Mentoring in Open and Distance Learning : Its application at Indira Gandhi National Open University, India

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF2 // There is no doubt that distance education has moved from formal campus based classroom instruction to instruction at the home of individual learners. However the content of most distance education is still located within the domain of the teacher and the academic discipline and packaged in “Fordist” style. The real dilemma for instructional designers of distance education courses lies in the fact that the courses are designed and structured so meticulously that learners have no choice in what they learn and how they should learn it. This approach can be criticized for inhibiting creative thinking and critical analysis. Thus highly structured learning packages are unlikely to generate autonomous learners. Thus it is a matter of striking the right balance between institutional control and learner autonomy, and this so called balance should weigh more heavily towards learner autonomy, as the teacher in this technological age gradually surrendered his/her traditional role from the authority figure and content specialist to one of being a manager of learning using technology that allows students to exercise more flexibility in their study patterns, to interact with their materials and with their mentors and peers as and when they felt the need, and not only as teachers perceive their needs to be. // A good learning experience is one in which a learner can master new knowledge and skills, critically examine assumptions and beliefs and engage in a collaborative quest for wisdom and personal holistic development based on the philosophy of constructivism. // Mentoring has emerged as an important method of supporting learners in the learner centered collaborative environment of today. Thus changing the concept of distance education from passive lectures and information delivery towards more interactive student learning. The instructors (mentors) no longer lecture instead promote discussion, pose problems and guide responses with student groups at one location or in many locations simultaneously. This is possible today because of the new information and communication technologies (ICT). //