Learning through Open and Distance Learning has been considered by some as not a viable way of learning. Some still think that (real) learning only takes place in a face-to-face classroom situation with a teacher using board and chalk (or PowerPoint slides). So to begin to talk of Open and Distance Learning in a Technical and Vocational Education and Training context would appear to suggest that the person talking of such has taken leave of their senses. But that is not the case. Learning can take place using ODL in Technical and Vocational Education and Training. It not only can but is taking place.
It must be noted that some of the learners that seek to learn new skills are self-employed or employed in an organisation where taking off time for long periods of 1-3 years is not practical. In addition, these learners have practical work experience and would like to upgrade their knowledge and skills in a changing working environment. Therefore, learning using open and distance learning provides the best means of doing so. If we bear in mind the affordances that technology affords the teacher and learner, then we realise that simulation of what takes place in the working place can be demonstrated using technology by watching videos for example. Let me give an example of learning how to prepare nshima (maize porridge or pap as it is called in some Southern African nations). One can learn how to cook nshima by watching a Youtube video. That person needs the knowledge of how to search for information on the Internet and some knowledge of cooking. Could we argue that such practical skills can one be learnt in a face-to-face learning environment? Haven’t you the reader learnt some things which you have viewed online?
Are we saying then that there is no need for face-to-face learning in a Technical and Vocational Education and Training context? The need is there. Many will learn that way. But for some learners it may not be the most practical way to learn due to many reasons as explained above. Therefore distance learning, flexible learning and eLearning are viable learning pathways to take which ensure that authentic leaning is taking place.