April 19, 2014

Who benefits from online learning?

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Di Xu & Shanna Smith Jaggars (2013) Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas New York: Community College Research Center, Columbia University

The study

Using a dataset containing nearly 500,000 courses taken by over 40,000 community and technical college students in Washington State, this study examines how well students adapt to the online environment in terms of their ability to persist and earn strong grades in online courses relative to their ability to do so in face-to-face courses. 

The hypothesis

Some populations of students—for example, those with more extensive exposure to technology or those who have been taught skills in terms of time-management and self-directed learning—may adapt more readily to online learning than others. In addition, some academic subject areas may lend themselves to highquality online learning experiences more readily than others

The methodology

Primary analyses were performed on a dataset containing 51,017 degree-seeking students who initially enrolled in one of Washington State’s 34 community or technical colleges during the fall term of 2004. These first-time college students were tracked through the spring of 2009 for 19 quarters of enrollment, or approximately five years.  The dataset, provided by the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), included information on student demographics, institutions attended, and transcript data on course enrollments and performance.

The results

  • In descriptive terms, students’ average persistence rate across courses was 94.12 percent, with a noticeable gap between online courses (91.19 percent) and face-to-face courses (94.45 percent). For courses in which students persisted through to the end of the term (N = 469,287), the average grade was 2.95 (on a 4.0-point scale), also with a gap between online courses (2.77) and face-to-face courses (2.98).
  • While all types of students in the study suffered decrements in performance in online courses, some struggled more than others to adapt: males, younger students, Black students, and students with lower grade point averages. 
  • Regardless of a particular student’s own adaptability to the online environment, her performance in an online course may suffer if her classmates adapt poorly. English and social science were two academic subjects that seemed to attract a high proportion of less-adaptable students, thereby introducing negative peer effects.
  • Older students adapted more readily to online courses than did younger students.
  • [Also] students who were more disposed to take online course also tended to have stronger overall academic performance than their peers  



First, it is encouraging to see a detailed quantitative assessment of the types of students taking online courses, and their relative performance. This report needs to be read in full, and carefully. It is good that it is based on a significantly large enough sample that one can have confidence in the generalizability of the results (at least in the U.S. two-year college sector). The study was very well carried out and is a model for quantitative analysis of student differences.

Furthermore, I am not surprised or even concerned about these findings. For instance, from my own experience of online teaching, I would agree that ‘students are not homogeneous in their adaptability to the online delivery format and may therefore have substantially different outcomes for online learning.’ Online learning doesn’t suit everyone, and it is valuable to have some research that helps identify the more ‘at-risk’ online learners.

One can put forward a number of reasons why online students, on average, are likely to struggle compared with face-to-face students. Students who choose an online course are likely on average to have less time for study that those attending regularly on campus. Second, for many online students, the mode of study will be unfamiliar, which means making more adaptation to a different way of learning.

My one quibble is that, although the results are clearly significant statistically (as is almost inevitable in large samples), the differences are quite small (96% vs 91% completion rates, for instance.) Thus I do challenge the authors’ conclusion that ‘most students had difficulty adapting to the online context.’ If 91% complete the course, then most students did not have difficulties sufficient to deter them from completing successfully their courses. That seems a pretty good adaptation level to me.

I also have a concern that these results will be misinterpreted. This should not mean that men, Blacks and young people should be discouraged from taking online courses, but that we should be taking more care to ensure that students who do take online courses are better prepared, with particular attention being paid to those likely to be at most risk. This may mean, for instance, gradually introducing students to online learning in a deliberate way throughout a program. This study does suggest those most likely to be at risk.

Further reading

Lederman, D. (2013) Who benefits from online Ed? Inside Higher Education, February 25


No. 1 aha moment: media are different

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© Open University 2013

In a previous post, I listed the seven ‘aha’ moments that have been the most seminal ‘discoveries’ in my researching and working in educational technology. This is the first of seven posts that discusses why I believe these ‘discoveries’ to be important, and their implications specifically for online learning.

What was the discovery?

Different media have different educational effects or affordances. If you just transfer the same teaching to a different mediium, you fail to exploit the unique characteristics of that medium. Put more positively, you can do different and often better teaching by adapting it to the medium. That way students will learn more deeply and effectively.

How did this discovery come about?

Aha moments do not come out of thin air. A number of things come together until something in particular triggers it.

