nature of dLearning definition
refers to distance learning.
is used in this study in its legal sense for the provision, either
public or private, of education and training for nationally recognised
degrees, diplomas and certificates, to students who choose not to,
or who are unable to, or who refuse to, attend the schools, the
colleges, and the universities which society provides for the purposes
choice of terminology like, 'students who refuse to go to college'
is that of the analyst or the stocktaker, and would not be used
by stakeholders who choose to champion distance learning or criticise
There will always
be a need for a term to characterise the sector of education which
offers educational qualifications to those students who do not attend
educational institutions, and it seems appropriate to use the well-established
term distance education for this sector, whether the provision is
made electronically or not.
legal dimensions, the study is based on a previously published definition:
education is a form of education characterised by:
- The quasi-permanent
separation of teacher and learner throughout the length of the
learning process (this distinguishes it from conventional face-to-face
- The influence
of an educational organisation both in the planning and preparation
of learning materials and in the provision of student support
services (this distinguishes it from private study and teach-yourself
- The use of
technical media - print, audio, video or computer, or the world
wide web, to unite teacher and learner and carry the content of
- The provision
of two-way communication so that the student may benefit from
or even initiate dialogue (this distinguishes it from other uses
of technology in education); and
- The quasi-permanent
absence of the learning group through-out the length of the learning
process so that people are usually taught as individuals rather
than in groups, with the possibility of meetings, either face-to-face
or by electronic means, for both didactic and socialisation purposes.
The World Bank
web site gives shorter definitions in its glossary of distance education
Teaching and learning in which learning normally occurs in a different
place from teaching.
Term often used as synonymous with distance education, not strictly
correctly since distance education includes teaching as well as
raised by these concepts for the analyst is that society has for
some hundreds, if not thousands of years, provided itself with locations
called schools, and higher level locations called universities,
at which the teaching-learning interaction takes place. The question
for the analyst is whether institutional learning is essentially
linked to these privileged places for institutional learning created
students choose to remain in employment, at home with their families.
They refuse to give up their jobs to study. They expect to be given
institutional learning at home and, more and more frequently as
the new millennium starts, university degrees at home, isolated
in front of a screen. The ideas of Von Humboldt, or Arnold, or Newman
that universities are places where students come together for the
purposes of learning, do not convince them to travel to colleges
and to reside at them.
Historians of Western education trace the origins of conventional
face-to-face education back through the centuries, showing how it
evolved through the dialogue, lecture, seminar, tutorial, laboratory
practical and library resource centre to the provision in schools,
colleges and universities today. This is characterised by (i) face-to-face
provision, (ii) between teacher and learner in the learning group.
(iii) based on interpersonal communication.
a distance (dLearning) is more recent going back only 150 years
to the developments of technology associated with the Industrial
Revolution, especially in transport and communications. It is characterised
by the separation of the teacher and the learner and of the learner
from the learning group, with the interpersonal communication of
conventional education being replace by a mode of communication
mediated by technology. Correspondence schools, open universities
and other structures of today provide this complement and enrichment
of conventional provision.
The first distance
educators made it possible for the first time in history to learn
at a distance by separating the teacher from the learner and separating
the learner from the learning group. This brought great benefits
to learners as it freed them from the timetabling of lectures and
of training sessions in the company training centre and enabled
them to learn at times of their own choosing and in places not specifically
designed for learning.
in information technology associated with what may be called an
electronics revolution of the 1980s made it possible for the first
time in history to teach face-to-face at a distance. By electronically
linking students and teacher at various locations by cable, microwave
ion satellite it becomes possible to create a virtual classroom.
As the third
millennium starts, the impact of distance systems is demonstrated
by the development of both group-based distance training systems,
and of systems for individual learners.
dLearning systems are referred to as'distance learning' in the United
States while individual-based systems are referred to as 'distance
education' in Europe.
