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M. Shariatmadari1, S. Mahdi2

1Islamic Azad University, Central Organization (IRAN)
2Islamic Azad University, Chaloos Branch (IRAN)
Nowadays, Open and Distance Learning (ODL) is becoming an accepted and indispensable part of the mainstream of educational systems in both developed and developing countries. There is tremendous growth and diversity in ODL-in the number and types of individuals learning outside traditional classrooms, in the variety of providers, and in the range and effectiveness of new technologies serving as delivery tools for learning. ODL is becoming increasingly global by creating numerous new alliances as traditional educational institutions join with businesses and international organizations to offer and use distance learning.
In the past 50 years, ever more sophisticated technologies have emerged and made a clean sweep of existing communication and information techniques, each new development giving rise to fresh hopes for rapid advances in education. These technologies are used to convey educational messages to illiterate populations in the developing countries, and later for general adult education. Therefore, developing countries now have new opportunities to access knowledge and enhance their human capital.
Technology is a major contributor to the dramatic transformation of distance learning. Although the use of technology for ODL is not new- radio & TV have been used effectively for more than 40 years- satellites and the Internet are transforming the world into a borderless educational arena, benefiting both previously underserved citizenries and education entrepreneurs. Although many developing countries still have limited access to these new technologies, major new investments in telecommunications and information systems are going to dramatically improve their access.
This paper aims to review ODL in the context of present challenges and opportunities, examine relevant concepts and contributions, and outline current global and regional successful examples of virtual universities.