The first one, media are different, came very early, within 12 months of starting my career as a researcher into educational technologies. In 1969, I was appointed as a research officer at the Open University in the United Kingdom. At this point the university had just received its royal charter. I was the 20th member of staff appointed. My job was simple: to research into the pilot of the OU being currently offered by the National Extension College, which was offering low cost non-credit distance education programs in partnership with the BBC. ( So you think MOOCs are new?! The NEC was offering them over 40 years ago).

We sent out by mail questionnaires on a weekly basis to students taking these courses. The questionnaire contained both pre-coded responses, and the opportunity for open-ended comments, and asked students for their responses to the print and broadcast components of the courses. We were looking for what worked and what didn’t work in designing multimedia distance education courses.

When I started analyzing the questionnaires, I was struck particularly by the ‘open-ended’ comments in response to the television and radio broadcasts. Responses to the printed components tended to be ‘cool’: rational, calm, critical, constructive. The responses to the broadcasts were the opposite: emotional, strongly supportive or strongly critical or even hostile, and rarely critically constructive. Something was going on here.

Since the OU was going to spend 20% of ita annual budget on the broadcasts from the BBC, I persuaded the university to appoint me as a lecturer to research into the effectiveness of the television and radio programs, which I did for a period of nearly 20 years.

The initial discovery that media were different came very quickly, but it took longer to discover in what ways media are different, and even longer why. I have written more extensively about this elsewhere, but here are some of the interesting discoveries I and my colleagues in the Audio-Visual Media Research Group at the OU made:

  • the BBC producers (all of whom had a degree in the subject area in which they were making programs) thought about knowledge differently from the academics with whom they were working. In particular, they tended to think more visually and more concretely about the subject matter. Thus they tended to make programs that showed concrete examples of concepts or principles in the texts, applications of principles, or how academic concepts worked in real life.
  • the BBC producers rarely used talking heads or TV lectures. With radio and later audio-cassettes, some producers and academics integrated the audio with texts, for instance in mathematics, talking students through equations or formulae in the printed text (similar to Khan Academy lectures on TV)
  • students responded very differently to the TV programs in particular. Some loved them, some hated them, and few were indifferent. The ones that hated them wanted the programs to be didactic and repeat  or reinforce what was in the printed texts. They tended to get lower grades or even fail in the final course exam. The ones that loved them tende to get higher grades. They were able to see how the programs illustrated the principles in the texts, and the programs tended to ‘stretch’ students to think more widely or critically about the topics in the course. The exception was math, where borderline students found the TV programs most helpful
  • using television and radio to develop higher level learning is a skill that can be taught. In the foundation social science course (D100), many of the programs were made in a typical BBC documentary style. Although the programs were accompanied by extensive broadcast notes that attempted to link the broadcasts to the academic texts, many students struggled with these programs. When the course was remade five years later a distinguished academic (Stuart Hall) was used as an ‘anchor’ for all the programs. The first few programs were somewhat like lectures, but in each program Stuart Hall introduced more and more visual clips and helped students analyze each clip . By the end of the course the programs were almost entirely in the documentary format. Students rated the remade program much higher and used examples from the TV programs much more in their assignments and exams for the remade course.

Why are these findings significant?

At the time (and for many years afterwards) researchers such as Richard Clark (1983) argued that the research showed no significant different between the use of different media. In particular, there were no differences between classroom teaching and other media such as television or radio or satellite or the Internet. Even today, we are getting similar findings regarding online learning (e.g. Means et al. 2010)

However, this is because  the research methodology that is used by researchers for such comparative studies requires the two conditions being compared to be the same, except for the medium being used. Therefore a classroom lecture had to be compared to a television lecture. Indeed Clark argued that any differences were due to pedagogical differences in the media use. Since the classroom was used as the base, you had to strip out all the affordances of television – what it could do better than a lecture – in order to compare it.

The critical point is that different media can be used to assist learners to learn in different ways and achieve different outcomes. In a sense, researchers such as Clark were right: the teaching methods matter, but different media can more easily support different ways of teaching than others.

Perhaps even more important is the idea that many media are better than one. This allows learners with different preferences for learning to be accommodated, and to allow subject matter to be taught in different ways through different media, thus leading to deeper understanding or a wider range of skills in using content.

How does this apply to online learning?

Online learning can incorporate a range of different media: text, graphics, audio, video, animation, simulations. We need to understand better their affordances, and use them differentially so as to develop deeper knowledge, and a wider range of learning outcomes and skills.

The use of different media also allows for more individualization and personalization of the learning, better suiting learners with different learning styles and needs.

Most of all, we should stop trying merely to move classroom teaching to other media such as MOOCs, and start designing online learning so its full potential can be exploited.

