A critical analysis of support practices in distance education for adults at secondary and college levels



For many institutions offering distance education courses, student support is an essential component of every course outline.

Even in campus-type universities, issues surrounding student support have become an important concern for faculty faced with the increasing use of mediated communication made possible by new technologies.

It is important to provide learners with personalized support and assistance services.

Businesses are also interested in the conditions that foster learning in online self-learning training situations, and in particular, in the question of communication between students and between the educator and individual students. Currently it can be seen that the success of self-learning activities does not depend solely on the quality of the technical systems and the educational materials, but, to a large extent, on the quality of the support mechanisms that can be developed and managed between the various people involved in the education process.

Online learning, considered to be an educational tool expanding access to education for everyone, will only succeed if learners are provided with personalized support and assistance services. However, interactive assistance poses problems that technology has not managed to solve on its own. Given this fact and the growing use of Internet learning opportunities, an increasing number of studies are investigating this aspect of distance learning by looking at the type and nature of the interactions that can occur through technology.

The data collected from the various actors involved in distance learning appear to indicate that the members of a learner's immediate entourage contribute to his or her success and persistence in distance education courses. The support mechanisms put in place by distance teaching institutions would benefit from a better understanding of this contribution.

Main researcher

François Pettigrew, TÉLUQ

Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: November 2008