An ICT-Based Distance Education Model: an Evaluation of ICT-Based Modes at the University of the South Pacific
This study developed a model for evaluating the ability of ICT-based modes of communication to foster an effective learning environment, by creating telepresence, flexibility, interaction and collaboration, for distance learners at the University of the South Pacific (USP). The model is formulated on the basis of the educational relationship triad developed by Hall and Kidman (2002). Concepts and attributes from foundations of distance education; new models of distance education; and learning theories, which build on the educational relationships are identified and integrated into the ICT-based distance education model developed in the thesis. The study employed a multi-perspective evaluation design with survey questionnaires as the main technique of data collection. Interviews and online conferencing data was used in triangulation to support the main technique of data collection. Nine ICT-based modes of communication used for distance education at USP were assessed in this study. These are video broadcast, audio conferencing, video conferencing, the Web, email, and WebCT-based homepages, text chat, mail and discussion boards. There are two key findings of this study. The first set of findings reveals that the ICT-based distance education model developed in the thesis provided a useful framework for the evaluation of ICT-based modes of communication at USP. The second set of findings shows that distance learners at USP found the use of ICT-based modes of communication fostered an effective learning environment for them, by enhancing telepresence, flexibility, interaction and collaboration. The extent to which the four key attributes were enhanced in each course was influenced by the use of varying modes of communication, the pedagogical design of the course, access to Internet facilities, and the age, occupation and cultural background of distance learners.