Facilitating Self-Directed and Collaborative Learning Strategies for Adult Distance Learners in Bangladesh

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF1// In a developing country like Bangladesh, adult distance education is considered as an important means to ‘make the most’ of the limited resources to cope with the increasing demand and necessity for higher education. To open up educational opportunities through distance learning the country has established an open university named Bangladesh Open University (BOU) in 1992 by the Act of the parliament. // Since its establishment BOU has been trying to develop and offer courses through self-instructional print materials which are backed up by limited radio and television broadcast programs and face to face tutorial sessions. // As a whole, the BOU model of distance education course development and delivery can be fairly described in Otto Peter’s words— “the industrialized form of education” in which the course materials mostly follow the behaviorist principles such as, reductionism, hierarchy, structure, and standardization. // From the institution’s perspective preparing such highly structured and standardized course materials is necessary for mass production of these pre-designed learning materials to achieve the 'economy of scale'. However the problem with such tightly structured ‘industrialized’ form of distance education is its inability to respond to individual learner needs. It was felt that the standardized course materials, which are often based upon expert knowledge rather than needs analysis, do not suit to the needs of every individual learner. As the delivery system in BOU model is mainly characterized by one-way asynchronous communications through print and radio and television broadcasts, it, in fact, limits the opportunities for learner-teacher and learner-learner interactions and reduces the traditional educational ‘triangle’ formed by teachers, curriculum, and students to a “mere line between curriculum and students” (Vennemann, 1991). // It is also remarkable that face to face human contact is an integral part of BOU distance education system for learner support and feedback. In the tutorial sessions groups of distance learners meet a tutor, who is usually a teacher of a traditional educational institution and not a writer of that distance course, to discuss their problems through learner-tutor and learner-learner interactions. // With very limited options for information and communications technologies due to a lack of institutional access and student affordability, the challenge for BOU is how to develop, deliver, and organize distance education programs with sufficient flexibility, support, and interaction for individual learners. One potential solution to this problem might be promoting and supporting self-directed and collaborative learning strategies for the distance learners so that the learners can plan, organize, execute, and evaluate their own learning collaboratively with the support and facilitation from the distance education institution, other learners, and learning environment. // This paper, which is based upon an independent research done at the Commonwealth of Learning, aims to identify the existing and potential self-directed and collaborative learning strategies for the adult distance learners in Bangladesh and to develop a conceptual framework for supporting and facilitating such strategies by the distance education institution. //