Conceptualisations of Educational Technology in Distance Education: with special reference to the British Open University, the Spanish Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia, and the Portuguese Universidade Aberta

González Estepa, Francisco Javier (2002). Conceptualisations of Educational Technology in Distance Education: with special reference to the British Open University, the Spanish Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia, and the Portuguese Universidade Aberta. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e7f8

Abstract

This research addresses the question of what is the concept and role of educational technology in relation to distance education. This question is approached through an examination of three distance teaching universities: the British Open University (OU), the Spanish Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), and the Portuguese Universidade Aberta (UA).

A socio-cultural analysis explores the history, philosophical assumptions and applications of educational technology at each of the universities. Thus educational technology and distance education are discussed as interdependent and overlapping concepts. The socio-cultural approach is applied within a multi-modal systems theoretical framework. Along with these, the concept of world-view in intercultural communication is of central importance.

On the basis of this theoretical scaffolding the research has sought to avoid any comparative judgements of the relative 'superiority vs. inferiority' of the various distance teaching universities that might hinder meaningful interactions among them. As a qualitative inquiry the research rejects models and attitudes of assimilation ('cultural domination' or 'sub-cultural imperialism') and seeks to show the value of dialogue between, and the recognition of diversity among, the participating institutions.

Field work, including interviews and documentary analysis, has been conducted at the three major sites: Lisbon, Madrid and Milton Keynes. The interview data has been analysed using the GABEK (Ganzheitliche Bewaltigung von Komplexität - Holistic Processing of Linguistically Represented Complexity) method. The analysis not only identified a number of key issues about educational technology and distance education, from a multicultural perspective, but it also gave rise to a new definition of educational technology in terms of curriculum and power.

The social function, along with the academic raison d'etre of these institutions, has been further explored and contextualised. Among the prominent topics that emerge from the various analyses is that of ethics: a relatively unexamined area in the field of distance education and educational technology. An effort has been made to introduce ethical concerns on the agenda for reflection among educational technologists and distance educational practitioners. I suggest that this topic has special relevance both to international collaborations and to the current engagement of the three universities in question with the promotion of distance education in developing countries. Finally, a proposal for the building up of communities of discourse in distance education in the various languages of this research is discussed.

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