The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning ( is a refereed, open access e-journal that disseminates original research, theory, and best practice in open and distributed learning worldwide. This journal was formerly named the "International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning", the name change from "distance" to "distributed" to emphasise the new focus on openness and particularly on open educational resources (OER).


The library contains articles of the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning as of vol. 1(2000) to current.

Recent Submissions

  • Educating the citizen of academia online?

    Solberg, Mariann; University of Tromsø (AU Press, 2011-04-12)
    The Arctic is a vast, sparsely populated area. The demographic situation points to online distance education as a solution to support lifelong learning and to build competence in the region. An overall aim of all university education is what Hans Georg Gadamer calls Bildung, what we in Norwegian call dannelse and what Richard Rorty has called edification. A first problem to be addressed here is that in online distance learning some teachers find that is harder to support the development of the student’s voice. Being able to express oneself and to position oneself in a scientific community is vital for a well educated graduate. Another problem in online education has been the extensive use of writing as a means in the student’s learning process. Writing is vital to academic education, but in online courses there is in general a danger of overuse. At the University of Tromsø we have tested the web conference tool Elluminate Live. This is a real-time application, integrated in the University’s learning management system (LMS), Fronter. The application enables synchronous oral dialogue, simultaneous sharing of texts, and so forth. I present our main experience with the use of Elluminate Live and discuss the extent to which this application has turned out to be helpful in developing the quality of online courses.
  • Distance and e-learning, social justice, and development: The relevance of capability approaches to the mission of open universities

    Faculty of Education and Language Studies, The Open University, UK; Tait, Alan; The Open University (AU Press, 2013-08-28)
    This article reviews the discourse of mission in large distance teaching and open universities, in order to analyse the theories of development and social justice that are claimed or may be inherent in them. It is suggested that in a number of cases the claims are unsupported or naive. The article goes on to set out the nature of Amartya Sen’s capability approach for development, and to identify its potential for reviewing distance and e-learning more widely as a contributor to development and social justice.
  • Teaching and learning social justice through online service-learning courses

    Guthrie, Kathy L.; Florida State University; McCracken, Holly; Capella University (AU Press, 2010-09-28)
    Creating a virtual classroom in which diverse students feel welcome to discuss and experience topics related to social justice, action, and change is a study in the value of connectedness and collaboration. Through a combination of technologies, pedagogies, and on-site experiences, virtual cultures develop that encourage the formation of demanding yet stimulating learning environments in which communications and interactions are intellectually transformative. This article explores student perceptions of their participation in an online service-learning course while working in local service organizations. Qualitative methodology was used to identify the philosophical intersection at which multiple pedagogies meet: social justice, service-learning, civic engagement, and leadership as instructed in a web-based environment. This study illustrates the capacity for intentionally constructed online educational experiences focused on social justice, civic engagement, and leadership to affect learning and to provide educators with pedagogical best practices to facilitate requisite change in teaching practice.
  • An application of PLAR to the development of the aboriginal self: One college’s experience

    n/a; Robertson, Lloyd Hawkeye; Northlands College (AU Press, 2011-08-30)
    Some forms of prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) invite self-reflection and the generation of new knowledge leading to self-growth in granting credit for past experiential learning. This paper examines the experience of a northern Canadian community college using PLAR portfolio development to assist in individual self-growth among people of aboriginal ancestry. The author reviews the theoretical underpinning behind the notion that PLAR may be used in identity construction and reviews some of the historical circumstances affecting the development of aboriginal selves. Divergent views of participants who had completed PLAR facilitator training on portfolio development are examined. Ethical concerns are raised, and guidelines are proposed for the use of PLAR in portfolio development and identity construction.
  • Bringing Online Learning to Campus: The hybridization of teaching and learning at Brigham Young University