In this analysis
group-based systems are divided into systems for full-time students
and systems for part-time students, whereas systems for individual
learners are best described as being based on pre-prepared learning
materials, or not providing pre-prepared materials.
distance training links the teacher and the learners in several
geographic locations by simultaneous audio, video, or satellite
links, to a network of remote classrooms.
distance training for full-time students
the Chinese Zhongguo guangbo dianshi daxue (Dianda) system in 1989
(Keegan 1993) showed that it was a network of radio and television
universities for largely group-based, full-time students. The Dianda
network uses satellite technologies to reach groups of students
throughout the country.
other distance learning materials are produced, mainly, by the Central
Chinese Radio and Television University (CRTVU) in Beijing, which
prepares the materials but does not enrol students. The television
lectures are distributed by satellite links to students enrolled
in, and grouped at, the forty-four open universities throughout
the country, where tutors are present and learning materials are
show that 97 per cent of the Dianda network enrolment in the mid
1980s was full-time students at a distance, with the figure dropping
to 16 per cent recently. Total enrolment varied between 500.000
and 800.000 per year.
Today the percentage
of full-time students is below 10 per cent as the spread of the
capitalist ideology in China has largely eliminated study leave
for distance training.
In the 1980s
the full-time students in the Dianda system received three years
study leave on full pay to complete their degree. They travelled
on a daily basis to their factory or workplace, where they went
to the education centre, rather than their place of work. Their
daily study programme began with the first of the live television
lectures from Beijing, and these lectures were interspersed with
tutor-led discussions and assignment work.
In the category
of group-based distance education for full-time students one should
also include much of children's distance study.
for children was initiated by the Australian state governments from
1914. By the mid 1920s all the state and provincial governments
of Australia, Canada and New Zealand had a full-time distance education
provision for children. To these were later added the Schools of
the Air for outback children in Queensland, New South Wales and
South Australia where short wave radio links and, today, web-based
links unite isolated students on large farming properties in class
since 1939, the French government through its Centre National d'Enseignement
à Distance (CNED) provides a full-time distance education
provision for children globally.
importance of studying group-based distance training for full-time
students, is that it gives important data and can correct research
viruses in studies which have been undertaken without counting the
students, for instance, do not drop-out any more than students in
full-time face-to-face provision. They take the same length of time
to study a diploma or degree programme as students in conventional
colleges or universities. Children also do not drop out from distance
education programmes, nor do they take longer for their studies
than their counterparts in schools.
distance training for part-time students
Just as the
wondrous developments of technologies in the Industrial Revolution
of the mid-nineteenth century brought to students worldwide the
benefits of individual-based distance education, so the wondrous
developments of technologies in an Electronics Revolution of the
1980s brought students the benefits of group-based distance education.
This is the
dominant mode of provision in the United States of America, where
distance learning has become a major form of educational provision
and of business training. It has an active organisation, the United
States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), to promote its interests.
This professional distance education association groups multinational
and corporate providers with the universities. This mode of distance
education comprises preprepared materials, satellite lectures and
individual study at home.
distance learning can mean that the university professor at a large
number of US universities, proceeds to the lecture theatre to deliver
his or her lecture to the students assembled there, and the lecture
is up-linked to a satellite, from which it is down-linked to groupings
of students assembled in other locations throughout the state or
the nation. These students are usually linked to the central lecture
theatre by a telephone hook-up.
two-way audio satellite, or two-way video, two-way audio compressed
videoconferencing, are perhaps the dominant technologies at the
start of the third millennium, but a wide range of options is available.
At the turn
of the millennium, most of the hundreds of thousands of students
in the Chinese Dianda system are properly located in this category,
as part-time training has replaced full-time study at a distance.
have been slow to acknowledge the rapid spread of group-based systems
as a complement to the individualised systems with which they are
more familiar. The dimensions of the field cannot be appreciated
without considering both modes. Misunderstandings in the literature
can arise from trying to treat both modes of provision identically,
without appreciating the crucial didactic and logistical differences
between teaching adults in groups or as individuals.
standard form of provision of group-based distance training in the
United States of America: two-way video, two-way audio compressed
digital video conferencing has also had little success in Europe.
In the United
States, it is regarded as a form of provision for, say, a masters
degree in nursing at the University of Albuquerque, in which full-time
nurses, working in hospitals, as much as 300 kilometres from Albuquerque,
take their courses. In American practice, it is considered sensible
to provide these professional qualifications, even at a videoconferencing
rate as low as 112k per second, to students who would otherwise
have to drive 300 kilometres to Albuquerque, after a long day's
work in the hospital, and then drive the 300 kilometres back, to
resume work in their hospital.
