Integrating Learner Support

I’ve been influenced by the broad spectrum view of learner support prevalent among distance learning institutions (open universities) in the UK. That is that learner support is essentially, well, everything that an institution does to facilitate student success. I don’t think there is much argument among most institutions that effective learner support plays a key role in success and retention. What we may not agree on, however, is whether support for “distance” learners should be “integrated” into the mainstream of the university or provided by a separate unit charged with this . The same issue is at play in considering whether or not distance education should be integrated into the mainstream or not and if not, why not? Consider the fact that the “distance” in the traditional sense (at least at in our department at UBC) is a complete misnomer since close to 80% of the students taking distance courses are also taking courses on campus.

Anyway, my vote is for integration – can’t see any reason why NOT to integrate (though there are perhaps some patches of rough (if not inhospitable) terrain to be navigated through in the process. My thoughts on this are bolstered when I look at some of the excellent work done by the WCET and partner institutions in their project, Beyond the Administrative Core: “Creating Web-Based Student Services for Online Learners.
I have some more thinking to do about potential challenges, systemic barriers and (ultimately) what motivates anyone to care…

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