    Waddoups, Gregory L.; Howell, Scott L. (AU Press, 2002-01-01)
    The primary purpose of Brigham Young University (BYU) is to provide students with a combination of sacred and secular education often described as the “BYU experience.” Achieving this purpose is challenged by the rapid growth in Church membership and an enrollment cap of 30,000 students. To address these challenges, BYU sponsors the use of technology to bridge the gap between the increased Church membership and the number of students allowed under the enrollment caps. This institutional case study shows how these challenges have influenced the hybridization of teaching and learning for on campus (resident) and off campus (distance) students. It also describes how BYU has brought distance education to campus, and is beginning to bring campus-based educational practices to distance education.
  • Examining Online Health Sciences Graduate Programs in Canada

    Colley, Paige; Schouten, Karen; Chabot, Nicole; Downs, Matt; Anstey, Lauren; Moulin, Marc S.; Martin, Ruth E. (Athabasca University Press, 2019-03-20)
    Approximately one in 10 employed Canadians worked in health care and social services in 2016. Health professionals perceive life-long learning as an important element of professional life and value flexibility in their continuing education activities. Online learning is ideally suited to meet this need for flexible health sciences continuing education. The present study sought to identify and characterize online graduate programs in health sciences offered by Canadian universities. All Canadian (non-technical) university websites were hand searched for online graduate programs in health and related fields. Each identified program was characterized by 10 features: province, university, flexibility (i.e., fully online or blended), subject area, curriculum (e.g., coursework, thesis or project, practicum), duration and timing options (i.e., full-time, part-time), admission requirements, class size and acceptance rates, and employment outcomes. The search identified 171 Canadian university online graduate programs in health and related fields. Across Canada, the greatest numbers of programs are offered in Ontario and British Columbia. Most programs are master’s and graduate certificate programs, with graduate diploma and PhD programs being less common. While the majority of programs require an undergraduate degree for admission, some programs base entry requirements on previous work experience. Most programs offer a blended learning experience, with fewer being fully online. The most common content areas include nursing, public health, occupational health, and occupational therapy. These findings highlight opportunities to advance fully online, health continuing education in novel subject areas.
  • Patterns of Students’ Utilization of Flexibility in Online Academic Courses and Their Relation to Course Achievement

    Soffer, Tal; Kahan, Tali; Nachmias, Rafi (Athabasca University Press, 2019-03-20)
    Online academic courses provide students with flexible learning opportunities by allowing them to make choices regarding diverse aspects of their learning process; hence, such courses support personalized learning. This study aimed to analyze the ways students make use of flexibility in online academic courses based on learning time, place, and access to learning resources, as well as to investigate how this relates to differences in course achievement. The study examined 587 students in four online courses. Educational data mining (EDM) methodology was used to trace students’ behavior in the courses and to compute 34 variables, which describe their use of flexibility. The results show that students developed different patterns of learning time, place, and access to content, which indicates that flexibility was used substantially. Students’ achievements were significantly related to patterns of learning time and access to learning resources. Understanding the different patterns of flexibility usage may support the design of personalized learning and increase collaboration among students with similar characteristics.
  • Understanding the Early Adjustment Experiences of Undergraduate Distance Education Students in South Africa

    Mittelmeier, Jenna; Rogaten, Jekaterina; Long, Dianne; Dalu, Mwazvita; Gunter, Ashley; Prinsloo, Paul; Rienties, Bart (Athabasca University Press, 2019-01-18)
    Much research in face-to-face contexts outlines the importance of early adjustment on students’ higher education experiences. However, few studies have replicated this research in distance learning contexts to unpack the early multifaceted adjustments associated with studying in absence of a physical campus. This is particularly needed from a Global South perspective, where countries like South Africa have become regional hubs for distance learners. To explore distance learners’ adjustment experiences, this study analysed results from a Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ) with 320 distance learners at the University of South Africa, mixed with qualitative thematic analysis of open-ended questions. The results outlined key factors that impact distance learning experiences for students in South Africa, including demographic variables, class, language, and access to resources. These findings, compared with similar work in face-to-face contexts, suggest areas in need of additional support from distance education providers in South Africa and beyond.
  • Book Review: Transactional Distance and Adaptive Learning