References and further reading

Bates, A. (1985) Broadcasting in Education: An Evaluation London: Constables (out of print – try a good library)

Bates, A. (2012) Pedagogical roles for video in online learning, Online Learning and Distance Education Resources

Clark, R. (1983) ‘Reconsidering research on learning from media’ Review of Educational Research, Vol. 53, pp. 445-459

Kozma, R. (1994) ‘Will Media Influence Learning? Reframing the Debate’, Educational Technology Research and Development, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 7-19

Means, B. et al. (2009) Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies Washington, DC: US Department of Education (http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf)

Russell, T. L. (1999) The No Significant Difference Phenomenon Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University, Office of Instructional Telecommunication

Measuring the growth of online learning: the Babson College 2012 survey

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©2013 by Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group, LLC

Allen, I.E. and Seaman, J. (2013) Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States  Wellesley MA: Babson College/Quahog Research Group

Based on responses from more than 2,800 colleges and universities, this year’s study, like those for the previous nine years, tracks the opinions of chief academic officers. The figures refer to fully online courses, i.e. courses where over 80% of the content is delivered online. Most of you will have seen at least the headlines about this report, but it is so significant that I am providing a detailed analysis.

Main findings:

Online course enrollments

  • The number of students taking at least one online course increased by over 570,000 to a new total of 6.7 million.
  • The online enrollment growth rate of 9.3 percent is the lowest recorded in this report series (but higher than enrollment growth overall, which dropped to below zero in 2011-2012.)
  • The proportion of all students taking at least one online course is at an all time high of 32.0 percent
  • The continued growth in online enrollments has come from the transition of institutions with only a few online courses moving to offer fully online programs, and from institutions with online programs expanding their offerings and building their enrollments.

©2013 by Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group, LLC

Learning outcomes

  • In the first report of this series in 2003, 57 percent of academic leaders rated the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face.  That number is now 77 percent.
  • A minority (23%) of academic leaders continue to believe the learning outcomes for online education are inferior to those of face-to-face instruction.
  • Academic leaders at institutions with online offerings have a much more favorable opinion of the relative learning outcomes for online courses than do those at institutions with no online offerings.

Faculty acceptance 

  • Only 30 percent of chief academic officers believe their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education.  This rate is lower than the rate recorded in 2004.
  • Chief academic officers at institutions with fully online programs have the most positive view of their faculty acceptance, but even for them the proportion agreeing is less than a majority (38 percent).

Time to teach online

  • The percent of academic leaders that believe it takes more faculty time and effort to teach online has increased from 41 percent in 2006 to 45 percent this year.
  • Private for-profit institutions are the lone group whose level of agreement has dropped (from 32 percent in 2006 to 24 percent in 2012).

Who offers online programs?

  • Virtually all publicly funded institutions (90%+) had online courses even in 2002.  One big change for these schools is the big gain in the proportion whose online offerings now include complete online programs (49% in 2002 and 71% in 2012).
  • The number of private nonprofit institutions with online offerings increased from 22% in 2002 to 48% in 2012.


  • Only 2.6 percent of higher education institutions currently have a MOOC, another 9.4 percent report MOOCs are in the planning stages.
  • The majority of institutions (55%) report they are still undecided about MOOCs, while one-third (33%) say they have no plans for a MOOC.
  • Academic leaders remain unconvinced that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses, but do believe they provide an important means for institutions to learn about online pedagogy.
  • Academic leaders are not concerned about MOOC instruction being accepted in the workplace, but do have concerns that credentials for MOOC completion will cause confusion about higher education degrees.
Online learning as strategic to institution’s plans
  • The proportion of chief academic leaders that say online learning is critical to their long-term strategy is now at 69 percent – the highest it has been for this ten-year period.
  • Likewise, the proportion of institutions reporting online education is not critical to their long-term strategy has dropped to a new low of 11 percent.
  • A total of 2,820 responses were included in the analysis, representing 62 percent of the sample universe (all active degree-granting institutions in the USA).  Because non-responding institutions are predominately those with the smallest enrollments, the institutions included in the analysis represents 83 percent of  higher education enrollments.

1. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman have provided a unique and invaluable service for the last ten years. Initially supported by the Sloan-C foundation for the first nine years and now supported by Pearson, this survey has provided the only comprehensive analysis of the growth of online learning in the USA. Its particular value is the consistency of methodology which allows for valid comparisons from year to year.

