In New Zealand digital distance learners have the lowest completion rates.
The latest interpretation of extramural learner data, released by the Ministry of Education, shows distance digital learners have lower completions than distance learners using traditional (paper–based) systems.
Simply put, distance learners are more likely to succeed in distance study using traditional means. It is not the distance – it is the system.
Considering the data shows that older, part time, and lower socio-economic learners are more likely to study by distance, the higher completion rate for traditional distance delivery is not a complete surprise.
In New Zealand it is the lack of obvious structure, and narrative flow and interconnection, coupled with large sections of the material being hidden from immediate view that is compromising digital distance learning. Add to this the necessity to study online and it is no surprise completions drop.
The solution? Learner centred design and the provision of downloadable resources: rich digital media with the functionality of print. What learners are looking for is a new generation of resources – mobile and integrated, yet functional offline.
Technology now allows us to provide the solution. The education sector needs to step up to the challenge of getting the technology to work for the learner rather than stick to the ‘deliver from the cloud’ model which is clearly failing those who need education opportunities the most.
The consequence of failing to deliver will not only be low completions but learners taking courses from more learner-centred offshore offerings.
If New Zealand is going to compete in the global education market as Tertiary Education Minister Joyce desires, some quick steps are needed to bring our digital distance offerings up to international standards.