Rich envrionments for active Open Distance Learning: looks good in theory but is it really what learners want?

D.R. Queiros, M.R. Villiers, C. van Zyl, N. Conradie, L.E. van Zyl

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In the open distance learning environment, efforts are made to engage students and provide rich environments for active learning (REALs). This article describes exploratory research undertaken on a fourth-year Tourism Management module. The research investigated two different study guides for different years - 2012students using an innovative guide with learner engagement tools designed in line with current learning theory, to achieve a REAL; and 2011 learners using a traditional study guide with far fewer engagement tools. The two consecutive cohorts completed a quantitative survey designed from theory on learner engagement, motivation and interactivity. The survey investigated learners' experiences of the implementation of four constructs, namely course design; engagement; learning activities; and the integrated construct of relevance, application, bonding and ownership. Data analysis was conducted using descriptive statistics, non-parametric correlations and cross-tabulations. Results suggest that this REAL does aid learning but not to the extent anticipated, and that it may be too rich. In light of the greater debate regarding the design of ODL material to maximise learning, recommendations are made to discerningly regulate the richness and depth of learning material, avoid overload of isolated learners, and gradually introduce REALs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-100
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Application
  • Bonding
  • Constructivism
  • Course design
  • Engagement
  • Interactivity
  • Learner activities
  • Motivation
  • Open Distance Learning (ODL)
  • Ownership
  • Relevance of Rich Environment for Active Learning (REAL)


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