UNE-based project reviews distance education in 24 countries

Published 01 June 2012

dehubAn international project led from the University of New England has reviewed laws, regulations and policies governing distance education in 24 diverse nations throughout the South-west Pacific / South-east Asia region.

The project has resulted in an online resource that collates existing policies and regulations relating to distance education in those 24 nations, and a report that provides an overview of distance education in the region.

“Individual institutions should be able use this online resource to inform work in their own contexts – especially in regard to policy development,” said the project leader, UNE’s Dr Rosalind James. “We’re hoping that it will remain a dynamic, ‘living’ databank that others will build upon in the future.”

Dr James is the Director of DEHub, the international research network based at UNE that conducted the project for the International Council for Open and Distance Education. She led a project team comprising Professor Belinda Tynan (the former DEHub Director, now at the University of Southern Queensland), Dr Len Webster (from the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency), Richard Lewis in the UK (from the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education) and, in New Zealand, Dr Stephen Marshall and Associate Professor Gordon Suddaby (from the Australasian Council on Open, Distance and ELearning).

“Distance education is a priority area of cooperation among many of the countries in the South-west Pacific / South-east Asia region,” Dr James said. “However, despite the long history of distance education in this region, with most countries offering distance education in some form, especially at higher levels of education, legislation specific to distance education was uncovered in only two countries: Vietnam and Vanuatu.

“All the countries have some legislation and policy regulating education (and, therefore, distance education), but most institutions have limited public strategies or specific policy frameworks underpinning their distance education programs.”

“This pilot project had difficultly assessing whether regulatory frameworks in the region facilitate or constrain the development of distance and online education,” Dr James said, “since legislative considerations have largely been eclipsed by other more pressing local concerns such as resourcing, funding, government mechanisms, level of wealth, and ICT infrastructure and capability.

“We concluded that, given the political, cultural and socio-economic diversity of the 24 countries profiled, it’s unlikely that one defined ‘best practice’ or overarching policy would meet the needs of governments and policy-makers across the region.”