Reference: Tella, S. 1997. An 'Uneasy Alliance' of Media Education and Multiculturalism, with a View to Foreign Language Learning Methodology. Media Education Centre. University of Helsinki. Department of Teacher Education. OLE Publications 4, pp. 14-17. (NB. This is just one chapter of the whole booklet.)


From Distance Education to Open and Distance Learning


There have also been changes in terminology and in emphasis regarding distance education (DE), which used to be the main concept in the 1980s and even in the early 1990s. Even if this article does not concentrate on these changes in great detail, it could be mentioned that distance teaching (DT) and distance learning (DL) are often substituted for DE in modern educational parlance, but it remains to be seen which of the terms now in use will outdo the others. At present, both distance education, distance teaching and distance learning are being used, together with other terms indicated in Figure 1, e.g., Thombs, Sails & Alcott 1989; Chacon 1992; Henri 1992; Rowntree 1992; Farr & Shaeffer 1993; LeBaron & Bragg 1993; Paquette, Bergeron & Bourdeau 1993; Wagner 1993; Husu et al. 1994; Comeaux 1995; Jonassen et al. 1995; McHenry & Bozik 1995; Bates 1996; Meisalo 1996; Moore & Kearsley 1996; Salminen 1996. Education at a distance is also used (e.g., Husu 1996). A thorough analysis of a classroom focused distance education framework is presented in Husu (1996). Kynäslahti (1996) aptly discusses the common trends between distance education and globalisation.

Open learning (OL), together with flexible learning (FL) and distance learning seem to have formed the concept of open and distance learning (ODL).

A more thorough analysis of the differences between the various components is outside the scope of this article, but we will refer tentatively to a few definitions. Maxwell (1995), for instance, makes the following distinction:

"Open learning is defined as a student-centered approach to education that removes all barriers to access while providing a high degree of learner autonomy. Distance education refers to a mode of delivering a course of study in which the majority of communication between teachers and students occurs noncontiguously, and the two-way communication between teacher and student necessary for the educational process is technologically mediated. Distance education may or may not be based on open-learning ideals." (Maxwell 1995, 43)

Figure 1. Some Changes from Distance Education to Open and Distance Learning.

On the whole, Maxwell (1995) regards open learning and distance education as two non-traditional learning approaches that might provide an option for reaching non-traditional students. He further argues that

" [d]istance education and open learning should be recognized as two distinct concepts. Distance education refers to a mode of delivery with certain characteristics that distinguish it from the campus-based mode of learning. Open learning refers to a philosophy of education providing students with as much choice and control as possible over content and learning strategies. A distance-education institution could be open or closed. An open learning course could be offered on campus or at a distance." (Maxwell 1995, 46)

Atkinson (1996) argues that 'open learning' carries connotations of learning not being closed or blocked off, and so able to be more readily accessed with the opportunity to participate and succeed, while 'flexible learning' carries connotations of learning being more adaptable and versatile, so enhancing opportunities to participate and to be successful. In her opinion, openness can be seen as relating more to an outcome and flexibility to the means of achieving this outcome. The two terms appear to be two sides of the same coin. Flexibility contains dimensions of access (the opportunity to participate), timing and duration, location of study, curriculum factors, and learning support. (Atkinson 1996, 45-46)

Bates (1996) defines distributed learning (DL) as

" a learner-centred approach to education, which integrates a number of technologies to enable opportunities for activities and interaction in both asynchronous and real-time modes. The model is based on blending a choice of appropriate technologies with aspects of campus-based delivery, open learning systems and distance education. The approach gives instructors the flexibility to customize learning environments to meet the needs of diverse student populations, while providing both high quality and cost-effective learning." (Bates 1996, 9)

Bates goes on to contend that although many people use the terms 'distributed learning' and 'distance education' interchangeably or assume that they mean the same thing, this is not the case. He gives an example of university-level courses for fully registered, on-campus students where a substantial part is available on the Web or on CD-ROM. Students can access this material at any time, from the campus or from home, which certainly makes the course more easily accessible. However, Bates remarks these students have to be 'resident', i.e., available for lectures. In this case, this is distributed learning but not distance learning nor open learning since students have to meet all the stringent entrance requirements to be registered as university students. (Bates 1996, 9-10).

Wylie (1996) summarises eight characteristics of open learning:

Who? (flexible entry provision),

Why? (responsive to learner needs),

What? (learner can negotiate content),

How? (resource-based, alternative strategies),

Where? (home, workplace, study centre),

When? (flexible start, pace, completion times),

How effective? (learner participates in assessment),

Who helps? (variety of advice, support available). (Wylie, 1996, 288)

The tools and software used in DE are often quite the same as in ODL, but there is a shift in emphasis from a more teacher-focused environment towards an open learner-centred and virtual learning environment with a focus on distributed expertise and cognitive tools.


