statements:
  1. Students and teachers are separated by location and time leading to a communication gap.
  2. In the teaching-learning environment two-way interaction can be synchronous or asychronous.
  3. Specified administration of the edcuational institution, planned course design, learner oriented instruction and organisation are requirements for high quality courses in DE. Educational institutions can be classified according to institutional modes, to generations of technologies or to educational approaches.
  4. For learning and teaching an appropriate mix of media is used based on pedagogical foundations.
  5. Guided didactic conversation supports successful learning, and the two variables dialogue and structure can be adjusted to the student’s needs.
  6. DE can be conducted in the form of collaborative learning within a specified time frame or in the form of autonomous learning.
  7. DE is a special kind of education - it has specific students and pursues special pedagogical strategies which are realized with specific media and methods. DE can support lifelong learning, gives opportunities for continuing education and contributes to the reform of a country’s educational system.
  8. The definition of DE is dependent on socio-economic conditions and cultures.

Here is an overview of the development of my definition of DE during the course OMDE 601.

Review the objectives from Module 3 and discuss how and to what level these objectives were achieved (or not achieved):

Yes, I think I did achieve all the objectives of module 3. Here, they are listed:
  • Identify the primary types of institutional structures that support DE
    There are three types of institutional structures:
    1. Classification according to institutional modes
    2. Classification according to generations of technologies
    3. Classification according to educational approaches

    In our study group we were working on the classfication according to institutional modes (single mode, dual mode, mixed mode, consortia). Therefore, I did get the most insight into this model compared to the other two. The classification according to institutional modes is based on Holmberg (2005), Peters (2001) and Moore and Kearsley (2005).
  • Identify the top DE institutions worldwide, their size, type of institutional structure and unique characteristics
    Based on the readings of Peters (2001) and Moore and Kearsley (2005) as well as researching the web sites of the institutions, the most important DE institutions worldwide are:
    1. The University of South Africa (UNISA):
    - Website: http://www.unisa.ac.za
    - size: biggest university of South Africa, 150,000 students (2002)
    - type of institutional structure:single mode (correspondence model)
    - unique characteristics: course development and teaching is not separated, race and gender reflects South Africans demographics, fees are 50% lower than generally charged by residential universities.
    2. The British Open University (OUUK):
    - Website: http://www3.open.ac.uk/about
    - size: 150,000 undergraduate and more than 30,000 postgraduate students, a third of undergraduate students have entry qualifications lower than those normally demanded by other UK universities., more than 25,000 OU students live outside the UK (2009)
    - type of institutional structure: single mode (printed material, programs on radio and TV, digital learning)
    - unique characteristics: open access policies, high quality courses, team approach
    3. The Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU):
    - Website: http://www.ignou.ac.in
    - size: largest university of the world, 2 million students (2009)
    - type of institutional structure: single mode (mix of multi-media packages, including face-to-face sessions and print material, effectively supplemented with Information and Communication Technology and Satellite-based teaching-learning systems)
    - unique characteristics: mission to democratize higher education, setting of standards in DE in India (monitors other DE institutions), mass media based model (modeled to the OUUK)
    4. The African Virtual University (AVU):
    - Website: http://www.avu.org/home.asp
    - size: 3000 students (2006)
    - type of institutional structure: single mode (satellite television, online conferencing)
    - unique characteristics: facilitates the use of open, distance and eLearning (ODeL) methodologies (a mix of delivery methods that includes both low end and high end delivery technologies).
    5. The Chinese Central Radio and Televison Universities (CCRTVU):
    - Website: http://www.crtvu.edu.cn/English_crtvu/index_en.html
    - size:1 million students, 44 provincial universities are central nodes for regional centers
    - type of institutional structure: single mode (TV and Radio, satellite, Internet, correspondence instruction)
    - unique characteristics: centralized design which allows local application of subject matter, mass dissemination of content.
  • Analyze the critical characteristics of each institutional structure
    Institutional modes

    1.) Single mode (=dedicated distance education systems)
    Critical characteristics:

    - Single mode institutions started with correspondence courses historically, today there are advanced DE techniques used most of the time.

