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Preparing for Exponential growth in Distance Learning in Developing Countries
Irene Murigu-Hengerer
Kennesaw State University
Distance learning has been around for decades and its impact and effectiveness, a topic of much
debate. However there is a general consensus that despite a slow start, Distance learning and in
particular eLearning has great potential. Distance learning is a platform most traditional brick
and mortar universities have been reluctant to explore but over past decade most universities are
now offering online and hybrid courses but not full online degrees. Not all universities are
onboard with this growing demand for online education and prestigious Ivy League institutions
such as Harvard have stayed away altogether. However a few universities are realizing that this
platform is evolving and can help millions. In 2001, MIT set a new standard by offering ‘Open
Courseware’ consisting of over two thousand MIT undergraduate and graduate courses teaching
materials available online, free of charge (Margulies, 2004).
Keywords: online education, distance learning, eLearning, international learning, multicultural
Distance Learning in Developing Countries: Annotated Bibliography
Assié-Lumumba, N. T. (2008). The Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) and tertiary
education in Africa: Opportunities and predicaments of centralized knowledge
broadcasting programs on the world scale. Perspectives on Global Development &
Technology, 7(3/4), 231-258. doi:10.1163/156914908X383139
Assié-Lumumba, a professor of African and Diaspora education, comparative and
international education, social institutions, African social history, and the study of gender
in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, provides a focused
perspective on global development learning, the role of Global Development Learning
Network (GDLN) and the opportunities and predicaments of these programs. Her
research goes into detail on global development, technology and opportunities to increase
use of distance learning to spread knowledge to people of varying social-economic
backgrounds. She uses Côte d’Ivoire, one of the GDLN national affiliates in Africa, as a
study illustration on potential gains through distance learning for the local population.
This ties in to my research because understanding the economies of developing countries
is important when reviewing viable options that are accessible to the masses. One has to
know where people are and the needs, in order to meet those needs with the right tools.
Baggaley, J. (2008). Where did distance education go wrong? Distance Education, 29(1), 39-51.
Baggaley is a professor at the Centre for Distance Education, Athabasca University,
Canada and writes this article which can be construed as being negative because of
choice of words that shows a definite bias towards the Western educators over the Asian
educators. Despite this negative, the author does highlight genuine concerns in distance
education over the past several decades and what Asian educators are doing well in terms
of finding their own paths instead of sticking to traditional distance learning methods.
The author also introduces and discusses in depth a new twist on distance learning in
developing nations via standard telephone instead of the web. This is of special interest
to me because most people in developing countries, even in rural places, have phones but
not computers so making distance learning available via phone would make accessibility
so much easier.
Beaudoin, M. F. (2009). Consortia – a viable model and medium for distance education in
developing countries? Open Learning, 24(2), 113-126. doi:10.1080/02680510902879437
The author introduces the concept of ‘Consortia’ as a model and medium for distance
learning in developing nations. A consortium is a collaboration of two or more entities,
for example organizations or governments, pooling their resources and participating
together to achieve a common goal which may be harder to achieve individually. The
study analyzes one consortium, ‘the Consorcio Clavijero, in Jalapa, Mexico, comprised of
sixty-four public and private institutions in the state of Veracruz, established in 2004’.
The study provides a focused perspective on the activities and subsequent
accomplishment of the consortium as a viable and useful model in other developing
countries looking to effectively promote distance eLearning. The concept of a consortium
has been around and in use in most developing nations for centuries. In Kenya, we call it
‘Harambee’ and like all other developing nations, pooling of resources is a necessity in
agriculture, social circles as well as traditional educational systems. Therefore
Beaudoin]s concept appeals to me because people in developing countries already
embrace and understand the concept of shared resources for the greater good and when a
model calls for pooling of resources in resource challenged nations, that author is
definitely on the right track with a model that is viable and useful in its practicality.
Benchicou, S., Aichouni, M., & Nehari, D. (2010). ELearning in engineering education: a
theoretical and empirical study of the Algerian higher education institution. European
Journal of Engineering Education, 35(3), 325-343. doi:10.1080/03043797.2010.483610
This book provides a framework for eLearning as a strategy to improve education. The
authors use the Algerian education system as a basis for their study. They have three
main objectives when they begin the study. The first objective is to get an understanding
of the faculties’ attitudes and perceptions on web based teaching from the onset. The
second objective is to gather what the faculty members perceive as the requirements to
successfully implement web based courses. Third and final objective is a collaborative
process to develop a strategy for the eLearning system. Based on the study findings, the
authors introduce what they call ‘critical success factors’. These were the common factors
which when adopted and implemented by institutions resulted in success. The success
factors include the institution and faculty members owning and adopting a formal
eLearning strategy and also the extent of support provided to the faculty in training,
software and online resources. I will use the findings from this study including the
graphical representations in my research because the study is based on a developing
country. While each developing country and area of study offers unique challenges and
opportunities, there are some basic factors when implemented will increase an institutions
chances for success in implementing eLearning as outlined in this book.
