PCF5: Towards the design of a decentralized support system for online learners
by Dr Olabisi Kuboni
With the shift towards online tutoring in the University of the West Indies Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC), it is evident that the existing learner support structure cannot satisfy the needs of the emerging online leaner. A key component of that structure is the network of local sites/centres. In the conventional delivery mode, these sites have performed functions such as receiving and distributing course materials; organizing local tutorials; monitoring tutor performance; receiving and submitting assignments for grading; collecting mark-sheets from tutors for forwarding to course coordinators. Above all of this, the site coordinator has performed the important role of orienting students to distance learning and supporting them as they pursued their studies. With the onset of online tutoring, many of these site-based functions are either difficult to perform or no longer apply. Some may argue that, given the web-based management tools that are now available, a decentralized organizational structure may no longer be necessary. While in theory this may be so, current evidence does not completely support this option for the UWIDEC student. There is need to retain a visible people-based learner support structure at the local level, at least in the medium term. The proposed presentation will seek to define a revised site-based learner support system focusing on types, methods and means of intervention. It will draw on data from structured interviews with site coordinators to identify best practices as well as gaps that should be brought into focus. These data will be complemented by the findings of a student survey and interviews with tutors. Underpinning the system will be the concept of good governance, and specifically three of its stated characteristics, namely accountability, transparency and responsiveness (UNESCAP). In the context of the MDGs, one notes, “when governance is characterized by lack of transparency, accountability or competence, the people suffer” (7th Global Forum for Reinventing Government, 2007).
References United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. What is good governance? http://www.unescap.org/pdd/prs/ProjectActivities/Ongoing/gg/governance.asp , (accessed 2007-11-27). 7th Global Forum on Reinventing Government. Governance for the Millenium Development Goals: core issues and good practices. (January, 2007). http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan025110.pdf , (accessed 2007-11-27).
Background to the Problem
Supporting the online learner at the site: some new initiatives
What students' profile suggests about their need for support
Standardizing and enhancing the student support role of the site
|Work in progress, expect frequent changes. Help and feedback is welcome. See discussion page.|