    - The institution has non-traditional learners only, the instructions are through DE only, there is guided self-study (Peters, 2001).
    - The target group is working adults mostly who find DE a good alternative to a traditional classroom setup.
    - The institution has its first loyality of DE (Rumble & Latchem, 2004).
    - This mode is expensive to develop, therefore economies of scale is needed (Rumble & Latchem, 2004).
    - Single mode institutions are mostly large scale bodies (Holmberg, 2005).
    - In the model of Perraton (1991) of DE, single mode institutions are named “freestanding institutions”.
    - Single mode institutions have high autonomy.
    - There can be physical locations but they are not set up for instruction, rather for student support; the form of instruction determines the institutional mode.
    2.) Dual mode (= bimodal)
    Critical characteristics:

    - Traditional educational institutions start to become dual-mode institutions in order to earn more money (Holmberg, 2005). Because of this, the traditional DE market is fragmented resulting in competition with single mode institutions (Rumble & Latchem, 2004).

    - There are both on campus and off campus learners. This results in “flexible learning” (Rumble & Latchem, 2004).
    - Dual mode institutions are mostly small-scale bodies (Holmberg, 2005).
    - They achieve economies of scale, because traditional teaching (which is labour intensive) is replaced resulting in low teaching costs (Rumble & Latchem, 2004).
    - Bimodal institution offer parity of standards (campus on/off).
    - Perraton 1991 states that a dual mode institution can have a department within an university (belongs to institution) and DE is swapped out to this separate departement.
    - In a dual mode institution same classes are offered both in a online format and in a traditional face to face setting. The students have the choice which format they choose for studying, and they are allowed to mix the delivery mode as they like.
    3.) Mixed mode (=blended or hybrid learning)
    Critical characteristics:

    - Peters (2004) states that most universities will be mixed mode in the future.
    - DE is the prominent element in this mode.
    - Traditional institutions will become involved in the mixed mode in the future because of costs savings (Rumble & Latchem, 2004).
    - The strategy of this mode is: A portion of face to face instruction is replaced with online instruction (for example 50%, percentage is dependent on the course); this requires fewer campus visits of the students and less time is spend on campus. The curriculum is re-designed for the online part. Because of the online activities, interaction with course content is always available (Niemiec & Otte, 2009).
    - Because of the flexibility of this mode, enrollment can be increased, the learning effectiveness can be improved and drop-out quotes are lower compared to traditional classroom teaching (Niemiec & Otte, 2009).
    - In the mixed (blended) mode the same course has a face to face element as well as an online element (which can be synchronous or asynchronous) – the term “mixed” bases on the delivery form.
    - Mixed mode institutions have a majority (or a substantial number) of such blended courses. In these institutions the blended learning mode is the preferred delivery method.
    4.) Consortia (nationally/internationally)
    Critical characteristics:

