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Janette Kruger: My dream: Learning design project proposal: Implementing educational technologies in an Open Distance Learning environment

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Janette Kruger
15 January 2013

My context

I am a senior lecturer In the Unit for Open Distance Learning at the North-West University, Potchefstroom campus. The unit offers open distance learning through an ‘off-campus’ mode of education to unqualified and under-qualified teachers. 

My proposal  relates to the B Ed Hons programme where research facilitation is oriented as a preparation to read master’s level. I am responsible for the research methodology modules in the B Ed Hons programme. The assignments for these modules consist of  theoretical assignments and a proposal and  research report in the second module. In an effort to assist facilitators and students, I compiled comprehensive guidelines on the writing of a proposal and research report, but realized that more and varied support is needed to assist the teacher-students. More importantly, they need a set of skills such as lifelong learning, self-directed learning and critical thinking skills in order to creatively navigate the twenty-first-century. A combination of design-based research and design principles may be the answer to utilize a palette of learning technologies to address learning inequalities in an open distance learning environment. Teachers in South Africa need all the support they can get in the role as future makers to realise a sustainable future for education in South Africa.

The change you would like to see (challenge)

Learning inequalities remain problematic in South Africa. These comprise the diversity of students in terms of age, gender, language use, culture, insufficient Internet access and living in remote rural areas. The introduction of e-learning in ODL may offer a solution in the South African context, but insufficient internet access is seen as one of the major factors hampering the realization of e-learning potential in open distance education in the African context (Ololube, Ubogu, & Egbezor, 2007). Mobile learning (m-learning) may provide a solution to the challenge of access to the internet, as the scale and ubiquity of mobile networks often provide the only infrastructure in rural areas (GSMA, 2010).

Teacher-students in open distance education require more and diverse support and scaffolding to acquire skills and competencies often far removed from their daily existence and environments. With the use learning technologies teacher-students will have the choice to opt for learning activities best suited to their requirements and needs. Spector (2001, p. 8) notes that the “big lesson about technology and learning from the 20th century is that less is known about how people learn than many educational researchers are inclined to admit”. Irrespective of the type of learning experience, learning with technology offers the advantage of allowing students the freedom of choosing whenwhatwhere and how they want to study. A structured approach to combining pedagogy and technology may contribute towards addressing learning inequalities effectively, and may also foster 21st century skills in an open distance learning environment.

How you might go about bringing that change

The project centres on different educational technologies that are used to disseminate learning material in addition to paper-based materials.  Moodle (LMS), Screencasts and Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) support media are the technologies implemented during the first phase of the project. The aim of this project is to address the present challenges facing Open Distance Learning (ODL) in South Africa.


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Ann Davis
10:26pm 24 January 2013

That is quite a challenge!  I am not quite sure if I am understanding the goal correctly or not, but it almost sounds like you need an organization who will support a long-term learning path for the rural teachers.  I would imagine for many, they just don't know where to begin.  Setting up a basic web site with links to resources might be helpful. Organize monthly/quarterly opportunities for teachers from different areas to get together to discuss problems, needs, goals, etc.  Make it desireable for teachers to be part of the network, the more people who are willing to be part of it, the more likely a success.  If one teacher goes to a seminar, encourage them to share the information with the others in the network, whether they post the information on line or use regular post to send it to others. 

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