e-learning and distance learning debate

Front Page Looking For… Skills Development Facilitators e-learning and distance learning debate

This topic contains 1 reply, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  KURT ANTHONY 1 year, 10 months ago.

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  • #26302


    Hi everyone hope this awesome inspirational supportive group is well.  I am currently doing research and would like to hear peoples opinions on this topic.

    We have quite a few providers who we have assisted in becoming SETA Accredited with 21 of the SETAs and they now want to convert their face to face training to e-learning or distance learning.  I have been searching SAQA guidelines on this and am not coming up with anything.  When contacting some SETAs they seem to be very vague whether the provider can automatically convert and not go through any programme re-submission.

    Does anyone have any positive advice to share or cases I can refer to please?

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  • #26324

    Hi Jeanine,

    Yes indeed this is a very very vague topic with many mixed signals from various training specialists.

    However, the general consensus was that outcomes-based learning is quite a learner-centred approach which requires some facilitator guidance.

    In the past we have designed simulators for the lifting and earthmoving industries very much like what one would find in pilot schools for flying aeroplanes in order to shorten the duration of a novice course and thus lower cost, time off work for learners etc.

    This was not accepted at all. If anyone could assist it would be greatly appreciated.

    These guys seem to have a solution when i asked how these courses could be offered as distance learning with no facilitator intervention whatsoever and with full SETA accreditation.

    C Okbandrias <ttsolutions1@gmail.com>

    Good day all.


    Hope you are all well.



    Facilitators distance learning course – R1000

    Assessors distance learning course – R1000

    Moderator distance learning course – R1100


    Combo pack – R3000


    Ends 18 March 2016


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    Kind Regards,


    Charmaine Okbandrias


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  • #26323

    Cassandra Julius

    Hi Jeanine,

    An interesting topic indeed and one that I don’t think you will get an explicit answer to. 

    I don’t believe face-to-face learning can simply be converted to e-learning. If you consider “how” you initially received accreditation, your methodology for learning delivery would have have been noted and further you would have been guided by what the unit standards outlined, i.e. what knowledge should be acquired or skills need to be demonstrated by the learner. 

    You are on the right track in doing research, however I also think you need to revisit your initial framework and actually evaluate which aspects of your learning material could be converted (if any) to e-learning. In addition, you would need to ensure no learner would be disadvantaged through lack of access to technology.

    I may be explaining the obvious? Approaching the SETA would be futile unless you actually believe and can motivate that you have a business case for restructuring your delivery mode.  

    Then, there is the issue of compliance; does your SETA acknowledge e-learning as a delivery mode or do they buy-into a blended learning approach? Gert eludes to “outcomes-based learning being a learner-centered approach” which I fully agree with, however I do think that premise can be obtained in a number of ways.

    All the best,


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  • #26322

    Hi Charmaine 

    i am a Facilitator and interested my email is mopeli.lerato.lerato2@gmail.com.

    Thank you


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  • #26321

    Hi Jeanine,

    Thank you for raising this important topic. I do have some experience, spanning many years, of trying to obtain recognition for an e-learning program that we had been using. The program is a Basic Computer Skills program (along the lines of the ICDL, but with some significant differences), and has been used in centres set up in rural towns and villages, as well as some peri-urban environments. To date some 1500 unemployed young people have completed the program and a high proportion of them have found jobs – mainly in their home environment.

    For many years I met and debated with the ISETT (now MICT) Seta, and the discussion always defaulted to two key issues:

    • Accreditation is based on physical factors (training room, lighting, desks,qualified facilitator, paper trail of work done culminating in a POE etc) Even the ‘Courseware’ was defined in terms of physical Manuals. e-Learning doesn’t fit with either of these.
    • Proof of competency requires some physical evidence. How can e-learning achieve this?

    The fact that e-learning can be done anywhere posed a major problem, but beyond that was the hurdle of determining how competency can be tested online, both in the sense of the competency itself and in the sense of verifying the identity of the person being tested.

    A key breakthrough came when the MICT Seta decided to dispense with paper and move fully to electronic means of recognising competency. They also implemented a category known a ‘Approval’, which applies to e-learning courseware which has no fixed abode and can be used anywhere.