    - Small institutions try to reduce costs and have benefits from co-operation with other small or big institutions. Such small institutions often lack necessary infrastructure and teachers for online learning.
    - This co-operation can be on a national or international level (Perraton, 1991).
    - In a consortium the components of the DE system are distributed to different institutions.
    - Following reasons why institutions follow that consortium approach can be found in Rumble & Latchem (2004): global competition, strengths for greater market share, geographic coverage, share costs, share courses and academic experiences, attract funding opportunities, share risk, joint course development (in order to be fast to the market), joint marketing.
    - In this institutional model lack of autonomy and dependence may be present (but not necessarily; for example if the institutions share their marketing channels only).
    - Consortia are a marketplace for ideas and products related to distance education, with the mission to further enhance the existing distance education programs of their members.
    - Furthermore, a consortium is a network of institutions, so it does not belong to one big institution itself.
    - A consortium itself does not "teach" a course, it is just organizing the network.
  • Give examples of each institutional structure in 1) North America 2) Europe and 3) Australia/Asia/South America/Africa:
    1.) North America:
    - Single mode: Athabasca University (http://www.athabascau.ca/
    - Dual mode: University of Wisconsin-Madison (http://www.wisc.edu/)
    - Mixed mode: Penn State University (http://www.psu.edu/)
    - Consortium: Arrowhead University Consortium (http://www.arrowheadu.com/a/j/)
    2.) Europe:
    - Single mode: The Open university, United Kingdom England (http://www.open.ac.uk/)
    - Dual mode: University of Leeds, United Kingdom England (http://www.leeds.ac.uk/)
    - Mixed mode: University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern, Distance and International Studies Center (DISC/ZFUW) (http://www.zfuw.uni-kl.de/)
    - Consortium: Virtual University of Bavaria (http://www.vhb.org/)
    3.) Australia/Asia/South America/Africa:
    - Single mode: University of South Africa (http://www.unisa.ac.za/)
    - Dual mode: Charles Sturt University in Australia (http://www.csu.edu.au/)
    - Mixed mode: University of Cape Coast in Ghana (http://www.ucc.edu.gh/)
    - Consortium: The Common-wealth of Learning (http://www.col.org/Pages/default.aspx)
  • Critically examine the differences among the various institutional types and discuss the probable effects on such functions as course development, student services, instructional design, and pedagogy:
    Four institutional modes were investigated which are discriminated mainly by the instructional method. There are institutions which do not fit clearly into one mode because of a mixture of instructional methods used. In such cases the instructional focus directs to the appropriate mode. Which model is preferred by an institution depends on the educational purpose, financial resources, and on the socio-economic structure of a country. Single-mode, dual-mode and mixed-mode institutions are defined by a different ratio of distance education courses, face-to-face courses and blended learning courses. This instructional method effects the course development, the instructional design, pedagogy and provision of student services.
    - Instructional method: In a single-mode institution courses are provided through DE only. Usually a large scale of students is served, and many single-mode institutions are found in countries with large populations. In these countries the educational system is not open for everybody, resulting in a need of access for the masses of people. In a dual-mode institution teaching and learning occurs on campus and off campus whereas the majority of courses of the dual-mode institution are offered face-to-face and in a DE format. Because DE is integrated into the structure of traditional classroom teaching, often the same instructor teaches face-to-face and DE students. Usually the dual-mode institution performs on a small scale, but there are examples of large scale as well. In a mixed mode institution the majority of courses are blended, this means, that the same course has a face-to-face element, and the rest of the course is taught at a distance. In a consortium the components of a DE system are distributed; the network of institutions does not belong to any one institution and the consortium organizes the network. A consortium can be a mix of single-mode, dual-mode and mixed-mode institutions.
    - Course development: In a single-mode institution a team develops the course material and designs the course. This team approach was originally created by the Open University in the UK resulting in high quality teaching materials (Holmberg, 2005). In dual-mode institutions the instructor is usally the author and editor of the course material. This course material is used by DE students and traditional students. In many dual-mode institutions exist a separate department which is in charge of DE administration. In a mixed-mode institution also the author-editor model is used for course development. Because the courses are blended, the instructor has to think of a pedagogical concept so that the face-to-face sessions will fit to the online sessions. In a consortium the course development may be shared between different partners, it can also be the case that one partner of the network is in charge of the development of the course material and the others of the network have the permission for usage.
    - Student services: In a single-mode institution the student services are usually provided on or off campus by the institution itself. In comparison, in a dual-mode institution such a student support may be integrated with that of the parent institution if DE is organized by a special DE unit of the institution. Student services can be provided on or off campus in a dual-mode institution, whereas the on campus support is more easily integrated compared to the single-mode institution, because of the presence of a physical building. A mixed-mode institution shows the same pattern like a dual-mode institution. In a consortium student services are distributed within the network of partners. Dependent on the network they can be provided by one partner or by every partner which offers DE courses.