    Saykili, Abdullah (Athabasca University Press, 2019-04-08)
  • Mobile Technology

    Fox, Evan Michael (Athabasca University Press, 2019-04-30)
    The advancement of mobile communication technology has contributed to an increasingly interconnected world; however, these devices are not being used as effectively as they could be to improve global challenges.  One challenging issue is the lack of preparation college graduates receive to positively contribute to the needs of an interdependent global society.  Organizations such as UNESCO, NAFSA, and the OECD have recently declared the critical need for the rising generation to strengthen their global competence, the capacity to examine societal issues and work alongside those of various backgrounds to make a change.  School instructors are crucial to preparing students to thrive in multicultural societies and address present day issues.  With a staggeringly high rate of cellular device ownership among college students, mobile devices could be optimally positioned as a multi-functional tool ready to assist students in gaining these skills.  This paper proposes that, while mobile devices may have contributed to a growing need for globally competent individuals, they can also be used to expand these capacities within university students.  The PISA global competency framework developed by the OECD is used to propose how instructors can use mobile technology and research grounded practices to strengthen global competence in students.        
  • Looking Beyond Institutional Boundaries: Examining Adults’ Experience of Choosing Online as Part of Their Post-Secondary Studies

    Lancaster University; Rasmussen, Kari; University of Alberta (AU Press, 2018-11-27)
    This research focused beyond the student, course, program, or institution by examining the conceptions of adults at the moment in time that they evaluated their choice to engage in furthering their post-secondary education by examining the possibilities provided through online learning. To capture their experience, not as students but as members of society, a practice of care framework, adapted from Tronto’s (1993) work, was utilized as a theoretical framework.  The use of this framework acknowledges that the practice of care is present in the lives of every human being and that each human being has received and/or provided care as part of their lived experience. A phenomenographical qualitative approach was the basis for the design of this project which allowed for the identification of the commonalities and variations of the described experience.  All described experiences illustrated the balancing of needs, wants, and responsibilities, these descriptions included recognition of care of one’s self, one’s family, and one’s community. The variation could be described as an expansion of the recognition of care, that is the focus of care expanded from self to family and then from family to community. This expansion occurred only in those described experiences that showed a strong conception of themselves within the previous category. The findings show that the choice to access online courses and/or programs provides possibilities for many adults that wish to continue their education but only if the educational environment can move away from its institutional centric perspective.
  • The Expansion of Higher Education and the Returns of Distance Education in China

    Li, Fengliang; Tsinghua University (AU Press, 2018-09-26)
    The returns of traditional face-to-face education are widely analyzed, but there is a need for empirical studies on the returns of distance education. Further, comparative studies on returns of both traditional and distance education using high-quality data are rare. Since 1999, continuous and rapid expansions have occurred in the whole Higher Education system in China. Given this background, what are the changes in returns of both traditional face-to-face education and distance education? This study analyzes the returns of both of these formats from 2003 to 2006 using the data from the China General Social Survey Open Database (Chinese General Social Survey [CGSS], 2018), adding educational background as a dummy variable to the Mincerian income equation. The empirical results show that Distance Higher Education can significantly increase the income of learners, the returns of distance education are lower than those of traditional face-to-face education and that from 2003 to 2006, the returns of distance education decrease dramatically.
  • Critical Factors of the Adoption of e-Textbooks: A Comparison Between Experienced and Inexperienced Users

    Ministry of Science and Technology; Hung, Wei-Hsi; National Chengchi University; Hsieh, Pei-Hsuan; National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan, R.O.C; Huang, Yao-De; National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan, R.O.C. (AU Press, 2018-09-26)
    The use of e-textbooks has become popular in certain countries, yet there is debate in the literature about whether it is advantageous to adopt e-textbooks and if they positively influence students’ learning and performance. Prior studies on the acceptance of e-textbooks were mainly based on one theoretical perspective, and did not differentiate samples between experienced and inexperienced users. From a social- and task-related view, this study aims to identify the critical factors that stimulate acceptance intentions of e-textbooks among tertiary students, particularly between experienced and inexperienced users. Based on 912 questionnaires, this study found that performance expectancy, perceived enjoyment, and perceived task-technology fit are the factors affecting students’ behavioral intention for acceptance in both sampling groups. However, social impact only has significant influence on acceptance intention of inexperienced users. Also, gender has a moderating effect on the relationship of performance expectancy and behavioral intention of inexperienced users only. This study provides useful implications for marketing e-textbooks, and fills the literature gap.
  • Influence of Learning Design of the Formation of Online Communities of Learning

