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Queensland Open Learning Network: Removing the barriers to learning through a multimedia delivery infrastructure

Anne Gooley
Open Learning Network

Steve Towers
Open Learning Network and University of Central Queensland

Professor John Dekkers
University of Central Queensland

Within such a highly decentralised state as Queensland, many of its citizens face problems concerning equity and access to education and training, particularly post secondary educations (higher education and TAFE). In 1989 the Queensland State Government implemented a strategic plan to ensure that the majority of people throughout the state would have access to the resources of the major education and training providers. The two basic elements of the plan were:

  1. The cooperative establishment, maintenance and management of a network of learning centres for which both educational information and course delivery could be provided using a range of communication technologies.

  2. The cooperative design, development and delivery of courses through a network of learning centres and post-secondary institutions.

The Open Learning Network (OLN) was seen by the State Government as the basic infrastructure to facilitate access to education. Over the past two years the Open Learning Network has developed a quality service to promote, make available and support opportunities for life long learning.

This paper presents an overview of the Open Learning Network and it role as a catalyst in the design, development and delivery of multimedia education and training packages.

Network profile

The Open Learning Network currently has 33 Open Learning Centres (OLCs) located throughout Queensland. As illustrated in Figure 1, the locations of the centres range from the Gold Coast to Badu Island and as far west as Mt Isa. It is anticipated that there will be 40 centres established by 1995.

Each centre is staffed with a coordinator whose role includes the administration of the centres and the promotional of educational opportunities to the community. The coordinator is there to assist in providing information on accessing education and training. This information could relate to the use of centre equipment, availability of learning programs, enrolment procedures, how to contact persons at different institutions, the requirements necessary and study assistance available for different types of courses. The coordinator plays a vital role in increasing awareness in the community of all education and training opportunities available.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Location of Open Learning Centres

The successful operation of each centre depends upon:

Each centre is equipped with the facilities to promote and enhance open learning for a multimedia delivery environment. These include: Open Learning Centres are used for a variety of activities which include:

Open Learning Network and course development and delivery

"Open learning" is interpreted by the Open Learning Network as a philosophy and system whereby all options for education and training are kept open. This approach can be characterised by flexibility in terms of entry, program components, modes of study and points of exit. Learners are encouraged to negotiate learning arrangements to meet their special needs.

Open learning evolves from the formal education system and extends educational opportunities for adults through remedial learning, literacy programs, second and third chance opportunities for obtaining qualifications and professional and personal development programs. Open learning aims to give students more choice and control over time, place, style and rate of learning and learning opportunities.

A basic requirement for open learning to operate effectively is the sharing of resources and effort across providers. Cooperation and coordination has extended across all education and training providers and an effective State-wide system has evolved from what have been relatively fragmented institutionally based operation.

The thrust of the OLN is on the decentralised delivery of education and training through improved distance learning techniques and support. The use of modem communication technologies is an important element of the open learning model in terms of being able to provide a range of learning opportunities and options as well as to meet educational and training goals within Queensland.

The use of self instructional and self paced learning materials is the major instructional approach. Study guides that accompany learning material are generally supported by resource books, audio tapes and video tapes. Computer based education programs are being increasingly included in learning packages.

In the provision of open learning education programs, two essential elements that have been incorporated into the learning and support model for students. These are:

  1. approaches that will enable interaction with academic or other institutional personnel and students through face to face contact available communication technologies.

  2. ready access to resources and facilities, (such as computers and computer software and library resources) that are needed for study, and which may be made available through the open learning centres.
In the recent past, the use of the communication technology tended to be seen as a way of making up for what was missing in traditional external studies/ correspondence education - a deficiency model of distance education. Now there is a realisation that interactive electronic technologies (audio, audiographic, video and computer based learning) can contribute to the quality of education for all learners - a value added model of education. This model provides new forms of flexibility and extension of human and other resources for the creative development and delivery of education and training.

The challenge for courseware designers is to ensure that the advantages and the interactive power of these technologies are incorporated into the learning packages and that their use is appropriate both in terms of the media and the educational objectives. These technologies have the power to facilitate interaction between students and lecturers in ways not previously possible and should improve the overall educational quality and access to programs.

Meeting the challenge

The Preparatory and Remedial Education Project (PREP) are developing preparatory and bridging courses in mathematics, chemistry, communication, biology and physics which are designed to take advantage of the Open Learning Network's facilities. The learning packages integrate print based materials with CAL/CMI, packages, applications software, video tapes, audio tapes, laboratory kits and teleconferences. The variety of media is intended to motivate students and provide them with a range of alternative learning strategies.

The Open Learning Network is an active participant in the design, development and delivery of multimedia learning materials. It is increasingly being called upon to assist with the design of suitable materials. The Network is currently working with Women's Policy Unit to identify potential courses for rural women. The network is also engaged in research activities that examine suitable learning technologies with the intention of making them available when they are cost effective.

The Open Learning Network believes one of its roles is to provide encouragement and support for multimedia course design, development and delivery. Manuals and workshops will be developed for education and training providers to enable them to make effective use of the Network's facilities and services. Exemplar education and training materials developed by the Network and education institutions provide further encouragement.


The initial stage of the OLN project is completed and the Network is now embarking on securing the successful operation of the whole network. The recent business report on the Queensland Open Learning Project, submitted by Professor John Willett (1991) has been accepted by the Queensland Government and is at present being implemented.

It seems clear that the future of the OLN is not restricted to a supporting role for the distance education providers. With organisations accepting their role in providing education and training programs and with the communication technology now available, the centres are giving an opportunity for the general community and employers to gain. access to education and training programs.

In future developments the OLN will be looking at providing courses not currently offered by Higher Education Institutions and TAFE. These courses will be targeted at community and industry needs. With high interest and commitment from government, commerce and industry, the Open Learning Network faces a challenging and exciting future.


Queensland Board of Advanced Education (1989). Queensland Access to Higher Education: On the road to Open Learning, Report of the Working Party on Decentralised Delivery of Higher Education, (Chairman, A. R. MacKee). Brisbane: Board of Advanced Education.

Gooley, A. Towers, S. and Dekkers, J. (1990). Open Learning Centre Network Project and the Preparatory and Remedial Education Project for higher education in Queensland. In J. G. Hedberg, J. Steele and M. Mooney (eds), Converging Technologies: Selected papers from EdTech'90, 4-13. Canberra: AJET Publications. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/edtech90/gooley.html

Gooley, A. (1991). Queensland Open Learning Centres: Removing the barriers to learning, 7th Annual Conference of the Distance Education Association of New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand.

Lundin, R. (1988). Communication and Information Technologies in Business and Education. Report on a professional experience program in North America, 28 February, 1987 to January, 1988. Brisbane College of Advanced Education, Brisbane.

Willett, J. (1991). Report to the Minister of Education, The Honourable Paul Braddy, Minister for Education Queensland Office of Higher Education. Brisbane: QOLP.

Please cite as: Gooley, A., Towers, S. and Dekkers, J. (1992). Queensland Open Learning Network: Removing the barriers to learning through a multimedia delivery infrastructure. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 75-79. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/gooley.html

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