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Latchem, Colin & Jung, Insung, Distance and Blended Learning in Asia, New York and London, Routledge, 2010, p. 266

1If we look at the growth and history of distance education, it can be noticed that although it emerged in Europe, it has shown tremendous potential and promise in the Asian region. Asia is the biggest of all the continents and there is a huge diversity in terms of culture, technology, infrastructure, showing both ends of development spectrum in terms of developed and developing nations. This is a timely book which looks at the developments in the field of open and distance learning (ODL). The Asian region has witnessed a lot of changes as a result of globalization, improved telecommunications network and educational standards (although there are still some countries where the pace of development is slow due to internal social aggressiveness). Distance education has been very successful and almost all the countries of the Asian region have open universities. These are in the form of single mode, dual mode or fast emerging convergence system. ICT is playing a pivotal role in these ODL institutions. This book brings out the initiatives, experiences, issues, problems and promises of ODL and ICT as seen and faced from Turkey to Japan and from Mongolia to Sri Lanka.

2The book contains 12 chapters. Chapter one deals with technology, e-readiness and e-learning readiness. It is clearly visible that all kinds of technology are being used by the Asian open universities ranging from simple radio lessons to mobile learning and satellite, however the challenge to strengthen technical provisions, affordability, digital rights and copyright, equity and access and teaching skills of teachers, remain a main concern. The second chapter looks into open schooling, SchoolNets and ICT integration into the classrooms. Strengthening open schooling is the need of the hour and different countries have taken steps to address the issues like overloaded curriculum, examinations, over crowded classes, inadequate hardware and courseware and lack of individualized or collaborative learning. The next chapter focuses on higher education. It traces out the origin of open education and its evolution over the time. The management styles, problems of dropout, use of technology, type of courses offered have been discussed critically. The authors cautions about the dangers in over-emphasising technology and under-emphasising pedagogy and quality.

3The fourth chapter examines lifelong learning, workplace training, professional development and non-formal adult and community education. These are significant from the socio-economic development point of view of any nation. The authors call upon for involving learners in knowledge-building process and not merely on providing information. Small module education courses and blended approach are also recommended. New forms of e-learning providers like virtual universities or virtual institutions within conventional or dual mode institutions, inter-university consortia, international collaborations, For-Profit providers, and philanthropic virtual networks have been discussed in chapter five. These newer forms clearly indicate a growing trend of educational resource sharing through virtual mode, however the promise of large scale and high returns from ‘global e-campus’ need to be seen. Chapter six illustrates that teachers cannot be made redundant, even while ICT is being integrated in and beyond the schools. Chapter seven is focused on e-learning and examines instructional design, learner support and assessment techniques being used in different institutions in the region. Various formats of interactive e-learning, multimedia e-learning, collaborative e-learning, mobile and blended learning are being offered to allow the learners. The authors suggest a need for change in policy making, planning, time and resource management and organizational issues to boost e-learning sector.

4Chapter eight delves into the challenges of improving educational access, enhancing quality and developing leadership for educational change and innovation. Chapter nine discusses one very significant aspect of ODL i.e. quality assurance and accreditation. Quality of staff, curriculum/courses/programmes, teaching learning, student support, management, assessment, student outcomes and return on investment are crucial to the success of any ODL system. To ensure this, the authors have recommended a culture of quality and both internal and external assessment. Staff training and development across ODL institutions across Asia has been examined in chapter ten. Dealing with change and resistance seems to be fundamental in all cultures. Chapter eleven takes up the issues of research, publication and translating research into practice. There are Journals which are published in English as well as local language in the Asian region, but the authors look worried about lack of high profile of research by Asian researchers in international literature, in spite of having so many ODL institutions. Other area of concern reported by authors is the gap between research that is needed in ODL and ICT and the research being currently being done. They call upon for more cross-over and sharing in research, rigorous meta-studies and meta-analyses to identify trends. The last chapter presents the conclusions based upon the experiences expressed in previous chapters. Overall the authors recommend a need for review of pedagogy; improving infrastructure and human resources; developing vision, leadership and strategic planning; more stress on quality; promoting collaboration; and more significant and extensive research on all aspects of ODL and ICT.
The book is an excellent resource on the state of distance and blended learning in the Asian region. The authors have taken pains in collecting all significant experiences and cases from different countries and support them with data. These experiences of the success cases in developed countries are sure to offer vision to those in the less developed countries. Explaining a theme with historical touch and supporting data, makes the reading interesting. What is equally important is that after the authors have critically examined an issue, they then offer useful suggestions on all the themes about what can be done to improve the state of ODL or which are the areas where more research efforts can be directed. This book is a good resource to all interested in knowing about growth and development and challenges being faced by Asian ODL institutions, practitioners to implement proper strategies and to researchers.

Ramesh Sharma
Director Distance Education
Institute of Distance and Continuing Education, Guyana
Mis en ligne sur Cairn.info le 17/03/2010
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