Decree on FOAD (Open and Distance Learning) & Learning Environment

Decree on FOAD (Open and Distance Learning) & Learning Environment

The way that the “Learning Environment” strategy with its three components (development of theories of learning, the emergence of the concept of apprenance and advanced use of digital technology - see article published 02 October 2015 on the EPALE platform: is interpreted by education professionals on behalf of their students, differs from one initiative to another. Approaches such as “Multimodal” or “Open and Distance Learning (FOAD)” strategies challenge and support the learner in different ways. Our European colleagues prefer to use the term “e-learning” which indicates more clearly the role of digital technology in these new systems. In all cases, they are courses which combine physical attendance and distance learning within learning and supported self-study pathways. Additionally, they are more likely to encourage students to be proactive, in line with the concept of Apprenance. Consequently, they offer adults more opportunities to take the initiative and interact with others as a means of improving their learning. By giving them more openness, more flexibility, more choice, in other words more freedom and responsibility in self-regulating their education, these innovative strategies encourage adults to create a customised personal learning environment. The aim of such an environment is to make it easier for them to get involved, learn, produce output and evaluate their progress.

In France, the vocational training reform of March 2014, which was jointly agreed by social partners and public authorities (State and regions), has two major objectives: to make access to continuing education fairer for those adults who need it most, namely those with fewest qualifications; and to encourage educational innovation so that training initiatives are not constrained by bureaucracy, but are planned according to educational principles so as to facilitate learner progress and interaction.

Several decrees have been published to accompany the gradual implementation of this reform. These quite rightly and strategically include the decree on (FOAD) Open and Distance Learning (See decree no. 2014-935 of 20 August 2014 relating to open and distance learning at the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Vocational Training and Labour Relations website:,1651/annee-2014,2223/decrets,2459/decret-no-2014-935-du-20-aout-2014,17971.html). This decree, perhaps, creates real possibilities for innovation in education, which is in tune with the learning environment initiative. This new regulatory framework states that a continuing training course can be completed wholly or partly by distance learning and, when appropriate, without the physical presence of supervisors; quite a breakthrough! Learning can take place over the long term, intermittently. The course can be delivered wholly, or partly, by distance learning. The programme will have to include an outline of the nature of the work or output required and the estimated timescale, based on the requirements for the desired level of individualisation; specific monitoring and evaluation procedures, human resources and organisational, mentoring and support systems, for face-to-face or remote use.  Proof of completion of the scheduled work will be provided by a certificate and no longer by an “attendance sheet”. Therefore, we are moving away from mistrust towards confidence, but the possibility of supervision still exists. Monitoring information is moving away from “time tracking” and towards “collaborative reporting of activities”. And finally, the required assessments will now be formative rather than summative.

In fact, Open and Distance Learning is promoted by the reform. Open and Distance Learning strategies, in this recent legal framework, can only be implemented by effectively assembling tools and digital resources to enable the learner to create or adapt his or her Learning Environment. Digital technology plays a multiple role: as a learning objective, as a vehicle and resource for learning, as a production tool, and finally as a platform for interaction, both real-time and delayed. It enables the learner to work multimodally (both on the premises and remotely). It is also used for creating diversity (didactic and collaborative learning), supporting activities (individual or collective) in which the learner is also perceived as a producer of knowledge, and finally, supporting positive porosity (between formal and informal learning).

The more open the learning is, the more meaningful the “Learning Environment” concept becomes in this transition from “Learning” to “Apprenance” through the development of projects such as Open and Distance Learning courses.

Jean Vanderspelden, a consultant with ITG Paris, supports open and distance learning projects designed to develop the skills of adults. He is studying the relationship between “Adult education and integration of digital technology" in the practices of knowledge stakeholders who train and support learners at all levels, including the most poorly-skilled adults. - 10/11/15


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