Over the last
150 years nearly all European distance training has been individual-based
with pre-prepared materials. This has tended to focus European practitioners
and theorists on this mode of provision. Again it is possible to
identify two subsystems of this mode of provision: systems based
on pre-prepared materials and systems without pre-prepared materials.
based distance education with pre-prepared materials
of communication technologies in the 1840s in Northern Europe and
North America, laid the basis for training at a distance. For the
first time it became possible to separate the teacher from the learner,
and the learner from the learning group, and for students to learn
from teachers individually at any place or at any time they chose.
distance systems are to be found worldwide. The major characteristics
of these systems are the scientific preparation of distance materials
for individual learners, and the design of student support systems
for students studying individually at a distance.
In this way,
students worldwide benefit from being freed from the tyranny of
timetabling: travelling at fixed times and on fixed days to join
other persons at universities and training centres for the purpose
of being trained. Learning systems were also freed from streaming:
the inherent characteristic of conventional face-to-face group-based
education and training in which students of varying intelligence
and of varying studying backgrounds, and of varying degrees of motivation,
are taught the same content in the same groups. The invariable result
has been the holding back of the highly intelligent and the highly
motivated, with slower or inferior learners learning less then they
The rapid development
of the internet in the years 1995 to 1999 has created a new global
dimension for this form of training provision, as individuals all
over the world study for degrees or other qualifications from their
computer screens either at home or at work.
In the period
1995 to 2000 the whole world was going mobile, as mobile telephones
and mobile computers allowed individual students anywhere to study
their courses and communicate with the university while travelling.
As the third
millennium commenced, the wireless linking of students travelling
at a distance in individual-based distance systems, with pre-prepared
materials, is the latest possibility, creating not just students
studying at a distance, but the student studying while travelling
at a distance as well.
Most of the
European systems are correctly located in this classification whichever
of the four major models they follow: the open university model,
the government distance training institution model, the private
distance training institution model, or the provision of training
at a distance from conventional universities model.
In spite of
the extensive provision of group-based distance education in China,
there is very extensive provision of individual-based distance education
At least one
million students in China are enrolled each year in programmes which
can be labelled correspondence education. There are several kinds
of correspondence education in China but by far the largest is that
sponsored by the conventional universities. It is widely used in
teacher training and general higher education, as, for example,
at the People's University in Beijing. Correspondence education
has been localised in the various Chinese universities in their
surrounding areas but has nationally become the biggest contributor
of diploma and degree graduates at a distance to higher education.
In spite of
the extensive provision of group-based distance education from conventional
universities in the United States of America, there is a very large
provision of individual-based distance education with pre-prepared
materials as well.
In the proprietary
sector, these providers are grouped in The Distance Education and
Training Council (DETC), based in Washington DC, which groups military,
church and business organisations providing training at a distance
throughout the United States of America.
Allied to this
is the provision through universities affiliated to the The National
University Continuing Education Association (NUCEA), which groups
departments in many United States universities, which provide distance
training courses to individual students studying at a distance,
rather than the electronic groupings of students analysed in the
There is now
little doubt that the World Wide Web is the most successful educational
and training tool to have appeared in a long time. It combines and
integrates text, audio, and video, with interaction amongst participants.
It can be used on global scale and is platform independent. While
largely an asynchronous medium it can be used also for synchronous
events. It is not surprising therefore, that trainers, lecturers,
distance education providers and teaching institutions at all levels
are increasingly using the web as a medium for training.
In spite of
the possibility of linking distance students electronically and
synchronously on the web, the vast bulk of web-based provision is
properly located in the category of individual-based distance education
with pre-prepared materials.
distance education with pre-prepared materials is the proper location
for nearly all the open universities throughout the world. Many
of the open universities were founded in the 1970s and the 1980s
and are now national institutions of great prestige and excellent
quality. Few are new or experimental. Most have decades of experience
and tens of thousands of graduates already integrated into the national
workforce. Such institutions form an important focus for the study
of distance training and underline the contribution that this form
of provision makes in developed and emerging economies alike.
and Australian systems would also correctly be located in the category
of individual-based distance training with pre-prepared materials.
