Page 5 of 6A DISTINCTLY ASIA PACIFIC PEDAGOGY?
Dramatic advances in ICT development in Asia Pacific have opened numerous opportunities for DE in the region. But until the hurdles of accessibility have been overcome, the benefits of online learning applications, including Web 2.0 technologies,3 in specific parts of Asia Pacific will need to be assessed. Careful management and budgeting may partially overcome the problems, allowing educators to develop mixed-media approaches to DE that can effectively address the region's critical educational challenges. But it is essential that educational institutions do not rush to judgement about the pros and cons of DE technologies before they have been carefully evaluated.
The evaluation process should also consider whether students in Asia and the Pacific need a distinct DE pedagogy. Since many of the new ICT-based pedagogies in Asian DE have originated in the west, it is debatable whether they are appropriate to Asian learning styles. Strother (2003), for example, suggests that in an interactive audio-conference:
An Asian learner may have a difficult time overcoming his or her traditional role as respectful listener. An Asian learner who has never worked with computer-aided instruction may find it difficult to cope with learning the system while having to master the content delivered through the system.
On the other hand, Champagne and Walter (2000) have observed numerous learning styles in different Asian contexts. Following teaching experiences in various Asian nations, they came to recognize "the vast diversity and differences among Asian learners and perspectives, to the extent that we no longer find "Asian" to be a particularly useful concept". The current writers have come to the same conclusion following their extensive exposure to DE practices and attitudes in the 13 Asian countries involved in the PANdora project.
In general, the PANdora surveys of attitudes to DE accessibility and acceptability have shown a preference by students throughout the region for a more interactive style of education than they are typically given (Baggaley and Belawati 2007). These conclusions have been verified by students in Bhutan, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (Samaranayake et al. 2007), and in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam (Doung et al. 2007). It would seem that students the world over learn best from an active, engaging pedagogy. And it may well be that Asia Pacific teachers tend not to provide their students with new, interactive methods owing to their greater comfort level with the older didactic styles. Whether fundamental philosophical beliefs account for the prevalence of one-way didactic styles in Asia Pacific, or are merely used as an excuse for them, remains a matter for investigation. The resolution of such questions will be fundamental to the increasing social role of distance education in the region.
1 The terms "education" and "learning" are used interchangeably in the international DE and ODL literature.
2 SEAMOLEC operates for the benefit of nations including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
3 Web 2.0 is a term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology toward enhanced creativity, secure information sharing and collaboration. Web 2.0 applications include social networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, and blogs (Wikipedia 2008b).