Essential, desirable or optional? Making distance e-learning courses available to those without internet access

Val Hancock [vyh3@tutor.open.ac.uk], Centre For Open Learning of Mathematics, Science, Computing and Technology,
The Open University [http://www.open.ac.uk], Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA

Abstract

The Open University, an open distance learning institution, is increasingly using a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that requires internet access. This paper investigates how the move to a VLE has affected one group of students who do not have internet access – offender learners studying in prison. Members of the armed forces and secure hospital patients also have restricted access to the internet. E-learning practitioners design courses on the assumption that students will have easy internet access and other appropriate technology. This is not always the case. This paper reports on an action research project that identified alternative approaches to learning activities that required internet access. Project initiatives enabled six offender learners to complete a course that had previously been classified as unsuitable for study in prison. The use of alternative approaches opens up the possibility of distance learning for students who would otherwise be excluded from distance e-learning courses. The author proposes an EDO framework, classifying activities as 'Essential', 'Desirable' or 'Optional'. The framework highlights activities needing alternative approaches if a student is to complete the course successfully. By applying the framework, practitioners can design and deliver a course that utilises technology appropriate to the student's environment.

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Tags

e-learning, distance learning, distance education, online learning, higher education, DE, blended learning, ICT, information and communication technology, internet, collaborative learning, learning management system, MOOC, interaction, LMS,

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