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Open Learning and Distance Education

The terms open learning and distance education generally refer to non-traditional modes of education. Although distance education has been around for a long time, its form has evolved in a number of ways. However, open learning is a more recent phenomena and its definition varies from country to country.

Policy makers who wish to begin an ODL programme or to establish an ODL institution have to make decisions about the nature of openness and distance education that is best suited for learners in their country. Because ODL espouses the twin values of flexibility and accessibility, most programmes adopt a learner-centred approach to education.

Broadly, policy decisions on the implementation of open learning and distance education may be made in consideration of the following parameters:
  • There are no specific requirements for entry into a programme of study. Prior learning and work experience are also considered relevant antecedents to entry.

  • Learners are not required to fulfil a residency requirement at the host institution. Most learners do not leave their home or work place as they pursue a programme of study.

  • A number of modes of information dissemination are used in most ODL institutions. These may be print materials or digitised information such as courseware, audio recordings and/or interactive videos.

  • A multi-modal assessment system is often used and is customised to fit into the course of study. For example, experiential learning and collaborative projects may be used in addition to or instead of formal tests and examinations.

  • Learners are not required to complete a programme of study within a specific time. Instead, learners learn at their own pace and make their own decisions about the learning path that is to be followed for their programme.

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