Designing a Comprehensive Distance Learning Strategy
Distance learning is broadly defined as teaching and learning where educators and learners are in different physical spaces. The instructional goals of distance learning can range from serving as the main form of instruction to providing supplementary, complementary, or additional teaching and learning support. Whatever the instructional goals, distance learning can increase educational access and improve teaching and learning if designed intentionally, equitably, and inclusively. The purpose of this toolkit is to provide practical guidance (tools, examples, and resources) for designing a comprehensive distance learning strategy that covers an entire education sector or system.
A comprehensive distance learning strategy responds to the needs of a context in the short-term and simultaneously lays out a medium- to long-term approach that reflects principles of universal design for learning (UDL) (see Box 2 for UDL principles). In addition, a comprehensive distance learning strategy can ensure that when crises or shocks occur, quality teaching and learning can continue remotely and that support mechanisms are in place when learners return to learning after emergencies. Finally, the comprehensive distance learning strategy can add to decision-makers’ resources for increasing their education systems’ resilience.
The primary audience for this toolkit includes decision-makers and representatives from government education institutions responsible for developing and overseeing distance learning efforts. Donor institutions, USAID Missions, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, and other education stakeholders working on distance learning efforts may also find this toolkit useful.
After using this toolkit, users will be able to:
- Understand what distance learning is, why it is important, and how it works; and
- Create a comprehensive distance learning strategy that meets the needs of learners and educators in a given context and builds the resilience of education systems.
The toolkit is organized into the four components illustrated in Exhibit 1, and provides tools and action points that guide users in gathering, capturing, and analyzing relevant data and making decisions for developing their comprehensive distance learning strategy. Action points may be executed sequentially, simultaneously, or in any order, depending on the context and the extent to which distance learning programming already exists.