2. The results themselves this year are somewhat surprising. Almost one third of students in the USA are now taking at least one online course. Although growth is slowing somewhat, online enrollments are still outpacing the overall college enrollments in the USA. Nearly 70% of chief academic officers see online learning as strategic to their future plans.

3. I was surprised to note that even as early as 2002, over 90% of state-funded universities claimed to have at least some online courses. The private nonprofit (i.e. most of the elite universities) have been much slower moving in this direction with still less than half offering for credit programs.

4. The data clearly shows the over-reporting in the main media of MOOCs. Only 12% of institutions are offering or considering to offer MOOCs and as we have seen elsewhere, these are mainly the elite institutions who to date have been slow to recognize or accept the value of for-credit online programming. It is a pity less media attention has been focused on the 6.7 million online enrollments that have built slowly but steadily over the last 10 years. But then these weren’t at  Stanford, MIT or Harvard.

5. The report has some interesting observations on the time factor in teaching online. The report states:

Before the advent of MOOCs, the prototypical online course in U.S.higher education over the past decade has not been structured to provide large increases in efficiency.  Most online courses are very similar in design to existing face-to-face courses.  These courses typically run on the same semester schedule, cover the same corpus of material, represent the same number of credit hours, and are led by a single faculty member who is directly interacting with his or her students…..One result of building online courses that mirror the existing face-to-face framework has been they place additional demands on the faculty that teach them….. The most recent results show 44.6 percent of chief academic officers now report this to be the case, with only 9.7 percent disagreeing. However, the percent of academic leaders at for-profit institutions agreeing it takes more time and effort to teach online courses had dropped from 31.6 percent in 2006 to only 24.2 percent for 2012.

This suggests that the for-profits such as Phoenix and Kaplan have been more successful in scaling up online programs. There are several ways online learning could be done more cost-effectively in public institutions, from greater use of open educational resources, especially open textbooks, flexible instructional design, more planning, teamwork and design at a programming rather than a course level, greater sharing of materials and more inter-institutional collaboration and partnerships, especially for core undergraduate programs and specialized masters programs. Now that institutions are seeing online learning as of strategic importance, I hope we will see more concerted efforts at improving the cost-effectiveness of online learning.

6. I have just one caveat with all the surveys in this series. I have a concern that they may be unintentionally over-indicating the volume of online learning. Just two straws in the wind: in 2010, the government of Ontario in Canada did a comprehensive census (i.e. all institutions) and found that 13% of all course enrollments were in online courses, which is less than half the Babson figure. At the time, I thought this might be an indication that Canada was slower than the US in developing online learning. However, earlier this week, Dr. Andreea Serban, interim vice chancellor of education services at Coast Community College District, reported that in the California community college network, the number of online enrollments equalled 11% of full time equivalents – FTEs (identical to the figure for the Ontario two-year college system). One reason for the differences may be due to the way data are reported. The Babson survey reports on the number of students taking at least one online course (32% of all students). The Ontario survey required institutions to provide a detailed breakdown of their course enrollments from their registration data, and calculated this as a proportion of FTE enrollments, and I’m guessing that is how the California figures were also arrived at. The reason for the discrepancy is that students are probably taking fewer online than face-to-face courses, thus the FTE proportion is lower. However, I would argue that the proportion of students taking online courses in terms of FTEs  is the better ‘true’ measurement of the impact of online learning.

Despite the caveat, what is more important than the actual numbers is the trend, and on this the Babson survey is extremely consistent. We are seeing some indication that the rate of growth of for-credit online learning is beginning to slow (at one time there were annual increases of over 20%), and I suspect that the move to hybrid learning is likely to slow down further the growth of enrollments in fully online courses (although increasing the total number of students studying at least partly online). Allen and Seaman in fact also collected data on blended/hybrid learning in this year’s survey and I hope they will publish this data as well.

Lastly, despite (or perhaps because of) this detailed analysis of the results, I strongly recommend you go to the original report, which contains a great deal more than I’ve reported here, is clearly written and is well worth reading in full.

Developing a strategy for lifelong learners in Canadian universities and colleges (and its implications for online learning)

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© Pat Cegan’s ‘Source of Inspiration‘, 2012

Council of Ontario Universities (2012) Increased numbers of students heading to Ontario universities Toronto ON: COU

Changing demographics

This press release from the Council of Ontario Universities shows that students NOT coming direct from high school now constitute 24% of all new admissions, and enrollments from this sector are increasing faster than those from students coming direct from high schools.

