Supporting Distance Learners

UKOER Course Pack


This is a set of course materials intended for tutors in blended learning or fully online programmes. It takes readers reflectively through what it means to support learners in e-learning environments of a variety of kinds –both at a distance, and in conventional contact tuition environments that are web supported. The materials have been designed for learning in developing contexts in which bandwidth is often a challenge.

The materials (available at,  include a sample learning pathway with key activities which illustrate how the materials can be used in an online course for the training of tutors using Web 2.0 tools such as forums, blogs, and wikis.

Unit 1: The lifelong distance learner

In this unit, tutors are invited to consider what their learners may find easy or difficult about learning at a distance using technologies that may be new to them, and what the tutors’ role is in supporting them.

Unit 2: Open learning and e-learning

This unit helps tutors understand what open learning and distance education are, and how e-learning and learner support are changing in a Web 2.0 environment.

Unit 3: Supporting learning

This unit takes a brief look at constructivist theory underpinning effective teaching and learning as well as the ‘five stages’ learners typically go through in e-learning courses. Tutors are encouraged to think through ways of supporting learners at each stage of their learning that are consistent with a constructivist approach to teaching. 

Unit 4: Asynchronous communication

Examples of tools for asynchronous communication that are explored in this unit are e-mail, discussion forums, blogs, wikis and SMSs (or mobile phone text messages). Tutors are asked to reflect on how their approach to facilitating asynchronous communication can contribute to effective learning.

Unit 5: Tutorials & webconferencing

This unit encourages tutors to consider the main synchronous tools and techniques that are available to tutors (including face-to-face meetings, the telephone, instant messaging (IM), web-conferencing and virtual worlds), and how to run tutorials using these tools and techniques.

Unit 6: Assignments

The main focus of this unit is how to use assignments to support the learning process.

Additional sections include:

·       support for tutors new to the Web

·       two key resources that spell out criteria for effective tutoring

·       a glossary of useful terms.


View OER 

Supporting Distance Learners



  • Author(s): Gabi Witthaus and the South African Institute for Distance Education
  • Subject: Supporting Distance Learners
  • Keywords: ukoer "learner support" "tutors" "distance education" "e-learning" "Web 2.0" constructivism "distance learning" "facilitating asynchronous learning" "learner support" "lifelong distance learner" "mobile learning" "online learning" "open learning" "social presence" tutorial "using synchronous communication tools" "web conferencing" "web-based learning"
  • Grade level: Post- graduate Training for tutors
  • Course type: Instructional Web site 
  • Language(s):  English
  • Material type(s): Course package, HTML
  • Media format(s): Web site 
  • OER Publish Date: 19 Apr 2010


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