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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 Winter 2016: TBD



In MDDE 614, students will explore issues that arise when systems and practices related to open and distance education (ODE) move from one context to another. Such issues have become increasingly important in the last thirty years since the establishment in 1969 of the first open university, the United Kingdom Open University (UKOU) began to demonstrate the effectiveness of integrated approaches to what was then called simply distance education. During this time, governments and institutions have begun to realize the potential of ODE techniques to further their own goals. For them, these techniques provided many benefits. For governments, ODE offered the opportunity to dispense with the need for extensive teaching facilities, to provide educational opportunities for hitherto disadvantaged groups, and to meet needs for large numbers of additional professionals in fields such as education. For institutions, ODE provided education and training to groups for whom such opportunities were slim or non-existent, broadened the base of education and training, and provided first and second chances for those who needed them.

As the UKOU began to assist other institutions, a trend towards co-operation and collaboration among ODE institutions emerged, not only across national boundaries but also at a more local level. This trend has continued and expanded; but useful and desirable though it is, collaboration is often accompanied by serious questions and problems that affect the outcomes of such efforts. Some of these issues are as follows:

  • What are the issues that confront educators and trainers as they try to extend access to education to populations to which it has hitherto been denied?

  • Can ODE approaches, methods and technologies be effectively transferred from one context to another, either within a single country or between countries?

  • In the latter context can ODE be considered a legitimate tool for national development?

  • What changes are required when translating ODE systems and methods from one context to another; for example, what role do cultural differences play?

  • What can be learned from the experience of educators who have tried to move their systems and methods from one context to another? Are there principles that can be applied to this process?


Course Objectives

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

McMichael, P. (2008). Development and social change: A global perspective 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.

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 Learning Management System, Moodle, 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 automatically become active.


Last updated by MM November 20, 2015

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