These are all topics covered in the October issue of the Commonwealth of Learning’s October edition of its Connections journal.
The Commonwealth of Learning is a relatively small organization that works to foster open and distance learning with mainly small developing countries in the formerly British commonwealth of nations.
CoL is giving a new push into the development of flexible and blended delivery of technical and vocational education and training, focusing particularly on currently under-served groups, such as rural people, girls and women, and those with special needs. CoL is currently establishing an online Community Learning Network to provide information and support for anyone in the Commonwealth who wants to learn about and discuss flexible skills development. Contact: Alison Mead Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the biggest challenge for any consortium of institutions wishing to develop shared courses and programs, and incidentally also for qualifications based on open educational resources, is the transfer and recognition of qualifications between partner institutions. CoL has been supporting the development of the Virtual University of Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSCC). In this consortium, each institution accredits its own courses locally. VUSCC has brought together the accreditation agencies (mainly government agencies) from the member states of VUSSC to agree on a Transnational Qualifications Framework that facilitates the movement of distance courses and programs between states. The goal is to enable a student in Trinidad for instance to take a course or program from a VUSSC institution in Malta, and for the qualification to be recognized in Trinidad, or a course from Malta to be accepted by the VUSSC institution in Trinidad (and vice versa, of course). There is a real lesson here also for federal systems in developed countries (e.g. Canada and the USA) where the difficulty of transferring credits between similar institutions in different provinces or states is a major barrier to student mobility and access to higher education. Note though that the TQF is still a goal to be implemented. It will be interesting to see if the ‘vision’ becomes a reality, and if so, when. Many other consortia have tried and failed with this challenge. The VUSSC Transnational Qualifications Framework can be found at: http://www.vussc.org
There is also a report here on developments by both UNESCO and CoL in quality assessment of open and distance learning. ‘Quality distance education is a sub-set of quality education…Distance education should be subject to the same quality assurance mechanisms as education generally,’ Sir John Daniel, the President of CoL stated. CoL has developed a model for internal audits of quality assessment called the CoL Review and Improvement Model (CoL RIM) that is designed to help institutions to develop a quality culture without significant ‘external’ costs. Contact: Willie Clarje-Okah at email@example.com
A critique of low-cost laptops for developing countries
This is an interesting article by Mike Trucano, of the World Bank, who complains that too many Ministries in developing countries are focusing on the retail price of equipment and not the goals that technology is to serve. He points out that the cost of end-user equipment such as laptops is generally no more than 5-20% of the total cost of technology projects, the rest going on teacher training, course development, etc. Giving schools low cost computers without a plan for how they will be used means consigning them to the junk heap. Focusing just on the low cost of devices is ‘a distraction from the more fundamental discussions of the uses of educational technologies to meet wide avriety of educational goals in ways that are relevant, appropriate and cost-effective.’ Well said. His blog EduTech is at: http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech
There are several other articles of interest which can be found online at: http://www.col.org/news/Connections/2010oct/Pages/default.aspx