Distance Learning; International Comparisons

Hawkridge, David (1999). Distance Learning; International Comparisons. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 12(2) pp. 9–20.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1937-8327.1999.tb00127.x


Many industrialized countries show considerable interest in distance learning and invest large sums in it beyond the high school level, with very encouraging results. The evidence from these countries to date is that distance learning, at relatively low cost, can reach millions of students who otherwise would not have much opportunity for studying.

The Third, or Majority, World's interest in and use of distance learning appears to make a great deal of sense. This seems particularly so in college and university education, where the cost per student in conventional campusesis very high. At this level, Majority World countries spend as much as one-third of their education budgets. Even the conservative World Bank, after many years of more or less ignoring it, recently endorsed distance learning as a cost-effective solution for the Majority World to consider.

Distance learning is not a universal panacea, however. There are failures to report as well as successes. Despite the powerful international forces that drive globalization, electronification, and commodification, each country must generate its own model to suit its own needs and conditions. Each country should decide, for example, whether to set up one or more distance teaching universities like the Open University in the UK or to promote distance teaching as an additional function of conventional campus-based institutions. Each country needs a policy on how it will exploit distance learning and for which groups of students. Each country should decide whether and how it wishes to collaborate with other countries to get the most out of distance learning.

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