Management Issues Confronting DE Institutions in the 21st Century: The African and Asian Experiences in Distance Education

Introduction The readings and case studies in Module 2 exposed me to the different strategies employed by the different distance learning institutions to ensure that their programs would succeed. Admittedly, I never thought that there can be so many ways on how to set-up and manage a DE institution. I also realized that DE institutions are predominantly large organizations. It dispelled my initial notion that a person can run a DE institution singlehandedly.

The management strategies that impressed on me most about DE institutions are collaboration, mixed source of funding, training and retraining, pedagogy over technology, contextualization, licensing, and accreditation.

Discussion Distance education programs are very well documented in English-speaking countries such as UK, Canada, USA, and Australia. It is also known by several names such as correspondence education, Independent Study, External Study, Open Learning, Open Education, Off-campus Programme etc. (Chaugule, S.S.). It is not surprising that distance learning programs thrived in these countries because the quest for knowledge and experimentation have been encouraged for years. Furthermore, they have the technological infrastructure to support distance education; they have access to high tech industries and manpower.

It is interesting to note that in well developed countries, such as USA, DE programs are offered through an existing university, collaboration of different universities, and private organizations. However, some of the DE institutions did not last long despite their initial multi-million dollar funding. They simply did not have enough enrollees to sustain the operations especially in for-profit DE institutions (Bates, 17-40). There is also the need to train and retrain the teachers, constant

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upgrading of equipments and learning materials, contextualization of the learning materials for the target audience, and the need to acquire licenses and accreditations.

In this paper, I would like to concentrate on the five case studies from the developing countries such as Dakar Francophone Digital Campus (Senegal), Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (Botswana), Netvarsity (India), Kenyatta University (Kenya), and UNITAR (Malaysia). I am interested in these five examples because they are not really known to be at the forefront of distance learning. My initial impression with these African and Asian countries is that they also have internal problems and struggles similar to what we also experience here in the Philippines poverty, large population, very little job opportunities, expensive technology, etc.

These five case studies are quite interesting to read. I can think of one word that these DE institutions are able to survive -- CREATIVITY. The people who are responsible to make these DE institutions work have creative minds to utilize their available resources. In contrast to the wellfunded DE institutions in developed countries, their African and Asian counterparts offered short

MSc Student at Kenyatta University

courses that are very affordable to the people. If they cannot have the enormous amount of funds, at least the students will pay in full or at subsidized fees. For example, Kenyatta University (http:// in Kenya was able to generate funds through its marketing scheme of computer short courses (Juma, p. 13). Actually, as I was reading this case study, I thought of Nike’s famous slogan - Just Do It! Their administrators and staff did not wait for the funds to come by. Surely, they also applied for government funding. At the same time, they devised a plan to be able to cater to the interest of their target learners for a fee. The curriculum of Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning in Botswana (BOCODOL, is very close to my chosen subject area, TLE, in my previous EDDE projects. This DE institution gave priority to vocational courses to enhance the livelihoods of open schooling graduates such as design and technology, metal work, leather work, home economics, and
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tourism and hospitality. Moreover, they believed that these courses will promote employability of graduates. From what I have read, their tutors and part-time writers of interactive self-learning materials were discontented on the way they were being taxed on their allowances (Abrioux and Ferreira, p. 81). They felt it would be better if incentives were given to develop learning materials. BOCODOL also relied on government funding and student fees to sustain their operations. They also utilized ICT to enhance teacher-student interactions at every level.

The Dakar Francophone Digital Campus in Senegal was able to utilize ICT in distance learning and contextualize the learning materials for their intended learners. They used French in delivering the instructions for their French-speaking learners. They also gave a breakdown of their investment cost, an average total US$500,000. With this amount. they were able to cover their expenses for building construction, computer equipment, electricity, air-conditioning, cabling, and furnishing through an active cooperation policy with other DE players working in Africa (Sagna, p. 27). They also considered regular upgrading of computer equipments to be vital in maintaining their operations.

Netvarsity of India ( is a diverse learning institution. It is a well known fact that India is one of the countries in the world that greatly benefitted from ICT. They were able to produce computer programmers and became key players in various computer companies in the US and the world. Like the other DE institutions, they capitalized on computer technology and integrated it with education. They obtain funds from IFC, Citibank, and tuition fees. Their competitive advantage is the capability to develop software and learning materials. Aside from complying with the education standards, they also complied with the industry standards in software development. They also recognized the need of a proactive learning program that will cater to the different learning styles and pace of the Internet-based learner. Another suggestion is to offer student loans scheme to assist students with limited resources.

The Universiti Tun Abdul Razak in Malaysia (UNITAR, is also a unique DE institution. Malaysia is a multicultural society, a blend of the Eastern and Western cultures. According to their website, UNITAR is one of the private learning institutions in Malaysia to receive the SIRIM certification of ISO 9001:2000. In addition, the university has been awarded the prestigious MSC-status certification, which is a testament to the university's commitment in integrating technology and innovation in its teaching and learning techniques. Not all schools would
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have the ISO certification. It requires an annual assessment to check the quality assurance of their service to their clients. It also ensures efficiency of their daily operations.