    Jan, Shazia K; Macquarie University; Vlachopoulos, Panos; Macquarie University (AU Press, 2018-09-26)
    This paper presents the findings of a study on a fully online Bachelor’s level course in Health Sciences at a European University conducted to explore the influence of learning design on the formation and evolution of different types of communities of learning. The impetus for the study came from the well-established effectiveness of community-based learning, a need for understanding learning design and analytics within networked structures and, the lack of theoretical grounding for social network analysis (SNA) in previous literature.  Our study uses the Integrated Methodological Framework (IMF) which employs SNA as the key methodology for exploring community-based learning in light of the Communities of Practice (CoP) and Community of Inquiry (CoI) frameworks. The course comprised of three differently designed successive discussion forums spanning three weeks each. Network diagrams and SNA measures clearly showed the impact of the different learning designs on student engagement in the discussion forums. Based on CoP and CoI structural components within the IMF, a comparative analysis of whole-network properties of the three networks indicated the formation of a CoP, initiated and mediated by the tutor in discussion 1, sustained by the students in discussion 2, and disintegrated due to lack of guidance and facilitation in discussion 3. Qualitative analysis on the content of discussion posts revealed the importance of group oriented messages in the formation of the CoP. The paper discusses findings in terms of implications for learning design and analytics in online learning and the role of the tutor in community formation.
  • An Evaluative Study of a Distance Teacher Education Program in a University in Ghana

    Sampong, Kwasi Addo; Central University College, Ghana (AU Press, 2009-08-21)
    The study used an adaptation of Provus’ discrepancy evaluation model to evaluate a distance teacher education program in the University of Cape Coast, the premier teacher education institution in Ghana. The study involved comparing performance data of the program as perceived by students and faculty/administrators to standards prepared from the program’s design. Performance data was obtained by administering two survey instruments to a random sample of students and faculty/administrators. Discrepancies between performance and standards were reported. The study concluded that although there were some discrepancies between program standards and performance the program is fulfilling its purpose of upgrading the professional and academic performance of a large number of teachers in the public K-8 schools in Ghana.
  • Challenges of virtual and open distance science teacher education in Zimbabwe

    none; Mpofu, Vongai; Samukange, Tendai; Kusure, Lovemore M; Zinyandu, Tinoidzwa M; Denhere, Clever; Ndlovu, Shakespear; Chiveya, Renias; Matavire, Monica; Mukavhi, Leckson; et al. (AU Press, 2012-01-09)
    This paper reports on a study of the implementation of science teacher education through virtual and open distance learning in the Mashonaland Central Province, Zimbabwe. The study provides insight into challenges faced by students and lecturers on inception of the program at four centres. Data was collected from completed evaluation survey forms of forty-two lecturers who were directly involved at the launch of the program and in-depth interviews. Qualitative data analysis revealed that the programme faces potential threat from centre-, institution-, lecturer-, and student-related factors. These include limited resources, large classes, inadequate expertise in open and distance education, inappropriate science teacher education qualifications, implementer conflict of interest in program participation, students’ low self-esteem, lack of awareness of quality parameters of delivery systems among staff, and lack of standard criteria to measure the quality of services. The paper recommends that issues raised be addressed in order to produce quality teachers.
  • New Ways of Mediating Learning: Investigating the implications of adopting open educational resources for tertiary education at an institution in the United Kingdom as compared to one in South Africa

    Wilson, Tina; THE OPEN UNIVERSITY UK (AU Press, 2008-02-05)
    Access to education is not freely available to all. Open Educational Resources (OERs) have the potential to change the playing field in terms of an individual’s right to education. The Open University in the United Kingdom was founded almost forty years ago on the principle of ‘open’ access with no entry requirements necessary. The University develops innovative high quality multiple media distance-learning courses. In a new venture called OpenLearn, The Open University is making its course materials freely available worldwide on the Web as OERs ( see How might other institutions make use of these distance-learning materials? The paper starts by discussing the different contexts wherein two institutions operate and the inequalities that exist between them. One institution is a university based in South Africa and the other is a college located in the United Kingdom. Both institutions, however, deliver distance-learning courses. The second part of the paper discusses preliminary findings when OERs are considered for tertiary education at these two institutions. The findings emphasise some of the opportunities and challenges that exist if these two institutions adopt OERs.
  • Quality assurance in Asian distance education: Diverse approaches and common culture

