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Quality Processes in Distance Education

Quality Processes in Distance Education
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Author(s): Alistair Inglis (Victoria University, Australia)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 6
Source title: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Patricia L. Rogers (Bemidji State University, USA), Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands (Retired), USA), Judith V. Boettcher (Designing for Learning, USA), Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, USA), Lorraine Justice (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Karen D. Schenk (K. D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch253


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Practitioners and providers in distance education owe a great debt to the founders of the UK Open University (UKOU). The history of distance education can be broken into two eras, each separated by the successful establishment of the UKOU. The UKOU had as strong an incentive as any institution to improve quality — its very survival is dependent on its success. Prior to the establishment of the UKOU, distance education (or correspondence education, or extramural studies or external studies, as it was then known) was characterized by high attrition and high failure rates (White, 1974). The UKOU planners recognized this fact. They realized that, for the University to succeed, the causes of the high attrition and high failure rates had to be addressed. The fact that the University continues to this day is testament to its success. The way in which the UKOU tackled the issue of quality, carries some lessons for distance education providers today. It did so, not by targeting one key area, but by tackling the range of factors that affect the quality of a student’s experience of studying at a distance: by investing heavily in the presentation quality of materials; by making innovative use of media, (particularly the broadcast media); by putting in place a new type of organisational structure to support teaching staff in the work of course design, teaching, and assessment; and by building up a range of other support functions: establishing local study centres, employing local tutors, and instituting a program of residential schools.

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