As part of a cost-control strategy, UNITAR has local partner institutions to assist in delivering its courses. Take note of their initial investment, US$8 million in 1998 and US$10 million in 1999. They also aim to promote lifelong learning in Malaysia as well as in Asia and the Middle East. For them, aside from high technology and constant upgrading of its syllabus, going global would also mean the use of the English language as the medium of instruction. Relevance of the case studies to the local sector: Blended Online Learning Design (BOLD) in secondary public schools within the division of Quezon City -- possible or not possible? Power and Gould-Morven (pp. 19-39) discussed the paradox of online learning in Head of Gold, Feet of Clay. “Online learning (head of gold) is sometimes touted as the key to better higher education. Yet, it has not been widely embraced by mainstream academia (feet of clay).” Some of the reasons are the tedious tasks involved in developing online learning materials and boredom on the part of the students. At the end, the suggestion is to integrate online learning design with dialogue-rich design model.

Similarly, I chose the subject area TLE (ICT and Entrepreneurship) for my online learning materials in my previous EDDE projects. It seems to be a good choice because of the incentive and support given by the local government and the Department of Education. They currently promote Alternative Learning System, Mobile Learning, and eSkwela for students who cannot go to school regularly due to family or work responsibilities. It is also true that one of the challenges in online learning that I encountered was the meticulous preparation of the learning materials. I had to consider the available Web 2.0 applications that can be integrated with the educational material. The next question is, would it be accessible to all learners? As a developer of instructional materials, I can only hope for the best. There are some things too that I cannot control anymore such as efficient Internet connection. Technological infrastructures would involve local governments, agencies, and industries.

Currently, Quezon City is benefitting from the investments brought about by the business process outsourcing industry (call centers). In return, the QC government viewed ICT as an important tool for unemployment. As a consequence, they have included ICT as a mandatory training and the
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setting up of e-Libraries as part of their programs and projects. Even the basic education curriculum now includes computer education to prepare the young learners for the challenges of the digital age.

Will BOLD work in secondary public schools in Quezon City? I am optimistic that it can. The city seems to be ready for online learning because of the available Internet infrastructure. There are also incentives and support (training, funding, etc.) from the local government and education sector. Probably what is lacking are the people and educators who would be willing to take the challenge to shift from their comfort zones and be retrained for the new digital mode of learning. Enhancement of the online learning materials should also follow the suggestion of Power and Gould-Morven.

But then again, there is also digital divide. There are people who are unable to take part in this social change and are left behind (urban poor). Perhaps the article of Selinger can serve as a warning to us why paradox exists. According to Selinger, “Before ICT can even be considered as an accelerator of educational reform or change, other factors need to be taken into account. . . These basic enablers include such things as access to clean water, the availability of basic shelter, personal safety, health of students, free or affordable costs of schooling and sufficient and well-trained teachers” (p. 217–8).

Distance Learning in Higher Education (Philippines)

It seems to me that the Philippines is not lagging behind the Web 2.0 technology. Thanks to the call centers which made the people become more aware of ICT. In my case, gathering research data is easier because I don’t need to travel to the different universities like I did ten years ago. Some of the universities are now offering distance education, online learning, and mixed-mode programs. In Philippine Women’s University (PWU, PWU VLES, they have BSBA and MAEd in DE mode. The Philippine Normal University (PNU, is also offering online learning programs in teacher education. The Polytechnic University of the Philippines Open University, one of the pioneers in offering DE courses (PUPOUS, has academic programs in distance education and professional studies. Similarly, the University of the Philippines Open University (UP http://, UPOU, has the most number of course offerings from nonformal, undergraduate, and post-baccalaureate programs in varied disciplines. Truly, these DE institutions encourage us to be lifelong learners!
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Other private and regional state universities that are offering programs related to Technology and Livelihood Education and Home Economics at least have Web sites that I was able to surf into. Some of them have learning management systems too. Thus, their isolation has been lessened, now that they have joined the Web. Here are some of the colleges and universities: CEU http://, TUA, UST, DLSU http://, DLSU-IVLE, SPUP, TUP, UPD CHE, AUP, ASCOT, SLPC, MSC, EVSU http://, and USM

Conclusion Will distance education stay in the Philippine scene? Probably yes. It would really depend on the learners themselves if they will patronize this type of learning mode. Distance education has been existing for years in the country and made popular today with the use of the Internet technologies. Prior to online learning, people were already using mobile phones, e-mails, and social media to communicate. It’s also a plus factor that majority of the people can understand English that enabled them to be abreast with science and technology updates. There is also a long tradition of higher education in the country.

Financial resources may not be a problem because existing private learning institutions have their own funds while state colleges and universities are supported by the government. In some instances, there are also private-public partnerships as well as foreign tie-ups. However, it might be a little difficult to create a new and totally independent DE institution in the Philippines. If there will be one, they must secure their own source of funds, have a properly trained staff, learning materials, equipments, licenses and accreditations, student services, learning center/s, and maintenance program to upgrade the equipments and instructional materials. New entrants might consider tie-ups with other learning institutions or agencies who are interested in providing education. The program offerings would also depend on the mission and vision of the new DE institution.

Administrators should also bear in mind the government policies and standards set by the appropriate industry or education department. The case studies have shown that DE institutions have varied strategies and programs for their target learners. Some of them created a new institution
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while others evolved from existing universities. In another case study, the DE institution purchased the licenses and course programs from another learning institution for a certain time period. This has saved them the time, money, and effort in developing the instructional materials.

QC Programs and Projects ( Updates on QC Government’s Programs and Projects ( TLE (

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