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Lifelong Learning

This page tries to dispel the myth that distance education is second rate education. As a resource-based form of education, it fits well within the lifelong learning paradigm, especially in the form of online education.

In many countries distance education is identified with "correspondence education". Even in those countries which have established effective distance education modes, there is an assumption on the part of many (especially university academics) that on-campus education is "real" education whereas distance education is a second-class system of education. But a paradigm shift is occurring in higher education as various countries increase access to it by creating systems of "mass higher education", and as the world witnesses the globalization of the economy, communication and education. Increasingly, the "clients" (students) for higher education require their "learning service" at a time and place convenient for them rather than at the convenience of the providing institution. And the changing nature of knowledge, communication and work implies that clients will need to learn throughout their working lives rather than in a short concentrated block at the end of secondary schooling.

The NBEET "Candy Report" (Candy, Crebert & OíLeary, 1994, p. 186) points out that placing the two concepts "lifelong" and "learning" at the centre of undergraduate programs

has significant implications.... The undergraduate experience (vital as it is) must be seen within the total lifelong and lifewide context of each personís learning experiences..... Putting learning at the centre of the undergraduate experience casts a different light not only on teaching, but on the role of other university services and functions (such as the library, the computer-based education facility and the relationship between the university and its graduate body or convocation) in pursuing the role of facilitating learning.

So, with "lifelong" and "learning" at the centre of undergraduate programs, the role of academic and other staff employed by the university is to serve as facilitators of learning, not deliverers of education. Distance education, as a typically resource-based form of education, can fit well within this new paradigm. And with new ICTs enabling greater social interaction and access to the vast resources of the WWW, so too can online education.

References

Candy, P.C., Crebert, G. and O’Leary, J. 1994. Developing Lifelong Learners through Undergraduate Education. NBEET Commissioned Report No. 28. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.