    They have accepted simulation-based testing as a valid test of competency, and have agreed on a framework to deal with the verification of identity, viz:

    • Quizzes and Tests should be integrated throughout the course, so that bringing in a proxy to sit your exam would be highly improbable;
    • Doing a short Summative component of the course in a centre where ID can be confirmed,

    I think we have a long way to go to create a framework for evaluating e-learning, since the term covers such a wide range, from e-reading to simulation-based testing. That might be an interesting topic for another day, since this post has probably gone on long enough.

    But the potential is huge, and the payoff is also significant since so much of the heavy lifting can be done by the e-learning program itself, and the admin load is reduced substantially.

    Best wishes and feel free to get back to unpack some of the aspects we just touched on.

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  • #26320

    Petra Penninkhoff

    I haven’t got any experience with the SETAs on this matter. I did however complete a course on Virtual Action Learning (VAL) (in the Netherlands in 2012). The platform I learned to work with was based on OBE principles with the usual assessment criteria, specific outcomes and the formulation of learning outcomes (After this session learners will be able ….). It was highly interactive as it included virtual face-to-face meetings to stimulate discussions between learners(through some kind of online meeting platform such as in webinars) and chat sessions. There are many on-line courses like that. Obviously this would only be possible if learners would start and finish on the same time. In a more flexible environment, in which it does not matter when a learner starts, you would only have feed-back sessions between learners and facilitator. Feedback sessions were a compulsory part of the courses. Home work,for formative assessments had to be submitted and was assessed. Something similar was done for summative assessments.

    Not sure if it can completely replace face-to-face learning but it goes a long way. And although I prefer to give face-to face training it can be a solution for those who live far out, have reliable access to internet and want to participate in a specific training provider’s courses. 

    Unfortunately the company that I learned from has closed down. Possibly because it was quite expensive for the training providers to use the platform. That’s a disadvantage other platforms may have as well.

    However, there are a lot more other platforms, although I do not know how interactive they are, and whether they are based on OBE. Search on the web for Virtual Action Learning.

    I know about Moodle (https://moodle.org) which is an open source platform. A couple of years ago it was used by Egerton University in Kenya and they were quite happy with it. I am not sure if they still use it.

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  • #26319

    Marius Lubbe

    Hi Jeanine,

    I have been researching this topic for the last eight years as we have the ability and tools to change over. The problem with e-learning in our situations is generally:

    First there is no face to face contact and therefore genuine assessment and discussion with each student is difficult.

    Secondly getting students motivated to do the daily training needed, is very difficult as the incredibly low graduation rates of Unisa and similar the world over attest.

    Then finally but by no measure the only problem with most is bandwidth issues. Low speed , expensive and poor quality data connections are just part of our general population’s life realities out there.



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  • #26318

    Kate Sani

    Hi Jeanine,

    SETA’s in general are wary of delivery through e-learning as generally there is a very simplistic understanding of e-learning. There are various pedagogical approaches, and various types of e-learning. E-learning is not the distribution of a “Copy and Paste” of print materials, and assessment, through an electronic format. It is a form of “Learning through technology” and could or could not have elements of distance education, and has wide ranging possibilities. Essentially whichever is the approach, there are key considerations: is the approach fit for purpose in terms of the target audience, the purpose, the level of the course being offered as well as the extent to which an equivalent learning experience across other contexts of learning and practice.  Meaningful migration towards ICT integration involves much more than simply making resources available online; it requires careful consideration of the supporting elements (learner interaction with courseware, learner support, assessment, etc, in order to plan for effective teaching and learning. Additionally, a fully on-line approach (vs a blended approach) has implications for the recruitment, selection, training, monitoring and ongoing support of tutors working with learners and this is a management task in its own right and has implications for the ways in which LMSs are constructed. Should you wish to go the fully online way, I suggest reading papers by Gilly Salmon, and the CHE has an excellent “Good Practice Guide” on learning through technology. 

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  • #26317

    Gavin Tonks

    I have tried for 2 years now, SAQA said to me they were planning on sorting out the issues, but most setas have done nothing about it

    We have a program locally developed that can moderate the students work and I has progressive learning component that the learner must past the test before they move forward, I recently requested information from the seta regarding distance and e – learning and they responded nothing done as yet 

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  • #26316

    Gavin Tonks

    we can actually put and nqf qualification onto a learner platform or an smart phone app, its expensive digitizing and laying out the format with questions and answers and reporting but all that would be required is a face to face assessment. 

