Oxford wins cash to probe barriers to online learning

March 13, 1998

International online learning is to come under scrutiny at Oxford University following a $30, 000 grant received by the department of continuing education.

The grant, from the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, will be used to identify success factors in Internet-based teaching by studying six approaches developed by universities in the United States and Canada.

The universities use a variety of techniques from video recordings of live classes to edited versions of paper-based correspondence courses via the Internet. One institution uses email to exchange information and ideas between students and tutors.

The study will analyse how well courses can be transferred across international boundaries. Jonathan Darby, director of technology assisted lifelong learning at Oxford, said he had been surprised by the extent to which different uses of language and educational terminology were barriers to courses developed in one country being successfully used in others - even when the language used was the same.

Oxford's department of continuing education, which is developing its own online courses, is drawing up guidelines to help course designers overcome these barriers by, for example, offering additional explanations of terms and approaches.

The grant is the first under the Foundation's Asynchronous Learning Networks Programme to be awarded to a university outside the US.

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