Citation

ICT and ODL in Malawi: A review of the situation and future directions for improving and expanding teacher training

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Abstract:

Open and distance learning (ODL) approaches have been used around the world for decades in an effort to meet growing demand for educational opportunity. These programs often aim to expand educational opportunities for hard-to-reach populations such as rural communities or women. Additionally, they may target specific human resource needs with programs that aim to rapidly increase the supply of skilled labor in a certain sector while remaining cost effective through economies of scale. Beyond just access and even affordability as rationale for open and distance learning models, the concept of “open” learning implies a move toward independent, self-directed and situated learning. It empowers and liberates learners by bringing the learning experience to them at the time and place that is convenient, rather than being held to traditional structures and schedules. The characteristics of open and distance learning that make it unique are simultaneously reason for praise and criticism; does the self-directed nature of study isolate learners and limit their ability to critically engage with others? Or does the situated nature of learning improve the experience because learners can immediately apply theory to practice and receive ‘just in time’ feedback?

There are no easy answers to this question, and experimental evaluations that might provide some insight are rare. However, qualitative analysis of existing programs and their quality assurance mechanisms can help identify factors that lead to successful ODL programs, and that make them more attractive than other traditional approaches. The goal of this review is to highlight ODL initiatives in Malawi and the region (SADC) with a particular focus on ODL for teacher training. It examines the rationale for educational expansion through ODL and the structures and policies that either encourage or challenge its implementation.

The systems-based approach to distance education (Rumble, 1980) is a theoretical framework that describes distance education systems in terms of the inter-relationship of three key sub-systems:
• Institutional management and business operations
• Curriculum and materials
• Learner support

These sub-systems subsequently describe the elements of the system that will become targets of quality assurance during implementation.

The analysis highlights specific examples of existing initiatives in Malawi, in particular a program to rapidly expand initial primary teacher certification through ODL to meet the critical shortage of teachers in the country. It will also highlight the potential of modern information and communications technologies to improve effectiveness and efficiency within the different subsystems. The paper draws upon document review of secondary sources, as well as primary data collection undertaken by RTI International through the USAID Malawi Teacher Professional Development project (USAID/MTPD).

The findings of the study will provide a practical checklist for quality assurance and eventually evaluation of ODL programs with a focus on the specific needs of teacher training programs. It will be of interest to scholars and practitioners working in Malawi, or in other countries where ODL might be envisaged as a solution to educational expansion.
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Association:
Name: 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society
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http://www.cies.us


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p492362_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Pouezevara, Sarah. "ICT and ODL in Malawi: A review of the situation and future directions for improving and expanding teacher training" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Apr 30, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p492362_index.html>

APA Citation:

Pouezevara, S. R. , 2011-04-30 "ICT and ODL in Malawi: A review of the situation and future directions for improving and expanding teacher training" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p492362_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Open and distance learning (ODL) approaches have been used around the world for decades in an effort to meet growing demand for educational opportunity. These programs often aim to expand educational opportunities for hard-to-reach populations such as rural communities or women. Additionally, they may target specific human resource needs with programs that aim to rapidly increase the supply of skilled labor in a certain sector while remaining cost effective through economies of scale. Beyond just access and even affordability as rationale for open and distance learning models, the concept of “open” learning implies a move toward independent, self-directed and situated learning. It empowers and liberates learners by bringing the learning experience to them at the time and place that is convenient, rather than being held to traditional structures and schedules. The characteristics of open and distance learning that make it unique are simultaneously reason for praise and criticism; does the self-directed nature of study isolate learners and limit their ability to critically engage with others? Or does the situated nature of learning improve the experience because learners can immediately apply theory to practice and receive ‘just in time’ feedback?

There are no easy answers to this question, and experimental evaluations that might provide some insight are rare. However, qualitative analysis of existing programs and their quality assurance mechanisms can help identify factors that lead to successful ODL programs, and that make them more attractive than other traditional approaches. The goal of this review is to highlight ODL initiatives in Malawi and the region (SADC) with a particular focus on ODL for teacher training. It examines the rationale for educational expansion through ODL and the structures and policies that either encourage or challenge its implementation.

The systems-based approach to distance education (Rumble, 1980) is a theoretical framework that describes distance education systems in terms of the inter-relationship of three key sub-systems:
• Institutional management and business operations
• Curriculum and materials
• Learner support

These sub-systems subsequently describe the elements of the system that will become targets of quality assurance during implementation.

The analysis highlights specific examples of existing initiatives in Malawi, in particular a program to rapidly expand initial primary teacher certification through ODL to meet the critical shortage of teachers in the country. It will also highlight the potential of modern information and communications technologies to improve effectiveness and efficiency within the different subsystems. The paper draws upon document review of secondary sources, as well as primary data collection undertaken by RTI International through the USAID Malawi Teacher Professional Development project (USAID/MTPD).

The findings of the study will provide a practical checklist for quality assurance and eventually evaluation of ODL programs with a focus on the specific needs of teacher training programs. It will be of interest to scholars and practitioners working in Malawi, or in other countries where ODL might be envisaged as a solution to educational expansion.


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