Essential Question: What lessons can we take from Global Distance Learning Efforts?
Looking at countries around the world, we can see what others are doing to expand distance education and take some lessons away from them. One thing becomes clear: other countries are investing in education, and distance education in particular, at a much higher level than our country.
The European Distance and E-Learning Network (EDEN) holds conferences every two years, supports the European Journal of Open Distance and E-Learning (EURODL), and contributes to research and development projects across Europe (Moore, 2011).
Moore writes about several distance learning programs outside the U.S. For example, the United Kingdom Open University (UKOU), the UK’s first open university,
- is a premier model of distance education in the world;
- is one of the largest single-mode institutions;
- has earned the highest grade assessments from the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education’s Institutional Audit;
- in 2010, rated among the top three Higher Education Institutions in the UK for student satisfaction, maintaining its position at the forefront of the National Student Survey ratings since it began in 2005;
- is organized into 10 English regions, all of which, among other things, manage local study centers, monitor instructors, and have immediate oversight of student progress;
- is home to a laboratory for the study of new technology that houses some 80 researchers, technologists, and designers;
- started the Institute of Educational Technology, which conducts research into aspects of distance education, offers advice in the use of technology to support learning, and provides educational and professional development for staff. (Moore, 2011)
In Japan, national policy “was formulated in 2006 in the government’s New Reform Strategy on Information Technology, which set out to double the proportion (14.6 percent in 2006) of faculties and departments in higher education institutions that provide distance education” (Moore, 2011). According to Komiko Aoki (quoted in Moore, 2011), a 2008 survey of Japanese institutions found
- 90 percent of universities providing distance education still send printed materials by post to students;
- 30 percent allow direct contact from students to professors, and it may take a few days or even a week until the former receives answers from the latter;
- 90 percent of universities conduct traditional pencil-and-paper tests requiring examinees’ physical attendance; and
- fewer than 40 percent have full-time staff exclusively providing technical support.
In Korea, since the mid-1990s, “governmental policy has been based on recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Education Reform (1997) which dictated that high priority be given to applications of communications technology for learning across the lifespan. Success led to the passing of a law in 2001 to govern the establishment of what became called cyber universities” (Moore, 2011).
Brazil’s education and training are rated highly among national, state, and local policies and plans, and the distance education component is overseen by a special unit within the Ministry of Education, called the Secretariat of Distance Education. In that country, according to Moore (2011),
- 20 % of the institutions are publicly funded, with free tuition;
- 80 % are private, about 10 % religious;
- changes are occurring under PROFORMACAO, “A nationwide project to provide training for unqualified elementary school teachers, most of whom are to be found in rural schools in the most underdeveloped parts of this huge country. The program was under way between 1999 and 2004 and successfully trained over 30,000 teachers. It is an excellent example of a systems approach” (Moore, 2011).
According to Moore (2011), in Finland and Norway, among the richest countries in the world, education is given high priority in national policy. The Finnish Ministry of Education reports that half of the working population is engaged in some form of continuing education. The Norwegian government was one of the first in the world with a national policy to support distance education, with related laws passed as long ago as 1948.
As Moore (2011) also writes, “Almost all college and higher education in Australia is federally funded, the government exerts considerable influence on the direction and development of distance education programs.”
Meanwhile, here in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Education, “Expectations for students and school systems continue to rise while many states face the toughest financial challenges of recent history. It will mean graduating a significantly greater number of students—with higher levels of mastery and expertise—at a lower cost per outcome. This will require leaders at every level—from the classroom to the statehouse—to work together to rethink the policies, processes, tools, business models, and funding structures that have been ingrained in our education system for decades.” https://www.ed.gov/oii-news/increasing-educational-productivity
Darling-Hammond (2015) notes: “Our college participation rates have slipped from 1st in the world to 16th. Meanwhile in many European and some Asia countries more than half are becoming college graduates.” With our college participation rate declining, this country needs to do more to educate its citizens. We have a lot of work ahead, but if we, make education a priority, take some of the ideas mentioned from the other countries, and work together, we can raise the number of people seeking higher education in the U.S. As countries are finding out around the world, distance education will increasingly play a key role in making higher education available to the greatest possible number of students.
Aoki, K. (2008). The 2008 survey results of ICT use by distance education programs in Japanese colleges and universities. Tokyo. NIME Research Report 41.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2015). The flat world and education: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future. Teachers College Press.
Moore, M. (2011). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning, 3rd Edition. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
U.S. Department of Education. (2016). Increasing Educational Productivity. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from https://www.ed.gov/oii-news/increasing-educational-productivity