Distance learning is seen as the obvious answer for remote learners, and the use of online media is expected to overcome any access difficulties imposed by geographical distance. However, this belief may be obscuring our understanding of the role that location and individual circumstances have in shaping student experience. This paper explores the variation in experiences of remote rural students who study with the Open University (UK). The researchers found that perceptions of remoteness depended on geography, but were also relative to individual circumstances. With respect to students’ sense of connection with university staff and peers, most mentioned their contact with their personal tutor. Networks with peers were less common, a matter of concern if peer networks are integral to fostering improved retention and progression. In this particular context, distance education may be playing an important and distinctive role for remote students by providing opportunities for connections with like-minded people.
Offered between 2006 and 2009 and graduating 21 Inuit candidates, the Nunavut Master of Education program was a collaborative effort made to address the erosion of Inuit leadership in the K-12 school system after the creation of Nunavut, Canada’s newest territory, in 1999. Delivered to a large extent in short, intensive, face-to-face courses, the program also made extensive use of online supports. This paper outlines the design challenges – geographical, technological, pedagogical, and cultural – that faced the development and delivery of the online portion of the program. It highlights the intersection of the design decisions with the decolonizing principles that framed the program as a whole, the various and varying roles played by the online environment over the course of the program, and the program’s contribution to student success.
For several years, the government of the western Canadian province of Alberta has drafted policies and conducted research on the problem of populations under-represented in adult education. This Alberta-North and Athabasca University study, funded by the Alberta government’s Innovation Fund, uses the advice and educational experiences of northern former and present students, and of other community members, to identify ways of better attracting, preparing, and retaining under-represented populations in northern Alberta communities through provision and training in the use of distance delivery methods. The research reported here commences with a review of the literature to investigate the following: 1) the contribution distance education makes globally to learning access in remote areas (and resulting economic growth for under-served populations); 2) how support is provided to retain isolated students; and 3) the help needed to assist remote students to complete distance programs. Community consultations with social service and education agencies in three communities were conducted in order to obtain their perspectives about what helps to attract and support students to educational programs and the barriers students typically encounter, which might be mitigated by distance methods. Finally, a survey was designed and distributed in 87 Alberta-North communities in northern Alberta and across Canada’s Northwest Territories to add perspective to the consultation results.
The HANDS (Helping Autism-diagnosed teenagers Navigate and Develop Socially) research project involves the creation of an e-learning toolset that can be used to develop individualized tools to support the social development of teenagers with an autism diagnosis. The e-learning toolset is based on ideas from persuasive technology. This paper addresses the system design of the HANDS toolset as seen from the user’s perspective. The results of the evaluation of prototype 1 of the toolset and the needs for further development are discussed. In addition, questions regarding credibility and reflections on ethical issues related to the project are considered.
This paper discusses recent uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in fostering Internet-based projects for learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at the Faculty of Foreign Languages in Yakutsk State University, Russia. It covers the authors’ experiences integrating distance education and creating educational resources within the Moodle LMS and wiki projects based on Web 2.0 social networking technologies. Also it discusses our international project, Net-based Course Development: English through Digital Storyline, in cooperation with the University of Tromsø, Norway.
The Arctic is a vast, sparsely populated area. The demographic situation points to online distance education as a solution to support lifelong learning and to build competence in the region. An overall aim of all university education is what Hans Georg Gadamer calls Bildung, what we in Norwegian call dannelse and what Richard Rorty has called edification. A first problem to be addressed here is that in online distance learning some teachers find that is harder to support the development of the student’s voice. Being able to express oneself and to position oneself in a scientific community is vital for a well educated graduate. Another problem in online education has been the extensive use of writing as a means in the student’s learning process. Writing is vital to academic education, but in online courses there is in general a danger of overuse. At the University of Tromsø we have tested the web conference tool Elluminate Live. This is a real-time application, integrated in the University’s learning management system (LMS), Fronter. The application enables synchronous oral dialogue, simultaneous sharing of texts, and so forth. I present our main experience with the use of Elluminate Live and discuss the extent to which this application has turned out to be helpful in developing the quality of online courses.
The recent economic crisis in Iceland has raised issues of the sustainability of Icelandic higher education to new levels of importance. A key strategy in relation to this economic crisis is to consider the merger of the four public universities in Iceland and to introduce a much higher enegagement with online and open delivery methods of higher education. The Net-University Project was an EU Leonardo-funded initiative to compare approaches to open and distance education in Iceland, Sweden, and Scotland, with additional lessons from Atlantic Canada. In particular, it sought to focus on the transfer of innovation in continuing university education, with particular emphasis on the development and delivery of online higher education courses throughout rural Iceland (i.e., outside of Reykjavik). The partners concentrated on how knowledge and experience about distributed and distance learning models could be transferred between the partner countries and how such models can be integrated into the education system to better support higher education and lifelong learning. There was a particular interest in the practical use of open educational resources (OER) for course design and in the sharing of these course modules among university partners. Some good practice and lessons from OER use in course creation are listed.
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