QUESTION 1. (a) Student -centred learning could be described as student-independence learning. The
student has to some degree the ability to choose the time and place of study, the methods and order of
studies and can vary his pace of study as well as the length of his studies to suit his needs. Student-centred
learning puts the students needs to a large extent first. Having a learner-centred approach gives students
options in the pace of study, the method of delivery of courses (e.g satellite, mixed mode, tutorial support
classes), order of study, composition of courses to suit individual needs.
Open by dictionary definition means: unconfined, without barriers, accessible. By broadening student input
to learning under the guidance of teachers and the industry assisting students to make informed decisions
the system is ?opened’ and can provide the following benefits:
Access is no longer confined to a narrowly defined group
The time and place and mode of study are determined by the student
The student knows progressively how he is going and what his weak points are (competency-based
The student largely determines what is studied and how learning occurs as he is given more learning
responsibility. (Student is urged to: seek out reference material, ask further questions, relate principles to
his circumstances, try different styles of answering questions)
Recognition of prior learning both as industry experience and other outside studies will enhance Oten
courses as feedback from student to teacher in answering questions will refine existing courses.
Student ?centred learning must be incorporated to remove traditional barriers and hence allow an Open
Learning environment to flourish. The more a student becomes involved in his learning process the more
likely he is to stick at it. Open learning is about being available to everyone no matter what his or her
(b) There are many factors, which will determine to what extent student-centred learning can be achieved
within an institution.
The material being studied- Many courses requiring licensing, the meeting of industry standards or courses
leading to tertiary qualifications such as the Higher School Certificate offer limited open learning
Industry- The willingness of industry to be more flexible so that curriculum requirements can be met by a
variety of pathways.
The teachers- their ability to guide, nurture and advise students on appropriate matters such as: urging
students to seek out reference material, prompting additional responses from students by asking questions
additional to the assignment, communicating well with students to the point where specific principles of a
lesson can be related to the specific circumstances of the unit.
Resources- Student-centred learning will inevitably require a higher ratio of teachers to students (as
compared to face to face teaching). These teachers have to be available in the numbers required and be
Existing courses- Many of Oten’s courses are adaptations of courses originally designed for face-to-face
teaching. Some will require mixed mode delivery because of either the complexity of a particular subject or
certain aids required to complete a particular course. (e.g Networked computers may be required for certain
Enrolments- Obviously to fully open up courses it would be ideal for many students to enroll for courses at
any time throughout the year. This however would make forward planning as to staff requirements and the
availability of facilities such as examination centres, tutorial classes etc virtually impossible.
Students- A high degree of student-centered learning requires students with a high level of training and
teachers with a high level of expertise so that students can be guided into making informed decisions. As
the object of Open learning is to make courses more accessible then students with varying levels of
expertise, experience and training will be undertaking these courses. By accepting such a variety of
students the degree of student centred learning will be limited by the students ability to take on board such
principles and the skills of the teachers in developing and encouraging these principles.
QUESTION 2. (a) Here are as I see it some of the major differences in tools, aids and techniques used in
face-to-face and external teaching.
Tangible items can be shown and demonstrated in class (e.g firefighting equipment, smoke detectors, fire
installation panels) to reinforce learning.
Blackboards, whiteboards, overheads and other visual aids can be used to to clarify principles.
Feedback is rapid. Students can be gregariously challenged. If students are unclear on a topic you usually
know about it pretty quickly.
Problems are therefore dealt with rapidly (assuming the student asks questions).
Some students however may be reluctant to ask questions for fear of holding up the class or being taunted
Specialist speakers in their fields can be brought in to further strengthen teaching impact.
Whole class moves onto next topic together. (course is more structured)
More de-personalised .(though not always the case as this depends on class size and whether the class gets
on well together as a group)
As tangible items can not be demonstrated other tools must be used. Very good pictorial diagrams and
pictures are required. Aids such as videos can be called on as well as directing the student to reference
material (and where to get it). A students own experience. (e.g asking him questions about his experience
with fire panels or evacuation systems that he has seen in the course of his duties)
More subtle though still searching challenges to allow for the longer time frames in feedback. (e.g. ” Your
answer was good and covered all aspects of passive fire protection very well. Might I direct you to an
excellent article in the May 97 issue of The N.S.W Firefighter journal which looks at other forms of fire
protection including active fire protection. This is available from the OTEN library.)
Teaching must be very clear and step by step. Awareness of a students strengths and weaknesses must be
known so that weak areas can be concentrated on and the student encouraged. In replying to the students
introductory letter a prompt along the lines of- “If there are any areas of this course you have difficulty
with, please don’t allow this to delay sending in a unit. Just include in your assignment any questions you
have and I will endeavour to clarify the matter for you. There is also the query form that can be sent in at
I would adopt a more personalised approach as the students background and situation would be very
important for me to know. (e.g. If there is along delay between assignment returns it might be because he
works two jobs and not because he is losing interest or struggling with the course.)
(b) Student-teacher relationships are very important with any form of teaching. The closer a relationship the
more in tune the teacher becomes with the students needs. With external teaching the teacher is not limited
by the constraints of time as in the class room. The pace of teaching can be more precisely matched to the
rate of learning. This in itself is a huge advantage over face-to-face teaching as all students will have
different learning and comprehension rates. And after all, isn’t that what we are trying to achieve ?learning
that is open to everyone.
The other major benefit of distance learning is that students really must become self sufficient (not that they
are spoon fed through face-to-face teaching). For a student to get the most out of the course he will be
called upon by his teacher to seek out further references, to speak of his experiences in relative areas and to
ask lots of questions. All this however will not be achieved unless a good working relationship exists
between student and teacher. To get the most out of the student the teacher must encourage and motivate
him. A spin off from all this could be a vast improvement in student communication skills.