Most distance learning institutions make decisions about the kind of programmes to offer based on a needs analysis of its target population. The most common considerations are linked to the amount of non-formal or continuing education available in a region, and how programmes may be tailored for community development.
Most distance education providers focus on two types of programmes of study: (i) credit-bearing academic programmes of study and (ii) courses for lifelong learning and continuing education. Decisions pertaining to choice of programmes, or the amount of courses under each of these two categories often depend on the following considerations:
- The state of development of a region, and the national agenda that has been expressed in a nation
- The degree to which education is necessary for upward mobility, such as promotions at the workplace
- The educational relevance of particular programmes of study within a region such as the existence of a large number of graduates who are unemployable
- The amount and nature of educational financing that is available to students in a particular region.
The successful implementation of a programme of study depends on a number of factors, some of which are:
- The providing college’s ability to provide flexibility in the structure of its programmes, e.g. four-year degree-level programmes may be broken into three parts: a certificate is awarded after completion of 30 credits; a diploma after the completion of 60 credits and a degree after all credit requirements (e.g. 120 credits) have been fulfilled. Generally, few or no restrictions are imposed on the amount of time taken to complete a programme.
- Allowing for credit transfer between colleges and programmes
- Making provisions for the recognition of learners’ competencies and prior learning experiences
- Allowing for a flexible credit load per term or calendar year