Developing an educational model for delivery and support of postgraduate distance learning in Southern Africa that incorporates m-learning
Jon Gregson, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex
This project set out to explore how mobile learning could enhance the developing model of distance learning, used within the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP), SOAS. CeDEP offers postgraduate distance learning courses focused on development, and has over one thousand students in more than one hundred countries, many of whom are based in developing countries. The courses offered were transferred from the Wye Distance Learning Programme of Imperial College London in August 2007.
The educational model that has developed over the last ten years can de described as distance learning making use of appropriate e-learning tools. A strong authoring model for course modules has been developed which is based around an interactive study guide, made up of units that relate to reusable learning objects that are easy to update and make use of carefully designed activities, readings and additional study resources (e.g. animations, or audio visual content). Tutoring has also become a mainstream activity, going beyond the traditional use of tutor marked assignments, and exploring how through use of emerging technologies tutors and students can have more regular contact.
The question that arises is whether and how mobile technologies can enhance and add value to this model, and in particular whether it can help address some of the issues faced within a student learning community where the access to technology is very diverse. The assumption was that there would be a place for use of these technologies within a blended educational model, but exactly where value would be added needed to be more clearly understood. This required an approach to the research that was practical in its orientation, and that provided the opportunity to test with students, authors and tutors what works and what does not, taking into account the constraints and opportunities of both the technology, and the context.