Embedded Workplace Training for a skill development programme: Critical Factors for Effective Implementation
The laboratory courses offered by open and distance learning institutions pose unique challenges for the educators as well as the learners. These are related to safety, cost and complexity of instruments (Gustafsson, 2002). The highly technologically intensive, computer based virtual learning environment is one of the used alternative. It satisfies the end users requirements and encourages learners’ participation and incarnates the learning by doing rule (Qing Yu et al 2005). Computer simulations with reduced amount of real lab work have a lot of advantage for the learners. This offers advantages in time efficiencies so that the in-lab portion can be reduced in length (Kennepohl, 2001). Students in the university of South Africa UNISA (continents largest distance learners institution), have access to software for learning basic lab procedures and “home experiment kits” and for first year physics many courses also require a two weeks intensive lab course (Koenig, 2007). Compressed video and computer mediated communications have been employed in order to provide a dynamic distance learning environment (Khader and Barnes, 1996). The level of comfort with technology in general plays a role in attitudes towards distance education (Fredberg, 1995). // IGNOU has more than 420 programmes on offer out of which around 40 are skill based. The university has a system in place in which the lab work is conducted at the hired institutions called the Study Centres (SCs) or the Programme Study Centres (PSCs) located throughout the length and breadth of the country. Yet, delivery of such courses poses a challenge. These have low enrolment compounded with high dropout rate. In one of our early studies, the distance of study centre from the residence of the student and non availability of time for the laboratory component due to employment came up as prominent reasons for the student drop out (Fozdar et al 2007). The genesis of the dual mode strategy lies in the then perceived issues of time and distance.