It's the measures not the medium: A case study of structuring for success in an open learning project

Year: 1994

Author: Harvey, Jim

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper takes as its focus an Open Learning initiative to provide university level studies in an outback community. The grant which supported the project described in this paper required utilisation of strategies which were both innovative and quality-enhancing. Specifically, this project was required to demonstrate the effectiveness of computer-assisted and group-centred methods as supports for students disadvantaged by the dual impediments of geographical remoteness and adverse social and economic circumstances.

The paper describes the processes and experiences involved in developing an open learning "cell" in an outback mining town which is experiencing severe social and economic dislocation as the consequence of depressed prices for and reduced production of its mineral output. It describes the processes by which community interest and later ownership were created. It raises issues concerned with the impact of the differential backgrounds and experiences of prospective students on the location and organisation of the facilities provided by the project. The rationale underlying the selection of the appropriate teaching-learning strategies and technologies is discussed in some detail.

In brief, the paper argues that the medium (in this case forms of computer-managed learning) cannot by itself overcome educational disadvantages generated in lives lived at the geographical and social margins. Students in these social locations require and demand strategies and structures which both acknowledge their differences yet support them in their geographical and social isolation as learners.