    International Development Research Centre; Jung, Insung; International Christian University; Wong, Tat Meng; Wawasan Open University; Li, Chen; Beijing Normal University; Baigaltugs, Sanjaa; Mongolia University of Science and Technology; Belawati, Tian; Universitas Terbuka (AU Press, 2011-09-09)
    With the phenomenal expansion of distance education in Asia during the past three decades, there has been growing public demand for quality and accountability in distance education. This study investigates the national quality assurance systems for distance education at the higher education level in Asia with the aim of contributing to a better understanding of the current level of development of quality assurance in Asian distance education and to offer potential directions for policy makers when developing and elaborating quality assurance systems for distance education. The analysis of the existing quality assurance frameworks in the 11 countries/territories selected reveals that the level of quality assurance policy integration in the overall national quality assurance in higher education policy framework varies considerably. The purpose of quality assurance, policy frameworks, methods, and instruments in place are generally tailored to each country’s particular circumstances. There are, however, obvious commonalities that underpin these different quality assurance efforts.
  • Eight Patterns of Open Textbook Adoption in British Columbia

    BCcampus; Barker, Jennifer; Douglas College; Jeffery, Ken; British Columbia Institute of Technology & Royal Roads University; Jhangiani, Rajiv Sunil; Kwantlen Polytechnic University; Veletsianos, George; Royal Roads University (AU Press, 2018-07-11)
    Since the launch of the BC Open Textbook Project in 2012, the adoption of open textbooks has steadily grown within public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia, Canada. An analysis of adoption records over a five-year period reveals that open textbooks have been adopted across all types of institutions, including research universities, teaching universities, colleges, and institutes, and across a diverse set of disciplines, with the largest numbers in the sciences and social sciences. In this report we identify, describe, and illustrate eight distinct patterns of open textbook adoption. These are: stealth adoption, adoption by infection, committee adoption, sanctioned exceptional adoption, course developer adoption, infection by inter-institutional carrier, creation and adoption, and lone adoption. While these patterns are not intended to be exhaustive, we hope that identifying these patterns provides a useful framework for campus leaders to (a) understand how adoptions occur in their own contexts, (b) identify ways to support further adoptions, (c) recognize that there are multiple ways, and no single path, to supporting the adoption of educational innovations at their institutions, and (d) foster the embrace of wider open educational practices.
  • Adoption of Sharing and Reuse of Open Resources by Educators in Higher Education Institutions in the Netherlands: A Qualitative Research of Practices, Motives, and Conditions

    SURF Foundation; Schuwer, Robert; Fontys University of Applied Sciences; Janssen, Ben; Fontys University of Applied Sciences (AU Press, 2018-07-11)
    To find out what is needed to speed up the adoption of open sharing and reuse of learning materials and open online courses in publicly funded Dutch institutions of Higher Education, a qualitative research study was conducted in fall 2016. This study examined issues of willingness of educators and management, barriers and enablers of adoption, and the role of institutional and national policy in the adoption of open sharing and reuse of learning materials and online courses. Fifty-five stakeholders (educators, board members, and support staff) in 10 Dutch Higher Education Institutions were interviewed. The main findings of this study are: motivation for sharing and reuse of learning materials for educators and managers is directly related to the ambition to achieve better education for students; sharing and reuse of learning materials is common practice, very diverse and not open accessible for the whole world, and important barriers include lack of awareness of opportunities for open sharing and reuse and lack of time. Based on the findings from the interviews, the last section of this paper presents conclusions and recommendations regarding how Dutch institutions for Higher Education can formulate effective policies to raise awareness, organize adequate support and provide time to experiment.

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