Systems in the rest of the world, which do not clearly fall into
the group-based distance training categories in the classification
provided, are also located here.
based distance training without pre-prepared materials
degree programme of the University of London dates from about 1840
and lasts until today. This individual-based distance provision
without pre-prepared materials predates the development of pre-prepared
materials for distance systems, usually put in the years 1855 to
these systems enrol individual students at a distance and, in the
case of the University of London, from all over the world, and provide
the enrolled students with syllabuses, content description, reading
lists and previous examination papers.
then choose their method of study. They can study at a local college
or a university - if they can find a programme that resembles the
distance programme in which they are enrolled. Many of the British
distance education colleges, like Wolsely Hall, started precisely
to provide courses for the University of London External Degree
programme. Alternatively the students can study completely individually,
buy or borrow the textbooks on the reading list, and then present
themselves for the examination.
between the American distance learning based largely on synchronous
communication technologies and the European distance education based
in the main on asynchronous technologies is important because it
influences development in both eLearning and mLearning.
began in the second half of the 19th century when for the first
time in history the first distance educators separated the teacher
from the learner and the learner from the learning group. The first
courses were proprietary but university courses followed in the
closing decades of the 19th century. The University of Queensland
in Australia in 1909 became the first university with obligations
in its charter for the education of the whole population of the
state and not just for the city in which the university was located.
feature of distance education is that the teaching acts are separated
in time and place from the learning acts. The learning materials
may be offered to students, one five ion ten years after they were
developed and to students spread throughout a nation or overseas.
In distance educaation a teacher prepares learning materials from
which he ion she may never teach. Another teacher may use the materials
and evaluate students' learning. The pedagogical structuring of
the learning materials, instructional design, and execution may
be assigned to persons other than the teacher and to persons not
skilled in the content to be taught. Teaching becomes institutionalized;
the course may continue in use after the lecturer responsible for
producing it has died or left the institution. Materials may be
developed by a course team or staff group.
For all these
reasons the first years of distance learning were difficult and
the sector was looked down upon. It was difficult to get university
credit ion accreditation for the courses taught and the awards offered.
Until quite recently in the United States it was impossible to study
for a whole degree at a distance and dLearning credits could only
support a programme studied mainly on campus.
the foundation of the open universities
in both quality and quantity of provision were made with the foundation
of the European open universities at the start of the 1970s. The
Open University of the United Kingdom at Milton Keynes was founded
in 1969, the Universidade Nacional de Educacion a Distancia at Madrid
in 1972 and the Fernuniversität-Gesamthochschule in Hagen in
Germany in 1975.
These were national
institutions of great prestige, linked to other national institutions
like the BBC. With large numbers of full-time staff for research
and development, these universities brought about an immediate rise
in quality. The structuring of content and the design of learning
materials brought it about that the learning materials were accepted
by other universities in the country. To this was added student
support services of a comprehensive style which provided support
for students studying at a distance.
institutions of great prestige their university degrees were accepted
as the equivalent of other university degrees in the country.
the impact of the WWW
of distance learning in the United States and its reliance on the
synchronous communications technologies of an Electronics Revolution
in the 1980s, paved the way for eLearning. Experience with satellite
transmission of courses and videoconferencing and other communications
technologies gave the impetus for training on the WWW and gave American
universities and companies leadership in the emergence of web-based
There is now little doubt that the World Wide Web is the most successful
educational tool to have appeared in a long time. It combines and
integrates text, audio and video with interaction amongst participants.
It can be used on a global scale and is platform independent. While
largely an asynchronous medium, it can also be used for synchronous
events. It is not surprising therefore, that trainers, lecturers,
distance education providers and teaching institutions at all levels
are increasingly using the World Wide Web as a medium for course
By 1998 the
provision of education and training on the internet and on the World
Wide Web was already a mature field of distance training provision.
This was demonstrated by the European Commission project, Courses
on the Internet: surveys, analyses, evaluation, recommendations
(CISAER), published on the net at http://www.nki.no/~morten/cisaer.
and analysing training provision on the World Wide Web, this project
carried out a series of eighty in-depth interviews in mid 1998,
with world leaders in virtual education. These experts, from a wide
range of countries, talked in long distance telephone interviews
with confidence and expertise on issues of server provision, of
kernel choice and of system design. They analysed changes in systems
and systems design, when one moved from 200 students on the web,
to 2,000 students on the web, to 20,000 students on the web.
be no doubt from these interviews and the surveys published on the
CISAER website, that by 1998 training on the World Wide Web was
a mature and professional field of provision, with its own rules,
structures, achievements and literature.