This trend is likely to continue and grow, given the demographics of Canada. Birth rates are low (the City of Vancouver has 60,000 less k-12 students than it did 10 years ago, although some of this is due to families migrating to Surrey and other cities/suburbs, where house prices are more affordable), whereas the demands of the workplace and in particular the growth of knowledge-based industries is requiring continuous and lifelong learning.

Also, many two-year colleges and particularly Canadian Institutes of Technology are now seeing a large proportion of university graduates applying for admission. (BCIT once claimed that 50% of all new enrollments were university graduates).

Canada relies heavily on immigration (over 260,000 new immigrants a year) and most of the adults among these immigrants will need to spend at least some time upgrading their qualifications to meet Canadian professional and vocational requirements.

It is then just a matter of time before lifelong learners outnumber high school leavers in Canadian college and undergraduate programs (I suspect that this is already the case in some inner city two year colleges). But our systems are still designed to cater primarily for 18-21 year old, full-time, campus-based students. It is no surprise then that in some colleges and universities in Canada, enrollments are actually dropping, despite governments pushing for and even providing funding for more enrollments.

A strategy for lifelong learning

In a recent report by the Canadian Virtual University the report notes:

Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, and Australia, have recognized and seized upon the importance of lifelong learning in improving skills and innovation and are devising ambitious strategies to help their citizens become lifelong learners. Canada does not have a lifelong learning system in place, nor a plan to transform the rhetoric of lifelong learning into a coherent vision and a plan for action.

In my review of the report, I commented that the current Conservative Federal government is unlikely to develop a lifelong learning strategy for Canada. Education is a provincial responsibility, and this federal government believes in less rather than more intervention in provincial matters. It would make sense for a provincial government to develop a strategy for lifelong learning but this means working across several ministerial silos, such as economic development, education, immigration, and social services, and working collaboratively with the educational institutions. It would also require a vision and commitment rarely found in Canadian provincial politics.

More importantly, I see lifelong learning as a responsibility mainly of the institutions themselves. Their mandate is to provide post-secondary education to all students who can benefit from it. There should be no discrimination on the grounds of age. If the target population is getting older, then institutions need to adapt their policies and strategies to meet the needs of that changing demographic.

This means of course more flexible delivery and a greater focus on online learning. However, it means much more than that. Here are some strategic considerations resulting from a change in the demographics of university and college students.


Many lifelong learners have already been through the public post-secondary education system. Many will already have diplomas or degrees. They also usually have life experiences that are highly relevant to the topic or subject area under study. This means developing methods of teaching that both engage and involve learners (yes, it means treating students as adults).

Fortunately, there are already well developed methods for teaching adults (with the ugly name of andragogy), but this of course will require systematic training of faculty.

It also suggests to me that web 2.0 technologies in particular will be appropriate for this type of learner, enabling them to draw on their work and life experiences, take responsibility for their learning, develop multimedia projects, learn collaboratively, and use these tools in the way that they will often do in the workplace.


In any class, students are likely to be increasingly diverse, with some students straight from high school weak on the basics, some older students needing revision but not wanting to start from scratch, and other students secure in the basics but more interested in recent developments in the subject, or the application of their basic knowledge to new topic areas. This will require much more individualization of the curriculum.

Again, the technology can be really useful here. All content can be digitized, loaded on the web and indexed or tagged, activities can be set that require knowledge and application of the content, students can be placed in groups for collaborative learning around topic based or inquiry based curricula, and students can work in collaboration with the instructor to develop their own learning goals, outcomes and path through the materials.

One area where online learning can be particularly valuable is providing coherent qualifications for newly emerging areas of knowledge through inter-institutional collaboration. There may be only one specialist in a newly emerging area such as nanotechnology in one institution, but by combining expertise on this area from two or three universities, it would be possible to develop a full masters degree, and sufficient mass of students internationally for such a topic.

Organizational structures

The reconsideration of the strict division of credit from non-credit programs is now much overdue. Post-secondary institutions have ghettoized non-credit learning into Divisions of Continuing Education or Extension, whose main mandate for the last 25 years has been to make a profit from non-credit programs to help cross-subsidize the credit programs. Many institutions refuse to recognize even their own non-credit courses for credit. The main effect of MOOCs will be to destroy the for-profit continuing education programs. Why pay Hicksville State University for a non-credit course on advanced web design when you can get one free from MIT? More importantly, though, continuing education programs are often run completely independently of the credit programs in terms of curriculum content.

