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Studying online and distant learning

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Defining Open and Distant learning

 (McGraw & O’Malley, 1999) believes in a definition which is considered a mode of teaching which is interactive.  It states distance teaching has a world wide access of educational instruction through Internet services.  These services offer non-residential education services which may be more compatible with student lifestyles and needs.

Stephenson (2001, pp112) also affirms that distance education typically means provided educational services only to learners who are not physically present at the institutions site. Yet, Moore & Kearsley, (1996, p2) describes distant education is learning that is planned as a separate place from face to face teaching. Online Learning is considered a separate feature of open distant learning such as Duggleby (2008, pp3) who has stated that online learning takes the distance out of distance education.   Online learning has now appeared to have branched away from open and distant education.

Defining Online-learning

The definition put forward by HEFCE describes a more recent description of online distant learning, as any course at a various higher educational academic level, delivered to students at a distance from the host institution, which has a significant component delivered to students online.  It further more states that it does exclude traditional distance learning (HEFCE 2010 pp5). 

Barker (2000, pp4) defines online learning as involving the globally accessible collection of electronic and human resources that are configured to achieve a set educational goal.  It seems from previous research that each independent course provider aims to create a unique definition for the course provisions and support which they offer to students.  The internet offers the means to deliver courses to new and different audiences, who may be dispersed geographically and who may not have had the opportunity to study in a conventional setting. Ryan et al (2001, pp3).




The role of technology

The role of technology has in many ways taken over traditional delivery of face to face education.  Students prefer a choice in how they learn and ICT is seen as a standalone option to learning alongside other modes of study HEFCE, (2010b pp4). Technology has been a central feature to providing courses online, communicating between the student and course provider.  It is also used by various types of student support that can be provided by each individual course provider.  Technology is expected to support distant learning through email, video conferencing and e-platforms. Anderson & Austin  (2008) pp17.

Types of online learning

Where other researchers have defined learning, the Sloan Foundation (Sloan-C22) in the United States of America provided the 2009 annual report on the state of online learning in higher education.  This report defined online learning by further dividing it into online categories that focused upon the percentages of online activity for each course. It describes how online learning can be categorised into five areas which can determine whether a course is fully accessible online or perhaps has a mixed mode of attendance.

  • 0%online,
  • Web-Facilitated- as being 1-29%online,
  • Blended/hybrid-30-79%,
  • Online course 80+% online
  • Full online is 100% an online course.

Describing student support

Student Support is an umbrella term for a wide variety of different types of student support on offer today Simpson, (2002, pp2).  Support is categorised and used dependent upon each course provider whether they are online or offline.  It can be host to a wide range of services provided to online students and is dependent upon each individual course provider and what they offer to students.  Tait is a recent key researcher within the field of student support and open distance learning.  He describes student support as a general descriptor, by clarifying student support as a range of services both for individuals and for students in groups. 

There is no true definition which describes an overall description of student support. Implications of how support may not be provided as a one for all service, is mentioned by Tait, who explains that there can be no universal blueprint for the establishment of student support system Tait (2000, pg12).

 Other researchers such as Choy et al (2002) describe five branches of student support which were frequently accessed by students in the research she completed.  These were:

  • Support-offline learning resources being made available to online students.
  • Communication- phone/email to gain support such as tutor support, resources external links to other networks which include using WebCT.
  • Helpdesk-General help including IT help.
  • Induction Support: processes including self assessment and skills to enable online learning to commence.

Jacklin & Le Riche, (2009, pp.739) cites how course providers are using ‘support’ as a descriptor for activities (e.g. learner support, study support, academic support) as well as for people (e.g. support staff, support teachers. 

J.kyte.2012. Part of online education and student support disertation. All rights reserved2012.

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