Cogburn, D. L., & Levinson, N. S. (2003). U.S.–Africa virtual collaboration in globalization
studies: Success factors for complex, cross–national learning teams. International Studies
Perspectives, 4(1), 34.
Cogburn (University of Michigan) and Levinson (American University) write this article
based on their two year collaboration study between South Africa and the US on
successful use of visualization in distance learning. The case studies and data analysis are
detailed and provide statistics that will be useful during my research specifically around
addressing concerns on culture, trust and ideology. The authors go into details on the
correct balance between computer and human interaction. How to achieve this balance is
a key concern, and common thread, throughout the discussions on how to improve
distance learning. This research highlighted the successes and lessons learned and it will
be interesting to review if their successes can be replicated on a larger scale.
Harasim, L. (2000). Shift happens: Online education as a new paradigm in learning. Internet
and Higher Education, 3, 41-61.
Harasim, a professor of Communication at the Faculty of Applied Sciences at Simon
Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, discusses online education as a
paradigm shift in learning including extensive use of the web. She also gives good
introduction to Distance learning which is important to understand as I go through the
research and the opportunities of using this medium in developing countries.
Hilton III, J. L., Graham, C., Rich, P., & Wiley, D. (2010). Using online technologies to extend a
classroom to learners at a distance. Distance Education, 31(1), 77-92.
The authors study and introduce the concept of open classroom by allowing students
from outside of the university to participate during a course. These distance students are
given full access to all course work and encouraged to keep up with the in classroom
students by completing course assignments. The study examines ‘the time and technical
proficiency required to involve learners at a distance’ and finds that it has no impact on
both the distant as well as the in classroom students. The authors are balanced as they
discuss both the implications and limitations of their findings considering that this was a
single case study involving one course, the results cannot be generalized. However, the
reason I found it compelling to add this source is to stress the importance of continuing to
explore this open source platform as witnessed recently when MIT, one of the most
prestigious and highly esteemed universities of excellence, opened up its ‘Open
Courseware’ online for free to all. I am certain that as demand grows, universities will get
creative and decide to jump ahead of the need for quality distance learning and find ways,
as explored in this initial study, to start to integrate the distance learner.
Jogwu, C. (2010). Adult illiteracy: The root of African underdevelopment. Education, 130(3),
Jogwu’s paper discusses the relationship between illiteracy rates and underdevelopment
in Africa and Asia. The paper points to the UNESCO world reports from 1991 and 1995
showing Africa and Asia having the largest percentages of adult illiterates in the world.
The paper sets to show the social, economic and political repercussions of mass literacy
and adult education. Jogwu suggests collaborations between governments to seek viable
solutions. The idea of collaboration is raised in a few of other works because there is a
consensus that the issue of limited resources in developing nations can be relieved
through pooling of resources. Jogwu’s paper is important to my research because he
emphasis on the fact that education is one of the keys to unlock the potential of
developing nations. Education frees minds and creates a sense of self-awareness in
relation to the world, which in turn will lead to developing nations encouraging and
looking to their young brilliant minds to come up with answers for the unique
characteristics of each nation and its people. If Gilbert Chesterton quote ‘Education is
simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another’ is true, then we
have an obligation to explore and expand all viable options including distance learning to
create accessibility of education to all peoples of the world.
Koszalka, T. A., & Ntloedibe-Kuswani, G. S. (2010). Literature on the safe and disruptive
learning potential of mobile technologies. Distance Education, 31(2), 139-157.
The article discusses the new phenomenon of the growth of mobile phones globally as a
technological learning/teaching tool just like the computer, but different. The author
addresses pertinent issues on how mobile learning can be used in a disruptive way and on
the other side, how it can be utilized effectively to support distance learning and
completely shift the dynamics of the roles of both the educator and the student. When I
set out to research on distance learning, the only medium I had in mind was eLearning.
However this source, and a few others, has sparked my interest in m-learning. This book
will be used to develop the conclusion to my research because a review of the author’s
investigative cases on m-learning leads me to know, while there is little understanding of
the full potential and impact of this platform, this emerging technology may be the spark
needed to ignite the explosive potential of distance learning especially in developing
countries. Mobile phones are readily accessible in all developing countries and maybe the
only technology that has made its way to remote sites of the world not yet reached by
computers and the internet. You can imagine the potential if this readily available tool is
utilized as an effective face-to-face interactive tool for distance learning from anywhere
in the world and its clear the possibilities are mind-boggling.