Academic departments in particular need to see post-secondary education as a continuous and ongoing process that will engage their students throughout their lifetime. As Martha Piper, a former President of UBC, once said: “Once a UBC student, always a UBC student” (a frightening thought in some cases). Thus there should be a smooth integration of undergraduate and post-graduate programming, with careful consideration given to the role and purposes of non-credit, certificate, and applied masters programs.

For instance, it should be possible to transfer individual non-credit courses, and certificates, from the same institution, into a masters program. Certificates can have a more open admission policy, but students can transfer into a masters program by demonstrating competence in the certificate program. Also, in many Canadian jurisdictions, inter-institutional transfer of credits will become increasingly important to support lifelong learning.

Admission policies

Admission policies and course requirements designed for 18 year olds leaving high school are not likely to suit a 35 year old immigrant with a degree in engineering. Institutions in Canada vary considerably in their recognition of international qualifications. Lifelong learners provide an equal challenge to admission policies. However, institutions run the risk of missing out on brilliant ’rounded’ students because they don’t fit the square holes needed to get into an institution. Even elite institutions will need to look at more flexible admission policies for lifelong learners.

Funding models

Whereas I believe that everyone should have a chance of a state-subsidized post-secondary education, how long should this commitment last? For one degree? Two degrees? Should people in the workforce with university degrees and the means to pay full cost be subsidized by other taxpayers who may not even have been able to take a university education?

One way to expand lifelong learning would be through developing full cost-recovery applied masters programs. This would allow institutions to increase enrollments and hire additional research faculty from the tuition revenues alone. However in such cases, once a charge for general university overheads are paid off, the funds should be controlled by the academic department(s) offering the program. This would provide incentives for departments to treat lifelong learning seriously. There are already some successful online examples of this strategy (see the Masters in Educational Technology and the Masters in Rehab Science at UBC).

And perhaps our public institutions can then also return to the old UK Workers’ Educational Association model of free adult education for those just interested in learning (as in the graphic). It will remind us that lifelong learning covers a wide range of different learning needs, and different models of funding will need to be developed.


This is a big topic and I’ve hardly scratched the surface. Also, there are others better qualified to sound off about lifelong learning. However, both demographics and economic development require post-secondary educational institutions to focus more seriously on lifelong learning and the implications for the institution. Online learning can be – indeed has to be – an important part of the solution, but as always, there are many other important factors as well to be considered.

In essence, this is an institutional strategic planning issue and should be tackled as such. Data needs to be collected on demographic and enrollment trends as part of a broader environmental scan. A SWOT analysis will also be needed. But as with all strategic planning, what matters most is strategic vision, thinking and  and commitment. But the earlier institutions start to address this issue, the better.

New journal: International Women Online Journal of Distance Education

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The International Women Online Journal of Distance Education  (int.WOJDE) is a journal focused specifically on women in distance education. The Editor-in-Chief is Prof.Dr.Emine Demiray, Anadolu University, Turkey (the wife of Professor Urgur Demiray, the editor of the Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education). Articles in both journals are published in English. The int.WOJDE states:

int.WOJDE is a peer-reviewed quarterly e-journal. International in scope, this scholarly e-journal publishes refereed articles focusing on the issues and challenges of providing theory, research and information services to global learners in any kind of distance education or open learning applications. 

int.WOJDE invites mainly the proposals from the introductory through advanced level on all topics related to:

  • the using of information and communication technologies in distance education for women, and
  • instruction and knowledge about new learning technologies in distance education for women;  
  • the using of information and communication technologies in distance education by women, and
  • instruction and knowledge about new learning technologies in distance education by women;

The first edition (Vol. 1, No. 1) covered topics on women in distance education in Zimbabwe, Palestine, Nigeria and Russia.


This journal fills a major need in distance education. There is a long history around the issues of women in distance education, but articles or research on the topic have tended to be scattered across a wide range of journals. What makes this journal particularly fascinating is its global reach, looking at women and distance learning across a wide range of cultures.

Other publications/resources on women in distance education

The Commonwealth of Learning web site lists over 40 publications on women and distance education (including three by its current President, Asha Kanwar). Some further articles not included in this list are:

Atan, H. et al. (2005) The support system in distance education: factors affecting achievements among women learners, TOJDE, Vol. 6. No. 4

Wall, L. (2004) Women, Distance Education and Solitude: A feminist postmodern narrative of women’s responses to learning in solitude Athabasca AB: Athabasca University (master’s dissertation)

Menda, K. O. et al. (2008)  Challenges facing female distance learners of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, African Journal of Open Learning,

However, this is a very large topic, and any other suggestions for publications on this topic will be much appreciated.