From Distance Learning to Open Education: A Changing Landscape

Alan Tait
The Open University, United Kingdom


My intention is that this paper leads to consideration of difficult questions. It does not attempt at this stage to give answers. It should also be said that the questions derive from an analysis from the European region, which can be of course be contested. The analysis is based on the proposition that there is a significant change taking place in the landscape of technology enhanced education, flexibility and access, where the mantle of innovation is now passing from the world of open, distance and e-learning (ODEL), to a much more distributed range of actors, including many on campuses who do not use the language of ODEL at all. This matters to professional associations in the field of distance and e-learning such as EDEN because their sphere of interest is defined, as the organisational title suggests, by ODEL. If issues of technology enhanced learning, flexibility and access – the principle defining characteristics of organisations that choose that identity – move elsewhere this poses significant strategic issues for ODEL associations for the future. We may find that the new landscape will grow different kinds of professional associations, seemingly more relevant and attractive. Indeed there is evidence that this has already begun from the mid 1990’s to take place, and that the pace of change is now accelerating. Hence the need for discussion now.

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