Konetes, G. D. (2010). The impact of distance education on developing nations in terms of
learning, society and barriers. International Journal of Instructional Media, 37(4), 333341.
Konetes, a teaching associate at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a doctoral
student in the Ph.D. in Communications Media and Instructional Technology program
has done extensive research focusing specifically on distance learning in developing
countries and its impact on society which is central to my research. I will be using this
work as a base to explore the impact of distance learning on developing nations based on
the data from the research findings and include some of the graphs and statistics.
Lau, L. K. (2000). Distance learning technologies: Issues, trends and opportunities (pp. 1-252).
The author provides grassroots information including how the World Wide Web was
conceptualized in 1991 in a lab in Geneva Switzerland as a medium for academics to
share research findings globally and that ‘distance learning was pioneered at Stanford
university more than 30 years ago’. The archival information provides a reflection of the
foundation of distance learning and progression of this platform over the past three
decades. The book’s purpose, according to the author, is to provide ‘knowledge and
understanding regarding the distance learning technologies’. The book introduces the US
Military’s distributed learning program as a model program because it is spans twelve
time zones and has been around for twelve years. Another concept introduced in the
book, and that will be included in my research, is ‘Total Quality Management’. One of
the valid concerns levied against distance learning is whether the quality of material
developed for online teaching is at par with traditional learning materials and techniques.
I concur with the author that ‘regardless of the learning methods used, a distance
education program is dependent upon student commitment and the TQM’. I will include
in my research the analysis on interactive distance learning as well as the effectiveness of
web based teaching as detailed in this book.
Margulies, A. H. (2004). A new model for open sharing: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s
OpenCourseWare initiative makes a difference. PLoS Biology, 2(8), 0. doi:10.1
April 4, 2011 was the ground breaking announcement; welcome by many around the
world, that MIT would provide their course material online over the next ten years for
free. By December 2010, MIT had accomplished this feat with over two thousand courses
available online free of charge amid accolades from the academic community, especially
those in distance learning arena. The author describes this journey from concept to open
systems as ‘wave of the future’ and I agree. I introduced this in my abstract and will use it
during my research when discussing quality assurance in course material design for
distance learning using reputable programs such as these MIT course materials.
Nichols, M. (2010). Student perceptions of support services and the influence of targeted
interventions on retention in distance education. Distance Education, 31(1), 93-113.
For distance learning to be effective long term, there is a need to understand how to keep
the distant learner motivated without the physical interaction of a classroom setting and
also how to improve student retention. This article addresses the issue of student retention
and the need to ‘spot the leaks’ (as cited in Simpson, 2003). A study was conducted to
compare ‘the retention statistics for first-time student outcomes across two semesters, one
without and one with specific course retention interventions’. The finding based on
interviewing the students was that they felt that they did not need the support services but
were successful because of what they individually did. Almost contradictory or sub
consciously, when support services were absent, the students notice even though they
insist on do-it-yourself and therefore claim not to need the support services. What an
interesting juxtaposition that they would notice an absent service that they do not
supposedly need. Similar findings are also cited by similar researches. For my research I
will be discussing student support services so this does through a kink in my discussion
but an interesting one that I need to explore.
Piña, A. A. (2010). Online diploma mills: implications for legitimate distance education.
Distance Education, 31(1), 121-126. doi:10.1080/01587911003725063
This article addresses a very pertinent issue on how to differentiate between legitimate
distance education online and ‘online diploma mills’. The author discusses the negative
implications of these “online diploma mills” at the expense of quality distance education.
These ‘online diploma mills’ have created a negative perception of the overall quality of
distance education as being sub-par to traditional classroom courses. It is no wonder that
there is a growing urgency towards stricter control and quality assurance of distance
learning programs. The World Wide Web is open to all so this challenge is a tough one
not just for distance learning but for communication as a whole. However as more and
more quality courses are made available via established universities and legitimate
sources of distance learning, ‘online diploma mills’ will be forced out or to adopt right
tools and training to offer quality education.
Ramanujam, P. R., & Fern Univ., H. n. (2001). Distance open learning in the developing Asian
countries: Problems and possible solutions. ZIFF Papiere 117.
Ramanujam is a Professor of Distance Education at Indira Gandhi National Open
University and was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor of IGNOU in August 2010. He has
also held positions as Director of Staff Training and Research Institute of Distance
Education, Inter-University Consortium at IGNOU and Programme Chair for Sixth Pan
Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning (PCF6). With this kind of extensive
background in distance learning in developing countries, his research is a must read. He
goes into depth on problems facing Asian nations as well as other developing nations in
developing effective distance learning. One of his main points during this research, in
which he studied ten developed and developing nations systems, is that developing
countries need to stop trying to copy the western distance learning systems but instead
evolve appropriate systems that support our specific levels of technological advancement.
This is a very practical solution when …
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