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Athabasca University


MDDE 614: International Issues in Open and Distance Learning

Delivery mode: Online course using Moodle

Credits: 3 - Elective

Prerequisites: MDDE 601, MDDE 602 for MEd program students only

Instructor: Pamela Walsh



MDDE614: International Issues in Distance Education gives you the opportunity to explore the provision of online and distance education, not only beyond the walls of your own institution, but also beyond the borders of your country or nation. This course examines the role that development and globalization have played, and continue to play, in the evolution of distance education, and explores the challenges facing distance educators worldwide.

A variety of issues confronting international distance education will be addressed, including the use of technology, provision of learner support, and the costs of program development, implementation, and renewal. The issues of cultural difference and cultural "invasion" in transferring distance education models across borders and among nations will also be discussed. Finally, the challenges of serving a diversity of audiences worldwide will be examined and potential solutions explored, as you and others in the class conduct in-depth studies of distance education provision in selected world regions.

Course Goals

In keeping with the focus of this course, the main objectives are the following:

  • To develop a reflective and critical approach to the issues arising from transporting ODE systems and approaches from one context to another;

  • To define globalization and its potential impact on ODE;

  • To analyze the cultural, economic, and technological factors that shape ODE in various contexts internationally;

  • To explore the impact and reality of ODE in eight regions of the world: Africa, Europe, the Americas, the “Fourth World,” Oceania, East and Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East

  • To design and implement a small project in some aspect of international ODE that is of personal interest.


Course Structure

MDDE 614: International Issues in Distance Education has been divided into four units.

Unit 1 provides an orientation to the course including introduction to course, and the participants, agreed “ground rules” for participation, and an overview of the issues we will be dealing with in the course, with a particular focus on globalization and its potential impact on ODE.

Unit 2 focuses on issues, such as technologies and their appropriateness, levels at which ODE is applied around the world, cultural issues that arise in transporting ODE systems and approaches from one context to another:

Unit 3 explores ODE as it is practised – or not practised – in the following regions of the world: Africa, Europe, The Americas, The so-called Fourth World, Oceania, East and Southeast Asia, South Asia and The Middle East.

Unit 4 considers the future of ODE internationally and explores questions such as the following: What lies ahead? What are the trends? What insights have emerged from our work together in this course?


Student Assessment

The final course mark will be based on three major assignments and on participation in the computer conferences.

Computer Conferencing -- Students are expected to participate in all unit conferences.

Assignment 1 -- Using the readings for Units 1 and 2 as well as other resources, students will write a paper discussing a major issue or problem related to transporting ODE materials, systems, or methods from one jurisdiction or audience to another.

Assignment 2 -- In this assignments, students work in small groups and review materials related to a particular region, make a presentation on the area in a computer conference, and moderate the ensuing discussion.

Assignment 3 -- In consultation with the instructor, students propose and briefly outline a topic related to one or more of the major issues raised in the course. The approved proposal is then developed into a final paper.


Assignment Weighting

Computer Conferencing



Assignment 1



Assignment 2



Final Paper






Course Materials

Course materials for MDDE 614 consist of the following:

Online Study Guide and readings


Visser, Y. L., Visser, L., Simonson, M., & Amirault, R. (Eds.) (2005). Trends and issues in distance education: International perspectives. Greenwich, CN: Information Age Publishing.


Get Started Early

Early access to the Moodle Learning Management System begins a few days before the official start date of your course. At that time you will have limited access to the course. On the Official Start Date of the course, instructors will be available and the discussion forums will become active.


Last updated by MM December 15, 2016

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