An important policy decision with regards to effective teaching and learning is related to the type of learning material that will be used in a programme of study. While some ODL institutions develop their own print materials, others rely on textbooks, notes and workbooks. Traditional distance learning courses used only printed notes, which were mailed to students. However, with the advent of ICT and information databases, more and more ODL institutions rely on digital content. At any rate a decision must be made about what students are going to work with, how they will access their learning material and the form it will take.
Policy makers may wish to use the following pointers in making decisions on the development and type of learning material to be used at their institutions.
- Digital material may be presented in the form of courseware, audio recordings and/or interactive videos, a digital library or a digital database and/or CD-ROM. However, this will depend on whether students have access to the necessary infrastructure for accessing the digitised information given to them.
- Print material may be developed by a team of subject-matter experts (SMEs) hired by the institution, either on a part-time or full-time basis. These SMEs should have the necessary know-how to present the material in a learner-friendly manner.
- In many situations, part-time SMEs may have other commitments (such as a full-time job) to attend to. To avoid problems with production backlog and quality of materials careful planning of the time frame for writing and selection of writers is required.
- The development of learning materials often takes up a huge amount of resources and ODL institutions have to pay due attention to the related budgetary and financial issues.
- Instead of setting up the necessary systems internally, some ODL institutions make arrangements with textbook publishers to develop customised materials. This move will have to be evaluated on a number of criteria to ascertain its viability for the institution.
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