You can access the press release and the report by following the links below.
Designed for Learning affirms a number of the strengths that characterize current Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC) programs and services. This external assessment report also draws attention to a variety of possibilities for systemic growth and development. As a consequence of accelerated improvement efforts over recent years, the organization is poised to achieve its potential as an internationally recognized leader in distance learning. In several ways, ADLC is moving rapidly forward. It is experiencing a period of significant enrolment growth and is undertaking “a comprehensive vision, strategy and action process to advance the integration of technology in all operations and communication, improve the process of design and development of course materials, evaluate and build internal instructional capacity, and meet growing demand” (LRDG, 2011, p. 2).
Paradoxically, ADLC and other educational institutions in Alberta are wrestling with a series of dramatic social, political, economic and technological changes in this turbulent second decade of our still new century. Four specific challenges confront the province’s largest distance learning provider. The question of how best to pedagogically engage its diverse array of widely dispersed learners is tightly connected to the related need to provide high quality staff learning to a teaching contingent spread across the province. Improving its learning infrastructure and dealing with a small number of intense external and internal organizational issues are two additional challenges addressed in this report.
Deal and Patterson describe a paradox as “a seemingly contradictory situation or statement that runs counter to common sense and yet appears to be true” (1994, p. 41). A paradox is “to be embraced and creatively addressed, not to be seen as an either-or choice” (p. 9). In the Designed for Learning perspective of this external review, the way forward is not a simple linear path. Rather, the pathway to further progress is through embracing the nuanced complexities of 21st century student, staff and organizational learning to ensure that the future ADLC is, in fact Designed for Learning.
As explained more fully in section six of this report, Emerging Trends and Issues in K – 12 Distance Learning – Literature Review, terms such as distributed learning, e-learning, online learning, virtual school, distance learning, and distance education are often used interchangeably (Lock, 2012, p. 24). The focus of Designed for Learning is on learning at a distance and the following terms have been used to guide the inquiry: distance education, distance learning, elearning and online learning.
The full report provides context and detail related to the following ten recommendations in four strategic categories. These recommendations are provided to help ADLC become an even more exemplary knowledge building organization that is designed for learning its way forward
through present and future paradoxes of uncertainty, challenge and possibility.
Student Learning Recommendations
1. Focus on Student Engagement and Learning – ADLC should continue to capitalize on its strongly embraced institutional focus on student learning. Efforts to continually enhance educator capacity to deeply engage all learners through a variety of digital, print and team teaching means must continue to be ADLC’s first organizational priority.
2. Quality Learning Design – ADLC should continue to explore additional ways of tapping into employee creativity and innovation through its evolving learning design processes. These processes should empower multi-expertise teams to systematically address the needs of all students through universal design principles while integrating relevant learning technologies and gathering feedback along the way.
Staff Learning Recommendations
3. Quality Staff and Leadership Learning – ADLC should expand and focus the opportunities provided for teachers, support staff and administrators to further develop their expertise through professional learning that is carefully aligned with organizational improvement initiatives, based on the best evidence about how people learn and differentiated in response to the needs of individuals and their work settings.
4. E-learning the Way Forward – ADLC should incorporate and profile e-learning strategies as a major feature of its enhanced professional learning program. Providing research informed online learning opportunities for staff models e-learning to students and partners, while reducing travel costs and optimizing competency-building time.
Learning Infrastructure Recommendations
5. Web Powered Access, Flexibility and Presence – ADLC should dramatically improve its web presence and functionality as a primary feature of its interface with current and potential future students, staff, parents and partners. It will be vital to retain qualified web design staff to continuously work with marketing, business, learning design and staff development teams to ensure that the website is constantly upgraded to meet emerging organizational needs in each of these categories.
6. ET Planning Horizons – ADLC should establish and empower an educational technology team to collaboratively establish and implement learning technology planning horizons. This multi-expertise team should be tasked with establishing one, three and five year planning horizons. These horizons should be updated annually to avoid idiosyncratic technological distractions while ensuring reasonable access to current and affordable digital learning tools.
Organizational Learning Recommendations
7. From Shared Vision to a Bias for Strategic Action – ADLC should continue to follow through with its recently initiated visioning and restructuring processes with an emphasis on strategic action. Members of the organization are eager to enthusiastically embrace an already quite widely shared vision focused on flexible approaches to responding to diverse student learning needs. Forward thinking, action-oriented and relational leadership approaches are well received by staff at all levels and in all locations.
8. Organizational Flexibility and Simplexity – ADLC should wage war on unnecessary bureaucratic impediments and take steps to dramatically simplify operations and processes as a key component of organizational restructuring initiative now underway. Fluidity, flexibility and focus are required organizational features in the digital age.
9. Partnering for the Success of All Alberta Distance Learners – ADLC is uniquely positioned to encourage other providers to work toward the formation of a provincial elearning consortium to optimize opportunities for all Alberta online and distance learners. As a trusted – but not fully understood partner – with a long standing provincial mandate, ADLC can help Alberta Education further its digital learning agenda, while reducing overall costs and generating improved learning experiences for students.
10. Working Towards An Empowering Governance Structure – ADLC should work with Alberta Education and Pembina Hills Regional Division to review and refine the present governance structure to provide an optimal level of organizational flexibility combined
with strong and clear accountability mechanisms.