Going the Distance: Making Distance Learning (DL) Work
Distance learning (DL) is back in vogue in the UK. It is out of the doldrums in terms of institutional and national interest, which is where it has been for a while. I mean DL, not e –learning or flexible learning or open learning or technology enhanced learning. It is possible that all of these things are in the mind of the new promoters of DL. But the idea that is so appealing to the new advocates is that students do not have to be full time, will pay fees – high fees perhaps – will not demand much in terms of campus services and may well live overseas and not be counted against HEFC grant income. (The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) distributes public money to universities and colleges in England that provide higher education.) Politicians as well as educational leaders are talking DL. David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science in the UK, has recently suggested that DL is the way to go. None of this is surprising given the cuts in public expenditure and thus funding going to Universities, the cap on student numbers, the pressure on Universities to diversity their funding and restricted immigration and visa approvals. In addition, in the UK, the costs of undertaking a full time degree coupled with the recession has led many young people to consider DL. The UK Open University for instance is experiencing an "unprecedented" 34% increase in 18 to 24-year-olds applying for distance learning degrees (BBCa).