Distance Education: Threats and Opportunities: Selected speeches and website blogs of Sir John Daniel and colleagues 2009-2010

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Daniel, John
Uvalić-Trumbić, Stamenka
Kanwar, Asha
West, Paul
Balasubramanian, K
Lesperance, John
Ramamurthy, Sreedhar
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commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver

This selection of speeches from 2009 and 2010 is entitled Distance Education: Threats and Opportunities. It also includes some entries from the blog that COL has introduced since the publication of the previous booklet. Open, distance and technology-mediated learning (ODL) is becoming steadily more pervasive as traditional educational institutions adopt this approach for more of their course offerings. Paradoxically, however, the rising use of ODL has provoked threats to its development that I have summarised in a more recent speech: Distance Education under Threat: An Opportunity? (www.col.org/resources/speeches/2010presentation/Pages/2010-10-06.aspx). These threats are of two types. The first are fraudulent operations, known as degree mills, which purport to offer instruction through ODL but merely offer credentials in exchange for payment. In 2008-2009 I was part of an international group convened by UNESCO and the US Council for Higher Education Accreditation that made proposals for combating this scourge. These are summarised in the first speech reproduced here (p. 4). The second type of threat, sketched in the blogs on p. 30, comes in the form of regulations issued by governments and institutions that seek to restrict the offering of education by ODL and the use of qualifications obtained through it. While some of these initiatives claim to be a response to degree mills, most are really a rearguard action to prevent the erosion of traditional methods of instruction and the accompanying loss of institutional income. This backlash against ODL will fail, as has similar opposition to the use of technology in other areas of life. Where technology can give better and less expensive products and services to more people, as ODL does, it will prevail. But we must take the threats seriously nevertheless.

Open and Distance Learning (ODL)