Learning in non-traditional settings is not a new or recent phenomenon. Adults have learned outside of formal settings for many years in apprenticeships, on-the-job training, self-study, and other forms where individuals studied primarily on their own initiative. For example, the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle program, initiated in 1878 by the Chautauqua Institution in New York, provided "a four-year program of home reading in history and literature carried on in connection with local reading circles" (Knowles, 1960, p. 15). This eventually led to the organization sponsoring correspondence courses under the direction of William Rainey Harper. From that early experience, several generations of correspondence course and other non-traditional efforts were launched.
Higher education's sponsorship of some non-traditional forms, such as correspondence study, began in 1892 when Harper became president of the University of Chicago and established a correspondence division in the university's extension division. Programmed instruction, independent study options, and courses via radio and eventually television were other non-traditional programs that become available in the United States and elsewhere during the first half of the twentieth century. However, Gross (1979) notes that during this period most extension, evening school, and other non-traditional programs were usually second-class citizens in the eyes of higher education administrators, with correspondence courses even an object of derision.
Fortunately, this situation began to change toward the middle of the century. "In 1938, representatives of five nations met in Victoria, Canada, to found the International Council on Correspondence Education" (Moore, 1987, p. 42). By 1965, Johnstone and Rivera (1965) found that almost two million adults reported participating in some form of correspondence education in the United States, and Moore (1987) notes that currently nearly one and a half million people participate in university, private, and military correspondence courses.
Correspondence study also is an important component of learning in non-traditional settings because as Brockett and Hiemstra (1990) point out, it reaches many people throughout the world. However, Brookfield (1984a) urges some caution in thinking about correspondence study in terms of independent or individualized study opportunities as he believes the form often exhibits high structure and typically does not promote much dialogue among learners:
Use of the adjective 'independent' to describe the learning behaviours [sic] of correspondence students seems extra-ordinarily obtuse and perverse when we realize that the techniques of correspondence education (and other media of individualized instruction) tend to be rigidly prescriptive. (p. 23)
Although correspondence courses can be quite rigid in nature, individual structure is not always bad. Prescriptive learning is desired or expected at times and many educators of adults recognize that rigidity can sometimes be a problem for some learners. In some instances this has meant searching for ways of broadening the experience base when learners do use some form of correspondence study. In addition, Moore (1987) points out the value of good correspondence study guides that "direct a series of interactions between the learner and a human instructor, . . ." (p. 42) and Loewenthal, Blackwelder, and Broomall (1980) describe the importance of printed materials in providing necessary organization and a permanent source of reference for those engaged in correspondence study.
Perhaps the most important historical link to today's growth in non-traditional learning is what happened in Great Britain some twenty-five years ago. In the 1960's, then Prime Minister Harold Wilson ordered the country's educational officials to determine how education could be opened more widely to adults. In their study of various efforts around they world, the educational leaders focussed on the University of Wisconsin's Articulated Instructional Media (AIM) project which linked various teaching techniques with correspondence study: "In 1969, C. A. Wedemeyer, director of AIM, was invited to England to share in designing a new higher education system based on the AIM project. The British decision was to establish a full autonomous Open University" (Moore, 1987, p. 43). That country's successful Open University system has now been copied in some form in various locations, including such countries as Canada, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States, Venezuela, and West Germany.
Television also has come to play an important role in supplementing many non-traditional learning forms. This includes quite a range of possibilities, such as general broadcast television, narrowcast television in the form of local cable access through satellite or microwave transmission, and nonbroadcast cassette distribution of course materials. Curtis (1979) and Long (1983) include these and point out the importance of at least two other related forms: radio broadcasts and teleconferencing.
Most contemporary non-traditional forms of learning incorporate not only one-way media such as television, radio, newspapers, and self-study kits, but as Wiesner (1983) points out interactive media such as telephones, computers, and satellite communication. These facilitate fairly rapid communication between learners and instructors while facilitating interactive learning from remote locations.
As noted above, Great Britain's Open University is recognized throughout the world as a prototype for current day non-traditional learning. The basic open university system employs television courses rigorously developed by a large team of content specialists and instructional designers. However, the Open University's stress has been less on television and more on the comprehensiveness of a delivery system. Thus, it is important to understand that most open university courses in Great Britain and elsewhere are supplemented by course study guides, text books, other learning resources, and various interactive opportunities in the form of mentors, resource centers, or telephone hotlines.
A somewhat newer use of television for individualizing instruction has come through the development in the past decade of interactive video. Based on the combination of a personal computer, display monitor, inputting keyboard, mouse, or touch screen, and video disk player, certain types of interaction are built into the medium itself: "Interactive video is a medium derived from the marriage of the computer and the video. It is incredibly flexible, allowing for the harmonic blending of text, audio, and visual data bases in almost limitless combinations" (Johnson, 1987, p. 29). Even the many audio media forms used for non-traditional learning such as radio or tape recordings can be augmented by study guide materials designed to supplement the materials or to promote individualized, interactive involvement. As Takemoto (1987) points out these can include materials distributed over a phone line with slow scan video transmissions, via fax, or through an electronic scratchboard.
Although content specialists and instructional designers are needed in creating viable learning packages via interactive video or audio media, learners have considerable self-control over such features as pacing, content, progress, and learning approach. Generally, interaction with some facilitator, content specialist, and/or study guide also is possible if needed beyond what is contained in the medium. The individualizing process can accommodate these various non-traditional resources and techniques.
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