    - Instructional design: Because in dual-mode and mixed-mode institutions a face-to-face element is present, face-to-face instruction has to be matched with other delivery technologies. Delivery methods are for example printed material, internet, satellite, audio-/ videoconferencing, radio, TV, Video, and CD-Rom. Printed material is in most cases the dominant form. In a consortium the method of delivery is based on a co-operative framework, meaning that it may be distributed within the network of partners. Used media direct the pedagogical mode of learning, for example, printed material requires the ability of reading. In developing countries this may be an issue, because some students may be partially illiterates.
    - Pedagogy: In all 4 modes autonomous learning is available to the student. In a mixed-mode institution the guidance of the learning process may be more intense because of the face-to-face element which is cross-linked with the online element. According to Peters, this blended form of teaching and learning is of high value and he calls it “university of the future” (Peters, 2001). In a dual-mode institution the student can choose between traditional and non-traditional learning based on parity of standards – this gives the learner more flexibility. In a consortium the learner can choose from a pool of courses, alleviating the transfer of credits between institutions. Today the learner can decide how and what to learn, and the institutions make a shift to a provider of student-centered learning.
  • Select, research, analyze, and discuss the critical aspects of a distance education institution
    Which model is preferred by an institution depends on the educational purpose, staff and financial resources, and on the socio-economic structure of a country. In Germany conventional university structures inhibit the integration of DE elements, and mixed mode is predominantly used in universities of applied sciences. Transformation to a virtual university is not realized to the full potential in many cases due to the complexity to change the nature of a conventional institution incorporating DE elements (Peters, 2004). In Europe the universities develop DE courses preferentially individually with self instructing teaching material (Peters, 2001).
    In USA dual-mode institutions are popular in order to work cost-effectively and to increase scale of enrollment. In developing countries quality assurance is a major requirement and local study centers aim for a blended learning approach in order to overcome deficits in the learning environment. There is a trend to consortia worldwide which enable to share costs, attract funding, share acedemic experiences and have force for a greater market share (Rumble & Latchem, 2004). In USA teaching in classes are preferred, and there is a focus to use technology for DE (Peters, 2001). In China group instruction is mandatory and combined with centralized teaching of professors via TV channels and radio.
    Critical characteristics of each institutional mode were described above. When analyzing the method of delivery, it shows that printed material is still the dominant medium in all institutional modes. In developing countries delivery methods which are based on higher technolgies were rarely used because of the lack of money (Holmberg, 2005). In general it is expensive to develop DE courses in high quality, therefore economies of scale is needed – which can be seen with single-mode institutions often.
    Many traditional universities did implement DE in the past years and became dual-mode institutions. They compete with the single-mode institutions on the market targeting students who can not visit classes in person (Rumble & Latchem, 2004). The dual-mode institutions offer parity of standards (on campus/off campus) which involves difficulties in practice, because examinations have to be identical on and off campus then. The entry standards may be different between traditional and non-traditonal students, however, the exit standard must match both. Because of this in a dual-mode institutions pedagogical concepts must consider this demand. In dual-mode institutions often a department is specified for DE administration. Because of this, and because of overworked staff who teaches on campus and functions as DE instructors in the same time resulting in disregard of the instructional work of DE, in such institutions DE may receivee a second-class status (Rumble & Latchem, 2004).
    In mixed-mode institutions staff and students are introduced step by step to the online delivery mode. Usually, mixed-mode universities were traditional universities in the beginning as well, like the dual-mode institutions. The blended learning concept with the face-to-face element can help students to stay in tight contact with the class and to overcome isolation. The mixed-mode can be useful for complex matter with necessary practical exercises.
    A consortium is a network of institutions and the components of the DE system are distributed to different institutions. The network can involve national and international partners. This can lead to problems due to cultural differences. Also it is a challenge to overcome incompatible organisational/administrative structures, weak leadership, lack of commitment and trust, as well as lack of clarity in specifying terms of agreements (Rumble & Latchem, 2004). Based on this, consortia partnerships are usually transient. For DE students such a network is of great value because of the increased flexibility choosing between different courses and because of the increased ease to transfer credits. Nonetheless, it may be a problem for the student, if the partners of the network change on a regular basis – the student often needs to study for several years in order to earn a degree, and then a stable learning environment with the same providers is essential.