References

Atkinson, E. 1996. Open/Flexible Learning and the Open Learning Initiative. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Open Learning. 4-6 December 1996. Brisbane, Qld Australia, 45-48.

Bates, A. W. 1996. The Impact of Technological Change on Open and Distance Learning. Keynote Presentation in Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Open Learning. 4-6 December 1996. Brisbane, Qld Australia.

Chacon, F. 1992. A taxonomy of computer media in distance education. Open Learning, February.

Comeaux, P. 1995. The Impact of an Interactive Distance Learning Network on Classroom Communication. Communication Education 44, October, 353-361.

Farr, C. W. & Shaeffer, J. M. 1993. Matching Media, Methods, and Objectives in Distance Education. Educational Technology July 52-55.

Henri, F. 1992. Formation à distance et téléconférence assistée par ordinateur: Interactivité, quasi-interactivité, ou monologue? Journal of Distance Education/Revue de l'enseignement à distance Spring/Printemps VII (1), 5-24.

Husu, J. 1996. A Theoretical Framework for Classroom Focused Distance Education. In Meisalo, V. (ed.) The Integration of Remote Classrooms: A Distance Education Project Using Video Conferencing. University of Helsinki. Department of Teacher Education. Research Report 160, 37-51.

Husu, J., Salminen, J., Falck, A.-K., Kronlund, T., Kynäslahti, H. & Meisalo, V. 1994. Luokkamuotoisen etäopetuksen lähtökohtia: Kilpisjärvi-projektin alkuraportti. (Starting-points of class-form distance education: The Initial Report of the Kilpisjärvi Project.) University of Helsinki. Department of Teacher Education. Research Report 135.

Jonassen, D., Davidson, M., Collins, M., Cambell, J. & Haag, B. B. 1995. Constructivism and Computer-Mediated Communication in Distance Education. The American Journal of Distance Education 9 (2), 7-26.

Kynäslahti, H. 1996. The Perspective of Kilpisjärvi in the Integration of Remote Classrooms. In Meisalo, V. (ed.) The Integration of Remote Classrooms: A Distance Education Project Using Video Conferencing. University of Helsinki. Department of Teacher Education. Research Report 160, 115-136.

LeBaron, J. F. & Bragg, C. A. 1993. Modeling Constructivism in Distance Education Designs for Higher Education. In Estes, N. & Thomas, M. (eds.) Rethinking the Roles of Technology in Education: The Tenth International Conference on Technology and Education. March 21-24, 1993. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Volume 1. Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, College of Education, 86-88.

Maxwell, L. 1995. Integrating Open Learning and Distance Education. Educational Technology November-December, 43-48.

McHenry, L. & Bozik, M. 1995. Communicating at a Distance: A Study of Interaction in a Distance Education Classroom. Communication Education 44, October, 362-371.

Meisalo, V. (ed.) 1996. The Integration of Remote Classrooms: A Distance Education Project Using Video Conferencing. University of Helsinki. Department of Teacher Education. Research Report 160.

Moore, M. G. & Kearsley, G. 1996. Distance Education: A Systems View. Belmont: Wadsworth.

Paquette, G., Bergeron, G. & Bourdeau, J. 1993. The Virtual Classroom Revisited: An architecture for integrating information technology in distance education and training. Teleteaching. Proceedings of the IFIP TC3 Third Teleteaching Conference, TeleTeaching 93, Trondheim, Norway, 20-25 August, 639-646.

Rowntree, D. 1992. Exploring Open and Distance Learning. London: Kogan Page.

Salminen, J. 1996. Technical Applications in Classroom Focused Distance Education. In Meisalo, V. (ed.) The Integration of Remote Classrooms: A Distance Education Project Using Video Conferencing. University of Helsinki. Department of Teacher Education. Research Report 160, 21-36.

Thombs, M., Sails, P. & Alcott, B. 1989. Busy Professionals Go to Class the Modem Way: A New Approach to Distance Learning in the Electronic Classroom. Educational Technology October, 30-31.

Wagner, E. D. 1993. Variables Affecting Distance Educational Program Success. Educational Technology April, 28-32.

Wylie, A. 1996. Open Learning: If it Looks Like DE, it's Okay. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Open Learning. 4-6 December 1996. Brisbane, Qld Australia, 286-293.


Care to know more about OLE Publication 4? Preface | Summary