A SYSTEMS APPROACH TO DISTANCE EDUCATION (DE) - INITIAL CONCEPTUALISATION AND PROPOSAL
Royal Holloway-University of London (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 10-12 March, 2014
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are constantly improving and expanding human activities. Higher Education Institutions (HEI) around the world are using these technologies to enhance learning experiences and strategies of knowledge delivery. Distance Education (DE) has become popular HEI as a mode of education which can help them gain international prestige as well as increase their student numbers via ICT-based learning. However, successful implementation of DE using ICT presents a number of challenges. These include organizational, individual, informational and technical ones. Not addressing them together as a whole can hamper the success, efficiency and effectiveness of DE. These challenges have also particular manifestations that vary from one country to another. Furthermore, thinking of DE as a ‘whole’ requires DE designers and managers to consider a variety of stakeholders’ perspectives. Managing both features of the environment of DE in terms of the challenges identified as well as stakeholders’ perspectives can contribute to reduce chances of failure in DE implementation. This paper proposes an initial conceptualisation of DE as a whole system of activity. It draws on previous efforts to use systems thinking ideas to facilitate participative design, continuous reflection and motivation of stakeholders, critical evaluation and connectivity between DE’s different elements. A systems approach to DE could help people identify both challenges and connections between them, as well as offer possibilities to analyse and solve problems by taking into account students and institutions’ views to improve educational access and quality of taught DE programmes. The paper also advances the use of systems methodologies to facilitate design and evaluation of DE initiatives.
Keywords: Distance education, system thinking, higher education.