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  • #26315

    Hello Jeanine

    Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to answer your question about not having to re-submit the programme for approval upon converting it to eLearning.  The clients I have worked with who are using my LMS have all submitted their programmes for approval as eLearning and distance learning programmes from the outset.  What I can say is…

    1. I have a small client base (current and past) from TETA and Services SETA that use our Tawanda LMS program to deliver both blended learning and pure eLearning programmes/learnerships at NQF level 3 and 4.  As the LMS provider I am not responsible for obtaining programme approval or managing the learning process using the LMS, so I do not engage with the Setas in this regard, unless I’m requested to do so by the client.  (I have learned that the Setas are not very willing to engage directly with eLearning vendors because they do not like to be seen to be endorsing one product over another.) However, both Setas have approved the elearning/distance strategies tacitly so the precedent exists, even if this is a grey area for them.

    2. In response to Cassandra’s second paragraph, and whilst I wouldn’t claim that I am an expert in eLearning course design, my experience has taught me that the material and assessments definitely need to be designed differently to classroom delivered courseware, and consequently, if your term “automatically convert” includes just using the existing material as is, then I’d question this.  On the other hand, some eLearning material is so over designed or so filled with electronic wizardry that it too risks becoming less about the learning and more about the “wow” factor.

    3. I agree with Rob’s first point, but suggest that this can be overcome when you demonstrate how the delivery happens in relation to the paper manuals the Setas are so hung up on.  As to his second bullet point, technology is just a learning process facilitator, not the Assessor (although it can be depending on the learning outcome desired).  It can’t hold physical outcomes, but it can be used to record evidence of the production and result of physical objects as observed and evaluated by someone qualified to do so.  This is how the Tawanda LMS deals with this concern and consequently the appropriate design of your assessments is important.  Consider a PhD student who needs to conduct research in order to publish a thesis.  Much of this work is done outside of the direct observation of the Prof. who will evaluate it, but the design of the process is such that the necessary checks and balances are built into it to enable the process to be evaluated indirectly and outcome to be subjected to scrutiny.  Different outcomes require different designs.

    4. I love this comment from Kate: “Additionally, a fully on-line approach (vs a blended approach) has implications for the recruitment, selection, training, monitoring and ongoing support of tutors working with learners and this is a management task in its own right and has implications for the ways in which LMSs are constructed.”  Too frequently, companies/organisations think they can just implement eLearning without considering the support factor.  I recently took an online course and eventually abandoned it because there was no support at all.  We can’t forget that learning is a mediated process and direct human mediation, even is it is a last port of call, is sometimes needed.  Every question or request for support by the learners must be treated as evidence for a gap in the material or process and you ignore them at your peril.  Monitoring learners’ progress is vital and taking proactive steps when needed is what underpins successful eLearning.  You simply can’t sit back and relax once you publish a programme online.

    5. My approach to the development of our LMS has been to design it around what my clients want and their wants are derived from what the NQF requires, as interpreted by the Setas.  Collaboration between the Seta, training vendor and LMS supplier is the building block of success.

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  • #26314

    Isobel Rose

    Hi Jeanine,    You are welcome to contact me on 011 234 6251 as we have an approved pure online learning platform approved by 2 SETA’s.  Regards Isobel

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  • #26313


    thank you everyone for your responses.  They have been quite insightful. 

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  • #26312


    Hi Gert – thank you for your comments.

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  • #26311


    Many thanks Rob for the insight into how you have managed this.  Highly appreciated.

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  • #26310


    Thanks Cassandra

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  • #26309


    Hi Petra

    Thank you for your response.

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  • #26308


    Many thanks Marius

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  • #26307


    Thank you Kate – some nice advice 🙂

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  • #26306


    Thanks Gavin for your response

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  • #26305


    Hi Neil

    Many thanks for sharing

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  • #26304


    Many thanks Isobel will do so

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  • #26303


    Hi Gavin

    I’d be interested to read more about your program. Please fwd a link.


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