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Distance education in Asia Pacific
Jon Baggaley, Tian Belawati, and Naveed Malik
The establishment of the National Extension Institute in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1963 recognized the principle of open education or open learning - that education should be made available to all with minimal restrictions (Perraton 2007). Distance education (DE) technologies have evolved rapidly since then to serve this principle. The open education model stresses the need for flexibility to eliminate barriers to education, such as age, geographic location, time constraints, and economic situation. Open and distance learning1 (ODL) combines the principles of open and flexible learning with DE methodology and uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) to achieve educational goals that conventional face-to-face methods cannot fulfil because of these barriers.
The same ICTs are used in DE across the Asia Pacific region as in the non-formal and basic education programs reviewed in other chapters in this edition of the Digital Review of Asia Pacific. The only functional difference is the formality of the information/communication process - that is, whether or not the messages conveyed lead to formal accreditation for a degree or diploma for example. The current chapter emphasizes the provision of formal, accredited ICT-based higher education, and excludes vocational education, corporate training, and the like. The chapter considers a range of pressing issues affecting Asian DE institutions, such as the lack of access to the Internet obstructing institutional attempts to pursue "e-learning" course delivery. The chapter also discusses the findings of current needs assessment and user and accessibility surveys conducted by the PAN Asia Networking Distance and Open Resource Access (PANdora) network (2005-2008) funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Special attention is given to developments in mobile phone usage for education and training in Asia Pacific. Finally, the need for a distinctively Asian approach to DE pedagogy is considered.