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Tutoring Large Numbers: An Unmet Challenge


IRRODL Volume 5, Number 1, ISSN 1492-3831 Publisher: Athabasca University Press


Open and distance learning (ODL) is increasingly being regarded as a viable policy option for developing countries with limited educational resources for buildings, books and trained teachers, seeking to increase accessibility for large numbers of learners in education and training opportunities. Advocates of ODL as an appropriate solution to development issues tend to emphasise the hardware and software (curricula, materials and media of instruction and delivery, and especially ICTs) rather than the learning support needed (See, for example, World Bank, 2002). In one sense this should not be surprising. As Lentell has noted, tutoring has never been at the forefront of mainstream writing on distance education, at least not until fairly recently (Lentell, 2003). However, whilst tutoring might not be central to the writing about ODL in the north, the practice is somewhat different. Tutoring tends to be the less visible element of ODL, but it is no less essential than good materials and effective administration. Distance education cannot exist without tutors who provide feedback and guidance to students. This point is well demonstrated by, for example, the array of institutional handbooks on tutoring produced by distance education universities. In practice, established distance education providers typically invest considerably in tutoring and other forms of learner support (Rumble, 1997). Moreover, and certainly among learner support professionals, there is an implicit "preferred" model. This model assumes a relatively low student-to-tutor ratio, with the tutor offering proactive individual guidance and feedback. Such a model, however, is not easily transferable to a situation where the reasons for adopting distance education are limited numbers of teachers and limited access to educational provision.


Lentell, H. & O'Rourke, J. (2004). Tutoring Large Numbers: An Unmet Challenge. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 5(1),. Athabasca University Press. Retrieved February 20, 2020 from .


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