Future agenda for distance learning

I spent yesterday at the University of London Centre for Distance Education (CDE) conference which was held at SOAS. It was a chance to present my findings to the body that funded LASSIE and also a chance to network with friends and colleagues from the University of London, all with the common interest of distance learning. The conference was opened by Don Olcott the Chief Executive of the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education who looked at where distance learning has come from and where it might be heading. We then went into three parallel strands, focusing on design for learning, support for teaching and learning and assessment and evaluation. I was presenting in the support for teaching and learning strand, facilitated by Gwyneth Price and so stayed with this strand throughout the day. Reports from other CDE projects highlighted many parallels around how we best support our students and crucially the need to better understand them. As well as meeting many familiar faces I was pleased to meet some new people and draw parallels with their work, such as Paul Smith, who was project director of the CDE Study Skills project.
The day was concluded with a keynote from Martin Oliver, my former boss, and currently on secondment from the London Knowledge Lab, to The Higher Education Academy. Martin talked about the current work to develop an evidence based approach to research in e-learning by what is called the HEA’s Research Observatory (although I believe it has recently been renamed). He talked about how an evidence-based approach in this field will undoubtedly differ from the more familiar evidence-based approach in medicine. It was clear from the conference that much research in distance learning has been funded over the past 3 years by the CDE and the consensus is we should build on this experience, even if funding is not available at the previous levels. I for one hope I can share the information literacy materials I have developed (known as IRIS) with others in the University of London. The fourth unit will be released to the LSE External Programme students shortly.

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