Training Educators to Design and Develop ODL Materials/Other Key Issues associated with ODL material development

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Tutorial.png Workshop Modules Home.png Principles of ODL | ID Models | Needs Analysis | Developing Learners’ Profile | Methods of Delivery | Content Development Methodology for ODL | Types of Assessment in ODL | Developing a Student Guide | Relevant Technologies | Course Evaluation | Other Key Issues


This section is committed to looking at other pertinent issues when developing material for Open and Distance Learning. These include, but are not limited to:
  1. Quality Assurance Issues
  2. Intellectual Property Right Issues
  3. Accreditation of ODL
  4. Cost effectiveness and Relevance
  5. Special Educational Needs

Quality Assurance Issues

Assuring the quality of education provision is a fundamental aspect of gaining and maintaining credibility for programmes, institutions and national systems of higher education worldwide. Despite a long and generally successful track record, open and distance learning (ODL) is still required to prove that the quality of student learning is at least equivalent to face-to-face teaching. A comprehensive quality assurance (QA) system can help accomplish this. QA is designed to prove and improve the quality of an institution’s methods, and educational products and outcomes. In ODL this includes developing and producing learning materials, academic programmes, services and support, as well as standards of student learning. A systematic and consistent QA system helps to establish an institution’s good reputation and image. It includes defined standards of achievement, documented procedures for all identified processes, established ways of responding to issues and clear accountability for outcomes. The result is greater public confidence, more satisfied students, efficient processes and staff who are confident in their jobs. Students are more likely to experience better quality instruction, learning materials and interactions with the institution and its staff, leading to enhanced learning outcomes. Satisfied students are more likely to choose that institution again or to recommend it to others.
A framework for managing ODL quality should address:
  • General philosophy: Policy and mission statements, ethos and culture of the organization, mottoes, attitudes of staff and levels of staff commitment.
  • Products: Learning materials, courses, resources, media, outputs(progression and retention rates, number of graduates), assessment outcomes ( pass rates, standards of performance).
  • Services: Registration and advisory services, tutoring, counseling,feedback and guidance on learning, support for learner progress,provision and management of study centers and resources, customer service, ICT help desks, responsiveness to issues.
  • Support processes: Delivery systems, record keeping, scheduling,electronic backup, warehousing and stock control, QA procedures.

See article from COL for more information on QA Systems [COL and QA Systems]

Accreditation of ODL

Intellectual Property Rights

The Justice Scale

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property represents the property of your mind or intellect. There are different types of Intellectual properties (IP) but our main concern here lies with the issue of Copyright. That is, the copyright for original material in literary, artistic, films, broadcasts, multimedia and computer programs;

Creating IP does not mean you own the rights to it! You must take formal steps to register your IP and obtain the legal rights of ownership or you will have to rely on common law to prove ownership and prior use for non-registered IP.

Note: Registering your IP rights in your own country may not give you international protection. You must apply for this separately.

All writers should develop strategies to protect their IP rights if they do not want their own work reproduced and presented as someone else's.

What must be noted by content developers is that Copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the ideas themselves. It protects your original works of art and literature, films, sound recording, broadcasts and computer programs from being copied and being used by another for different purposes.

Material is protected from the time it is first written down, painted or drawn, filmed or taped. Copyright material will also enjoy protection under the laws of the countries who are signatories to the international treaties, of which your country may be a member of.

Copyright does not protect you against independent creation of a similar work. Legal actions against such a violation are complicated by the fact that a number of different copyrights may exist in some works - particularly films, broadcasts and multimedia products.

Why do we have copyright?

If anyone needs to use other people's work to create and distribute new materials, then they will need to think about Copyright. A Copyright protects the writings of a person from being reproduced without the permision of the copyright owner.

The following are the rights of the author with regards to a piece that they have produced:

  1. the right of reproduction (i.e., copying),
  2. the right to create derivative works,
  3. the right to distribution,
  4. the right to performance,
  5. the right to display, and
  6. the digital transmission performance right.

In view of the above, there is always the major issue of copyright and other intellectual property rights issues that must be given serious consideration when developing material for ODL. For further reading, go to [Intellectual Property on Wikipedia] This page provides you with extensive information on intellectual property. Although it is important that you acquire a wide perception of all that is covered by the term ‘intellectual property’, it is crucial that you focus on the parts of the text which describes the copyright issues in terms of producing and designing open and distance learning materials. There is a paragraph on the ‘Intellectual property rights in the digital era’ which you may find as useful information.

For additional information please click on This page presents a crash course on copyright with relevant information on ‘Specific Distance Learning Copyright Issues’. It describes clearly the copyright issue in relation to using materials on the internet as well as incorporating images into New Works’.

There are also frequently asked questions presented here with regards to copyright and these are presented as sub headings with clear and thorough answers following. As a designer of ODL materials these are important issues that you will need to address before you launch into creating and developing your own materials.

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Attempt this Quiz before moving on. Click on the link for test Test your Knowledge of IPR

Cost Effectiveness and Relevance

  • Cost effectiveness and relevance of open and distance learning (ODL) has and is a controversial issue ever since the demand of higher education could not be met by the conventional systems. The debate has been on different levels. However, the bottomline is that cost effectiveness and relevance is a concern of all the stakeholders such as institutional providers, educators, learners and policy makers. Cost effectiveness has economic implicationswhereas, relevance has implications of quality of ODL programmes, student perfomance,national development and sustainabilty of this educational system.The current shift to the use of e-learning technologies has magnified the concern.
  • Cost effectiveness of online learning hinges on the availability of free content and relevance to the learner needs. Other related issues are connectivity to free content access to templates these fies the effectiveness and efficiency of on line learning such as the learning objectives,the research methodologies in terms of reviewing literature strategies, ICT/text and self study materials, the learner's cultural diferences and the arising challenges that students encounter during the course.
  • affordability - for the registration of course programmes on line, an admission policy should be put in place for students to know the convenient time for the payment of course fees by all means throughout the year. It is also vitally important that on-line learning provides credit opportunities recognition for the courses provided at the end the entire programme. For more information on cost effectiveness click onto

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Attempt this activity before moving on. Click on the link for test. List down few examples of the advantages of on-line learning

Special Educational Needs

There are several countries with legislations that require institutions to cater to challenged learners or learners with exceptionalities [hearing, sight, ADD, ADHD etc]. There is also the need to be selling this service to every possible applicant. These therefore requires institutions to be anticipatory - to put procedures and practices in place in the expectation that those requiring alternative forms of delivery can gain ready access. Physical access, whilst important, is less problematic than meeting the needs of communication impaired students. Enlarged print, Braille and synthesized speech can be created from digital masters; tactile diagrams can be created. However, what systems will be put in place to ensure the various media - audio, video, text etc can be offered in an alternative forms and their effectiveness monitored? How will teachers be alerted to the needs of communication impaired students?