Consider also the overall course objectives. Were all or most of these objectives achieved? If so, in what ways and to what degree?

The overall course objectives were:
  • identifying the characteristics of distance education;
  • outlining the history of distance education from its early beginnings to today's IT-based practices;
  • specifying a series of methodological issues relevant to distance education;
  • understanding the pedagogic structure of distance education and its relevant elements;
  • reflecting on institutional aspects in distance education;
  • analyzing the impact of digitization on the pedagogical structure of distance education.
Yes, I did achieve the overall course objectives.
I did get a deeper understanding of DE and did gain adequate knowledge of characteristics of DE. I got a feeling for pedagogical basics in DE as well and was introduced to DE research. I became acquainted with the most important authors in DE research, starting with the early beginnings of DE. Different opinions, theories and hypotheses of DE were presented. I did read much about the future of DE. I am aware of the importance of planning DE with a pedagogical background. Finally, I did learn that DE is dependent on socio-economic conditions, on cultural heritage and academic traditions. I did learn that DE is a own field of education, becoming more and more important in our daily life for lifelong learning. Institutions adapt to the demand of the independent learner, they become service centers for student-centered learning. DE is a topic of the future, even in Germany. Internet technology plays an important role in this process – advanced technology can fill the communication gap of a DE learner with the class and the instructor, multimedia elements can help to teach online, and student-student interaction as well as student-teacher interaction is facilitated by technology. Advantages of DE were highlighted and critical parameters discussed. DE can help to bring education to people who would not be able to receive education on a traditional way. Therefore DE does have a social impact as well.


Study group experience:

Collaborative work was scheduled in module 1 and 3. In module 1 it was a group consisting of two partners. In my case, my group partner got sick and could not contribute (I received an e-mail from my partner after the deadline of the group work, so pretty late, and I did contact the instructor in order to explain my case) – therefore I was not able to fulfill the task in a collaborative way, I did it by my own.
The collaborative work in module 3 was better: we were a group of 5 people. Again, this partner from module 1 did show up only for a short time in the beginning, and then never again – this was a bit disappointing. Our group was trying its best – two of us were in a different time zone (England and Germany), and another two had to travel during the time of group work. The rapporteur was kind of a project manager, creating a schedule for all of us, this was helpful. The tasks were distributed due to the skills of every person: because I am a non-native speaker I rather contributed to the concept of the paper, creating a table. Also another group member was a non-native speaker, and she also tried to contribute content. Two native speakers did a great job writing the text of the publication. We all were very actively working in the collaborative document area of Webtycho, here we could change words and give comments to specific paragraphs of our group paper. We also used a Wiki platform for gathering content.
The timeframe for the collaborative work was set to a week, which is quite a short time. The outcome for that short time was very good and the interaction with the active group members fruitful. We all were working goal oriented.
Personally, I am not a big fan of group work, because it is often hard to find a way to get the agreement of everybody – DE learners are adults who work and have other commitments, they are distinct personalities with distinct opinions and characters. In addition, cultural differences may affect the communication. For me, it was a good learning experience how it feels to work together with an international group. The course concept was set up smartly, because the group work was not graded but rather the basis for the independent research paper. I found the comments of the instructor to the draft of the collaborative work helpful in order to improve quality of the collaborative document. I was satisfied with the final result of the group’s classification scheme.




References:

Holmberg, B. (2005). The evolution, principles and practices of distance education. Oldenburg: Bibliotheks- und Informationssystem der Universität Oldenburg.

Keegan, D. (1993). A typology of distance teaching systems. In K. Harry, M. John, & D. Keegan (Eds.), Distance education: New perspectives (pp. 62-76). London: Routledge.

Keegan, D. (1998). The two modes of distance education. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 13(3), 43 -47.

Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. (2005). Distance Education: A systems view (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Niemiec, M., & Otte, G. (2009). An administrator's guide to the whys and hows of blended learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13(1), 19-30. Retrieved July 18, 2009, from ERIC database.

Perraton, H. (1991). Administrative structures for distance education, London: Commonwealth Secretariat.

Peters, O. (2001). Learning and teaching in distance education - Analyses and interpretations from an international perspective. London: Kogan Page.

Peters, O. (2004). Distance education in transition: New trends and challenges (4th ed.). Oldenburg: Bibliotheks-und Informationssystem der Universität Oldenburg.

Rumble, G.& Latchem, C. (2004). Organisational models for distance and open learning. In H. Perraton, Lentell, H. (Ed.), Policy for open and distance learning (pp. 117 - 140). London: RoutledgeFalmer.

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