Thursday, November 17, 2005

Call for ideas: Systemic change and distance learning

I'm co-authoring a very short blurb for TechTrends on the possible impact systemic change theories could have on distance learning, or vice versa. Any ideas out there about this? I'd love to hear them as we're in the thinking stage of this right now.

Here are some thoughts I've had ...

- The impact of alternative degree-granting DL
institutions on change in higher education (and K-12
for that matter). It seems that whereas higher ed's
been resistance to change, the emergence of
competition from these alternative avenues for getting
a degree is forcing higher ed, to some degree, to
change. Maybe we could point this out, and talk about
how systemic change thinking is important in higher ed
because we can either thoughtfully design how we will
change or else change only as a necessary reaction to
the competition in order to stay marketable.

- It seems that DL is pushing change in many ways
besides just the fact that more courses are now
offered online. Because of the nature of DL learning,
it seems instruction is moving towards more
self-regulation,and project/problem-based activities,
etc. So DL can be a powerful tool for effectuating
change in teaching pedagogy and practice -- and do far
more than simply offering "anytime/anyplace learning"
which is what people think the main advantage of DL

- DL is changing the hierarchical structure of
instruction as well, flattening it out so that more
people have access to learning opportunities
regardless of their situation. This is especially true
in developing countries, I think, with many of the
initiatives to bring open learning there.

- There are many ways that DL is changing the
educational system besides just how people are taught.
For example, I have been reading an Educause report
about how the emergence of DL is forcing us to rethink
things like accreditation (how do you accreditate
completely online programs where you can't visit the
campus and "see it for yourself?), funding (should fed
government have different process for awarding
financial aid for DL courses?), and quality control
(what is "good" DL? How do we protect students from

I'm also wondering how to talk about systemic change and DL when DL is very unsystematic. Can it still contribute to systemic change in education?
wasting money on DL degrees that may not help them?

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