Learning Skills for Distance Learner

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Learning Skills for Distance Learners:
Providing 21st Century Learning Support

Sara Al-Oraini
Dep. Curricula & Teaching Methods
College of Education, King Saud University

Abstract
One of the main goals of open and distance education (ODE) programmes is to ensure that knowledge and skills gained positively affect performance or behavior. Apart from that, ODE programmes should also ensure learners extend their existing learning skills into new directions. However, it has always been a challenge for open and distance learners to cope with learning varying degrees of skills as they lack face-to-face interactions when compared to traditional learners. As such, learning skills are essential if students are to develop as independent, lifelong learners in the information age. The teaching and learning environment of open and distance education has been transformed by the independent learning opportunities that technologies have provided. However, the mass of information available as well as the growing educational demands has created new sets of problems for students in managing and using information effectively to build their own knowledge and future careers. Due to this, most distance education institutions have developed their own learning skills programs in order to prepare their students for open and distance education environment. In this paper, we will share findings on Open University Malaysia’s Learning Skills for Open and Distance Learners course (OUMH1103). A questionnaire of 25 Likert-type statements and three open-ended questions was designed and used to gather data from students. Questionnaires were distributed to students randomly through the web. 330 students completed the questionnaires and uploaded them to the web. It can be concluded that students are satisfied with the OUMH1103 course and there are no major differences in course attitudes. However, one compounding finding is related to application of search skills and also discernment of information to accomplish course goals. The paper will provide suggestions on ways and means to circumvent this issue.

Introduction

The teaching and learning environment of the Open University Malaysia (OUM) has been transformed by independent learning opportunities provided by the OUM Learning Management System (myLMS) and supported by the Learning Skills for Open and Distance Learners course (OUMH1103) which provides learners with the required skills and knowledge while operating in a technology-rich environment. A questionnaire of 25 Likert-type statements and three open-ended questions was designed using both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to gather data from students mainly from the second and third academic years. Questionnaires were distributed to students randomly through the web and participants were informed by the University Research Department to guarantee their confidence. 305 students completed the questionnaire and uploaded them to the web. The feedback from students is essential and helpful to underline the necessary modifications and improvements to the course.

Studies have documented both favorable and unfavorable students’ perceptions in distance education. Previous studies have found significant differences in distance learning attitudes, motivation, or experiences based on features such as age, gender , ethnicity, self-confidence in using online learning technology, type of institution and competence of the online environment. The confidence in utilizing online learning technology is a developed experience from “not using these technologies” to being “comfortable with online learning technologies”.

Scenario of Learners in OUM - ODL Environment

Close to 90% of Open University Malaysia are adult working students. Their average age is about 30 years and about 90 % of OUM students had left school for more than 10 years. Some had kept up with the learning environment in the form of attending workshops and...
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