How to Develop a Distance Learning Curriculum
Distance learning has come a long way since its entry into the educational arena few decades back. The mode of teaching and learning, which initially started as a print medium of learning, has evolved into an online learning method supplemented by multimedia. With the availability of flexible technological tools, the development of a distance learning curriculum has not become an easy job.
The task at hand in developing a distance learning curriculum is to ensure the students are guided in achieving the intended outcomes in an effective as well as a sustainable learning environment.
In developing a curriculum, the designers need to be conscious about the disparities between traditional face to face learning and distance learning. The critiques are pointing to several deficiencies that could arise in a distance mode, namely:
1. Lack of interaction
2. Poor student mentorship
3. Lack of motivation
4. Inability to promote motor skill development
5. Inefficient in promoting good attitudes
6. Absent student - teacher bonding
7. Failure in developing oral skills
8. Inefficient feedback system
The list will go on and on. Although these criticisms are valid in a context which made use of printed material for distance education, in the modern day, these criticisms are being counter argued in various forums. The reason being the advent of online learning systems with multiple functionality, in meeting with the 'social demands' of learning.
Therefore, the distance curriculum should be developed in such a way to minimize the negative impact caused by being at a distance. In order to achieve this, following design strategies can be made use of.
1. Identify the target learner group and analyse their characteristics such aslearning styles, prior knowledge, motivational factors, intention for doing the course and the ability to apply what was learnt...etc.
2. Identify the learning outcomes of the course and based on the target group develop objectives which are both realistic as well as measurable in order to achieve the intended outcomes.
3. Gather the content that should be made use of in the process of achieving the intended objectives.
4. Identify the mode of delivery of instructional content in a proposed distance leaning process.
5. Identify the teaching tools available for the distance programme in the selected method of content delivery. These may be presentations, video, pod casts, pdf files, images..etc in an online environment.
6. Identify the methods available for interaction through the intended distance education system. In an Online environment discussion boards and chat areas would be the gateways for interaction.
7. Develop the instructional material following consideration of available options, intended learner characteristics, learning objectives as well as the cost effectiveness.
8. Present the Instructional content through designated strategies in a realistic time frame with adequate mentorship. The programme should promote discipline as well as maintain adequate motivation.
9. Develop a mechanism in which continuous feedback is encouraged and given the proper attention while evolve with every step of the way.
The guidelines in mentioned here are broad outlines in planning a distance learning curriculum.