This article is by Dana Vioreanu. It is available online from: Dana Vioreanu
Distance education has been around for a long time, its form has evolved in a number of ways. However, open learning is a more recent phenomena and its definition varies from country to country and is evolving in recent years. The combination of distance education (i.e. the ability to study from the distance) and open learning (i.e. the ability for anyone to access the educational offer) is often referred as Open and Distance Learning (ODL).
Different institutes, different degree of openness
Due to an ever widening scope of offer, methods and approaches, different ODL institutions differ in their nature of openness and their implementation of distance education. That is why when choosing your ODL institute you may want to consider the following values related to flexibility and accessibility.
The 6 characteristics of openness
Open Access(ibility): check if there are specific requirements for entry into a programme of study. The most open institutions require no requirements to enter, i.e. they are open to all students. Next the accessibility may differ between the possibilities to recognise prior learning and work experience as relevant antecedents to end.
Freedom of Time: separation of teacher and learner in time or place, or in both time and place. You should check if indeed you can study whenever you want. Some ODL courses do however require (online) presence during assignments, group and project work and/or exams (check out our filter options presence requirement when narrowing down your options on our portal).
Freedom of Pace: Learners are not required to complete a programme of study within a specific time. Instead, learners learn at their own pace and make their own decisions about the learning path that is to be followed for their programme. However, some distance teaching institutions differ in the offers and some programs are more closely paced (consider our filter option study pace when narrowing down your options on our portal).
Freedom of Place: Learners are not required to fulfil a residency requirement at the host institution. Most learners do not (have to) leave their home or work place as they pursue a programme of study. (please employ our filter option presence requirements when narrowing down your options on our portal).
Open Programming: can you study at your own pace and place selecting the modules you want to study, and stacking those to a bachelor and graduate programmes? Are there entry and exit points in the curriculum? Can you construct your own curriculum? Our Distance Learning Short Courses usually offer information if they are stand-alone courses or can also be combined to a full degree.
Open to People: check if a programme offered is open to all kind of people. Is it open to people abroad, open for the disabled, etc? Look at their services and how learning institutions have adopted the principle of equity of access for all. Again here you will find information in the detailed programme descriptions on our portal.