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Week 2d: Distance education in Brazil – development and challenges (all activities to A10) by Mind Map: Week 2d: Distance education in Brazil – development and challenges (all activities to A10)
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Week 2d: Distance education in Brazil – development and challenges (all activities to A10)

Brazilian Quality Benchmarks for elearning – MEC 1. Concept of education and curriculum design in the process of teaching and learning The course project the institutions’ submit to MEC for evaluation must include a rationale for the ways in which education, curriculum design, teaching and learning are approached. The institutions need to consider the types of students they are targeting and then define the best approaches to teaching, the most suitable methods for course material production, the communication strategies and the assessment techniques. The institution’s epistemological choice for the course design needs to be made clear and should demonstrate how it can support the curriculum and the desired learning outcomes. The use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in distance education needs to be supported by a philosophy of learning that offers the learners opportunities to interact, develop collaborative projects, recognise and respect different cultures and to construct knowledge together. Knowledge (as described in the document) is constructed individually and collectively by the learners and is a product of information processing and interpretation. Knowledge is the meaning attributed to reality and is highly context dependent. In this sense, the aim of higher education is human development. This is why a course project needs to present an innovative curriculum organisation, which aims to integrate course content and teaching approaches while at the same time favouring a dialogue between the student and society. The student is at the centre of the pedagogical process. In this student-centred model ICTs in education can be frequently perceived as an exciting new way of learning. This is why it is suggested that the course project’s pedagogical proposal should include starter modules in which to introduce the learners to this study mode and to teach them the minimum skills for studying at a distance. The student-centred model also requires effective mechanisms for student support, particularly for students with learning difficulties. 2. Communication systems Interactivity is the core element in distance education if joint knowledge construction is to be achieved. As the students are at the centre of the educational process, interactivity between the tutors and the students is essential. The use of ICTs therefore is highly encouraged (telephone, fax, mail, videoconference, email, online discussion forums and virtual learning environments). Interactivity between the course authors and the tutors should also be a priority. The course project must therefore present: detailed explanation of what communication media will be available and how they will be used; the number of working hours allocated to the course authors and tutors to interact between themselves and to cater for the learners’ needs; a vast offer of helpdesk hours and tutor office-hours for the students, and a number of regional centres with appropriate infrastructure for the face-to-face components of the course. 3. Course material It is suggested that the course materials should reflect the epistemological and methodological choices presented in the course project. They should be designed to develop specific skills and competences, in accordance with the technologies in use and in line with the socio-economic context of the students targeted. Institutions must note that experience in designing courses for face-to-face presentation is not enough to ensure quality in course material for the distance education mode. The latter requires material designed for purpose, which contains appropriate teaching language, study guides and a description of activity length and expected study hours. Course materials should be designed in the form of printed materials, web pages, videotapes, CD-ROMs, DVDs, TV programmes, radio programmes and learning objects that can be distributed and used in different types of media. In order to achieve this it is essential that the institutions have multidisciplinary staff to conceptualise and coordinate the production of these resources. Accessibility of course materials for students with disabilities should also be catered for in all formats. 4. Assessment MEC analyses the course projects in this item at two levels: a) regarding the learning processes and b) regarding institutional evaluation. In terms of the learning processes, the model of assessment must help the learner to develop cognitive competences, skills and attitudes that will lead them to achieve the desired learning outcomes. Therefore, assessment must be a continuous process, aiming to identify possible learning difficulties and to provide ways to overcome those difficulties during the course. Exams will be carried out at a distance and in the face-to-face mode; the latter receiving particular attention regarding attendance and invigilation of exam venues to ensure the credibility of the results. The legislation establishes that face-to-face exams are compulsory and take priority over remote modes of assessment. With regard to institutional evaluation, each institution must plan and implement a system in which to evaluate the quality of the conditions of delivery of the courses and the pedagogical processes used. This evaluation system must be permanent and aim to improve the overall quality of the course and the services that the institution provides. It must include an account of: the pedagogical framework of the course; the physical infrastructure of the institution (buildings, classrooms, common areas, etc.); and the techniques for meta-assessment (a critical evaluation of all assessment processes, with regard to students’ performance, staff performance and course flow). 5. Multidisciplinary course team The configuration of the multidisciplinary team (course authors, tutors, technical and secretarial staff) must indicate diversity in capabilities and demonstrate that the staff are qualified to perform their roles. 6. Support infrastructure An account of the support infrastructure offered must be provided (equipment such as televisions, computers, printers, multimedia players and the availability of free dialling services for students to contact the helpdesk and the tutors – 0800 numbers). These should be available to the students at the regional centre. 7. Management of academic and administrative issues Higher education institutions should make clear in their course project their quality benchmarks. This should also contain a detailed explanation of logistical procedures for production and distribution of course materials, and exams handling. 8. Financial sustainability The course project should contain a careful analysis of costs throughout the planning and implementation of the course. It should also present a long-term financial sustainability plan.

differences in education

Litto (2008) points out that at the University of South Queensland in Australia distance learning is totally automated and web-based; whereas in North America learners study via distance learning in the same city and institution in which they are already enrolled in the conventional mode of education.

long history of distance education

since 1920s

in order to offer e-learning

institutions need to submit a module project to Brazillian ministry of education

reference document entitled Distance Education: Quality Benchmarks for the Higher Education Sector (Referenciais de Qualidade para Educação Superior a Distância)

HOW IS E-Learning sorted out in CHILE

A9: Identifying the factors underpinning the practices

In the context of the vignette, how do these practices compare with more conventional face-to-face learning?

How does the Pitágoras University vignette illustrate the benchmarks applied in practice?

Which quality benchmarks embedded in their module design and teaching approach can you identify?


A10 - Reflecting upon the differences

Litto (2008)

Litto, F. (2008) ‘Public policy and distance education in Brazil’ in Evans, T., Haughey, M. and Murphy, D. (eds) International Handbook of Distance Education, London, Elsevier.

Can you think of a better way to define distance learning or find a definition that you would consider more appropriate? Post your answer in your tutorial group forum.

‘The considered opinion of many leaders of distance education in Brazil is that the new law treats distance learning “as a shadow of conventional learning”’ (p.681).

Litto argues that: ‘“Over-legislating” stifles initiative and creativity. […] The time has come for those who set public policy regarding education in Brazil to make a fresh start, transferring the question of setting public policy into the hands of civil society’ (p.682).