This is remarkable
because Collis (1996) in her Telelearning in a digital world: the
future of distance learning was able to identify the origins of
this field of training provision, to the period from late 1994 to
By 1997, Fritsch,
in Germany, had started the analysis of a new training market. He
identified students who:
- spent more
than twenty hours a week working in front of a screen,
- had a company
or university link to the internet,
- could write
or edit a page in html
- wanted to
be trained in front of their screen.
It seems remarkable
that, by 1997, there was a new market of persons who spent most
of their day in front of a computer screen and wanted to be trained
in front of their screen too.
began early too. Boshier, a professor of adult education at the
University of British Columbia, tells how he led a team of researchers
to comb the web between 15 February 1997 and 10 April 1997 for courses.
His findings, already published in major articles in Distance Education
in 1997 and 1998, under the jazzy titles 'Best and worst dressed
web courses: Strutting into the twenty-first century in comfort
and style' and 'World Wide America? Think globally, click locally'
are constructed as the answer to fiscal crises evoked by neo-liberal
restructuring. They are also touted as an anarchist exemplar of
'de-schooling' as envisaged by Ivan Illich. The trouble is, some
courses are vastly under-dressed and merely attempt to display a
face-to-face course on-line. At the other extreme are those laced
with links, animation and more than enough glitter and glam to make
Liberace wince. In this study the authors employed a 43-item coding
schedule to examine the accessibility, opportunities for interaction
and attractiveness of 127 courses on the web (1997:327).
The web assists
the globalisation process but, as Canadians, we are apprehensive
about US dominance. The problem will partly be overcome as more
non-American sites are posted and search engines deployed. In the
meantime, educators outside the US committed to building their own
nation and preserving its culture and sense of itself, should think
about how to develop local Web resources so as to rely less on the
Is the new area of web-based training to be regarded as a form of
conventional education, or a form of distance education, or does
it constitute a new sector of educational endeavour and a new field
of educational research?
taken up here is that web-based education is best regarded as a
subset of distance education and that the skills, literature, and
practical management decisions that have been developed in the form
of educational provision known as 'distance education', will be
applicable matatis mutandis to web-based education. It also follows
that the literature of the field of educational research known as
distance education, is of value for those embarking on training
on the web.
Not all would
In her Telelearning
in a digital world: the future of distance learning, Collis sees
the WWW as an innovation in education worldwide in which children
in schools will be taught on the web, students who travel daily
to universities will be taught on the web as well as or instead
of the lecture theatre, students at work will be taught on the web,
students at home will be taught on the web, and students globally
will be taught on the web.
In spite of
the position of Collis and others who share similar positions to
hers, it is considered here that the legal distinctions should be
decisive. A student either contracts with a conventional school,
college, or university to attend that institution, to join its community
of students, and to receive its certificate or diploma or degree.
Whether this student receives the qualification by attending classes
or lectures, working in the library, or the laboratory, or at a
computer screen, or on the WWW, depends on the legal requirements
stipulated in the statutes of the institution.
is different. The student legally chooses not to attend the institution,
or is unable to (for example, if in prison), or chooses not to (for
example, if disabled), and requires the institution to award him
or her its certificate or diploma or degree without joining its
community of scholars. There need, in fact, be no physical institution
for the student to attend in distance training, because the educational
environment, in which the teaching-learning interaction which constitutes
the education process, is artificially created.
student receives the qualification by studying printed materials,
or audio materials, or video materials, or computer materials, or
on the WWW, and whether the student studies at an airport, or at
home, or at work, and whether communication between students is
compulsory or optional, face-to-face or electronic, depends on the
didactic and administrative decisions made by the institution.
In spite of
the possibility of synchronous WWW didactic interactions, it is
considered that web-based training is predominantly an individual-based
form of educational provision. In spite of the possibility of full-time,
on-campus students using the web for part of their degree, it is
considered that web-based training can be accommodated within the
existing structures of distance training and there appears to be
no necessity for the development of a new sector of educational
endeavour or a new field of educational research to accommodate
By the start of the third millennium, and in spite of the arrival
of eLearning, distance learning had established itself as a valid
field of educational endeavour complementary to and side by side
with conventional provision.
won at a distance and college diplomas and training certification
won at a distance were nationally and internationally accepted in
Much of the
groundwork for the acceptance of university degrees won by eLearning
and eventually by mLearning provision was achieved by the field