Distance learning (DL) is meant to overcome the limits of conventional presence-based study. DL facilitates learning for large numbers of people at reduced cost and reaches those located in dispersed or remote areas. Learners have access to information, opportunities to disseminate good practices, networking and exchange. However, DL courses often involve high start-up costs which implies expanded enrolment for effectiveness. They also have higher levels of student drop-out and lower completion rates than conventional courses. Web-based DL programs require access to the internet, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) hardware and technical support. Learners have to be computer literate and able to interact in virtual environments. Therefore, effective DL relies on a type of instructional design that is logistically feasible and pedagogically engaging, providing opportunities for discussion and support that help reduce learner isolation.
GFA concept and services
Learners use online resources via ICTs to study texts, audio and video materials, engage with tutors and peers in discussion fora. They also participate in web-based seminars (webinars), work collaboratively, and submit assignments online. Training providers can coordinate study through virtual learning environments, using online platforms such as Moodle.
Mobile or m-learning is particularly useful when local infrastructure cannot support effective online study. M-learning is particularly valuable for field work, e.g. in health and agriculture. Mobile devices can be used to record and share audio or visual data, access data to support diagnostic tasks, and keep in touch with learners.
Combining distance learning with face-to-face sessions, blended learning enables schools and colleges with limited on-site capacity to increase enrolment. This model also has the advantage of facilitating autonomous practice-based study while providing direct support to learners.
If access to ICTs remains limited and costly, print-based study remains the best way to exploit the benefits of distance learning. This model relies on effective procedures for instructional design, materials development, and learner support.
GFA's approach to DL emphasises the importance of instructional design, regular and personalised academic support, and the value of peer-to-peer exchange. Our experience has demonstrated the need for effective delivery mechanisms, fully-developed administrative procedures, and clear stakeholder roles and responsibilities. Capacity development and training for program developers and support staff is the key to success for any type of distance learning program.
>> Get detailed information to GFA´s C³ Unit for Better Learning: www.c3-training.de