Media and adult learning: A forum: Lifelong learning and distance education

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University North Carolina - Chapel Hill]On: 29 October 2014, At: 07:41Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T3JH, UK

    American Journal of DistanceEducationPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/hajd20

    Media and adult learning: Aforum: Lifelong learning anddistance educationChristopher Knapper aa Director of Teaching Resources and ContinuingEducation (TRACE) , University of Waterloo ,Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, CanadaPublished online: 24 Sep 2009.

    To cite this article: Christopher Knapper (1988) Media and adult learning: A forum:Lifelong learning and distance education, American Journal of Distance Education,2:1, 63-72, DOI: 10.1080/08923648809526609

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08923648809526609

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  • THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF DISTANCE EDUCATIONVol. 2 No. 1 1988

    MEDIA AND ADULT LEARNING:A FORUM

    Lifelong Learningand Distance Education

    Christopher Knapper

    The Place of Distance Learning in Higher Education

    The roots of university-level distance education go back many years, butthe perception still remains in many quarters that distance courses offerat most a type of "back-door" learning or are a second-best substitute foron-campus instruction. In universities with both traditional on-campuscourses and distance programs, the latter often have to struggle forlegitimacy, and recognition that standards are equivalent to those of regularofferings. As a defence against criticism, distance educators often striveto replicate face-to-face instruction as closely as possible; for example,by insisting on a common syllabus and examination, basing distance lear-ning materials on the content of on-campus lectures, using a standard text-book, and perhaps having the same individual teach both versions of thecourse. For example, in the University of Waterloo's correspondence pro-gram, instruction is paced throughout the term as it would be for on-campusstudents, a set of audiocassettes is intended to serve the function of livelectures, course notes provide what might be written on the blackboardor issued to on-campus students as handouts, assignments consist of tradi-tional essays and term papers, textbooks are used in the same way in bothtypes of course, and correspondence courses have compulsory final ex-aminations. A somewhat similar approach to meet a comparable concernis reported by Duignan and Teather (1985) with respect to the Universityof New England.

    There is no doubt that a great boost for the credibility of university-leveldistance education has been provided by the creation of the British OpenUniversity (OU) and its achievements over the past seventeen years. Heretoo there were initial concerns about educational standards, and it is in-teresting that one response was to imbue the new institution with manyof the trappings of an established British university, such as degree con-vocations, a traditional departmental structure, academic titles, and evena student newspaper. At the same time the approach to course develop-

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  • THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF DISTANCE EDUCATION

    ment and delivery pioneered by the OU represented a significant innova-tion for British higher education.

    Those of us who have a professional concern with the improvement ofteaching and learning throughout the university will not be sanguine aboutthe effectiveness of many teaching methods used in traditional higher educa-tion. We do not take for granted the desirability of simulating these ap-proaches when designing distance education courses. Rather, we mightargue that distance instruction should not be judged by comparison with"mainstream" university teaching, because the latter has existed (and oftenremained unchanged) for many years, but we should set our educationalgoals and strive to realise these as fully as possible, using whateverpedagogical approaches and delivery methods are most effective.

    It is true of course that certain instructional options are not feasibleorare very difficultin distance teaching. But it may be possible to "makea virtue out of necessity" by capitalizing on the special qualities of distancestudents and the rather unique learning situation in which they are placed.This might mean, for example, exploiting students' greater maturity, lifeexperience, and motivation. By being required to rely on their resourcesthey can become self-directed, autonomous learners capable of guidingtheir own studies throughout life, and able to call upon a wide variety oflearning resources that stretch well beyond the facilities of the institutiondelivering the instruction. Even for on-campus students who have the benefitof regular class meetings (lectures, tutorials, etc.), it is known that thebulk of their learning takes place outside the classroom and in the absenceof an instructor. (Entwistle and Ramsden [1983] have provided a recentoverview of research on the way students study.) In this sense the situa-tion of the distance learner might be regarded as an extreme case of tradi-tional classroom learning. To push the point even further, it might be thatinstead of striving to replicate the conditions of the classroom for the remotestudent, we should instead be trying to instill in traditional students theindependent study approaches that distance learners are forced to adoptout of necessity.

    Lifelong Learning: A New Catchword for Continuing Education

    This argument rests, of course, on the underlying assumption that a majorgoal of education is to produce students who can guide their own learn-ing. This is a basic precept of "lifelong learning"a term that has beenused with increasing frequency in relation to both continuing educationand distance instruction (see, for example, Verduin, Miller, and Greer[1986]). At first sight the idea inherent in lifelong learning is disarminglysimple, presumably referring to the fairly obvious notion that people beginlearning from the moment they enter the world, actually even before birth

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  • C. KNAPPER

    (Stone, Murphy, and Smith 1972), and continue to do so throughout theirlives. However, as a slogan, lifelong learning seems to have an appealboth for educators and students alike, and it has been employed widelyin promotional material for otherwise traditional continuing education anddistance programs across North America. Used in this way (which a cynicmight say is a means of changing the label without changing the product),lifelong education offered through university extension programs or cor-respondence courses might be no more than a means for promoting lifelongschooling, and for attracting new populations of students in an era of level-ling or declining enrollments and increasing fiscal constraints.

    Faure's Concept of Lifelong Learning

    The concept of lifelong learning received considerable worldwide at-tention with the publication of Edgar Faure's book, Learning to Be, in1972. Subsequently UNESCO adopted lifelong learning as a guiding prin-ciple for educational reform and has actively promoted the concept througha large-scale program of research, publications, and policy guidelines(UNESCO 1983).

    Faure and his associates (1972) conceptualized a system of learning whichwould be:

    available throughout an individual's lifetime;would respond to each person's needs to cope with the demands of con-temporary society;

    would involve learners in guiding and directing their own learning; andwould encourage learning from a variet

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