Innovations in Learning and Development
The twenty-first century witnessed innovative practices in the advancement of learning in the developed world as a consequence of the technological revolution of the period and the increased demand for higher education (Bax, 2011; Barab, King and Gray, 2004; Roman, 2001). Education was perceived as the cornerstone for development, sustainability and modernisation (Fitzpatrick and Davies, 2003).
The booming of open, distance and e-learning changed the quality of lives for people as it offered additional venues to higher education that overcame problems of exclusivity and scarcity, specifically at times of shrinking public funding (Dhanarajan, 2011). The founding of the Open University in Britain in 1969 targeted limitless audience with innovative teaching and learning modes. Since it was founded, more than 1.5 million students have studied its courses. The Open University was rated “top university in England and Wales” for student satisfaction in 2005, 2006 and 2012.
The developing world sought to replicate the success afforded through innovative learning practices. The Arab region engaged in extensive reformation to allow for new systems of learning that would provide for accessible and diversified opportunities to learners at an acceptable cost. However, concerns were voiced along the axis of equality and social justice (Wilson, Liber, Johnson, Beauvoir, Sharples and Milligan, 2007; Dudeney, 2007). Arguments associated innovative learning modes with polarizing the developed and developing countries, the promotion of western thought, and furthering socioeconomic substrating. Debates emerged on the pedagogic fit of the new promoted approaches for the region, allegations of social isolation, drop rates, faculty strain, urban concentration, in addition to a number of scholastic uncertainties.
A survey was conducted on a random sample of learners studying through an innovative hybrid mode of learning to explore participants’ perception of the new system. Two thousand and five hundred students took the survey from all faculties at the Arab Open University in Lebanon. The survey was conducted for the periods of Fall and Spring 2012-2013. It ensured anonymity of participants for validity of results.
The findings are the following:
- Innovative learning systems have had an impact on the societies in the developing world
- Open learning has been a means for gaining academic qualifications and has provided a solution for mass education in the region
- It specifically helped develop learners from working backgrounds, underprivileged groups and females
Efforts need to focus on:
- Enhancing awareness campaigns on open education in the developing world
- Customizing material to suit the developmental needs of learners in the region as well as their cultural context
- Assuring quality of material used in nontraditional education in the region
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