While the open, flexible, and distance learning (OFDL) methods have offered a plethora of opportunities they also have created threats to the educational principles, and consequently undervalued their efficiency and effectiveness (Daniels 2022).
Educational institutions quickly, and fairly smoothly adopted the OFDL and remained fully operational, thus rendering a smooth transition into an innovative learning journey for the students. Teachers met with an opportunity for developing new teaching pedagogies.
This process of alternate teaching transaction has implied major changes both for the student and the teachers. Firstly, the loss of teaching and social presence resulted in adopting alternative cognitive presence in the learning and teaching transaction. This impacted students’ engagement with their learning.
One of the dimensions of student engagement is the sense of connectedness and belonging to the educational institution and its support services, as well as to the learning experience. These are especially potent within the context of OFDL, where the learners are separated in time and space from their teachers and teaching institutions. Like any other approach to learning and teaching, OFDL methods require rigor in their design, development, and implementation, regardless of their context.
Both academic achievement and the student learning experience can be under threat if the OFDL applications are ill-conceived, thus threatening the access and equity to educational opportunity. On the other hand, teaching presence in class has significant implications for cognitive presence (which is students’ engagement with the subject matter, their learning and assessment), and students’ engagement.
The original 2001 OECD Schooling for Tomorrow scenarios consider four alternative futures for 2040.
- Re-modelling and extension of schooling, offering the students more learning flexibility where learning resources are shared internationally
- Outsourcing of schooling, offering the students their own flexible learning paths
- Surge of learning markets, a re-purposing of schooling and transformation of schools, where new innovative ecosystems will be created
- Finally the end of school-based learning and demise of schooling where distinctions between learning, work and free time will be blurred.
Although these scenarios depict the possible future, we do know now that the way we teach has changed dramatically and will continue to do so. Teaching is becoming more open, more flexible, where distance, and online learning methods are, and will be ever present, and large-scale open education settings will be introduced. Will these changes create threats or opportunities remains to be seen.
Daniel, J. S. 2022. Running distance education at scale: Open universities, open schools, and MOOCs. In O.Zawacki-Richter & I. Jung (Eds.), Handbook of open, distance and digital education (pp. 1–18). Springer.
OECD. Trends Shaping Education. 2022.