Distance Education Pilot Project

Project title:
Distance Education Pilot Project
Funding Source:
EU Tacis Project FINAR9601
Course Tutor: Arthur Vagharshyan
Consultant: Janet Jenkins, Independent Consultant, ODL Training
Target Group:
"IATC" Fund second-year Master program students
Project Duration:
November 25, 1999 - June 31, 2000

1. Introduction

A distance learning course covering the Armenian Legal Framework for Accounting (Association of Accountants and Auditors of Armenia Certification Paper 2) was offered as an Extra subject to "IATC" Fund second-year Master's program students. 45 Students started the course and 34 were present as the examination. The course was delivered through a specially prepared package of interactive self-instructional materials. Participants also had the opportunity of contact with the trainer and with each other in group seminars once a week, and access to library, IT and other resources at "IATC" Fund. The courses started on 18th March 2000, in preparation of Association of Accountants and Auditors of Armenia examination of 21st June 2000.

The purpose of the pilot project was to:
- raise awareness of the potential of distance education of accountancy training;
- introduce high quality learning material in Armenian, for Armenian context;
- test the methods and materials of Distance Education in Armenian environment.

2. The Course

The Course was on the Armenian Legal Framework for Accounting. It prepared candidates for examination in this subject to be offered for the first time in June 2000 by the newly formed Association of Accountants and Auditors of Armenia.

The subject chosen forms Paper 2 within the Armenian qualification framework, a compulsory paper at AAAA foundation level . There is expected to be steady demand for the course in the future, from the practitioner and those seeking qualifications with AAAA.

3. The method

The method used can be described as supported independent study. This flexible form of distance education was selected because it suited the Armenian context, and the particular requirements of "IATC" Fund students. The entire subject content was covered by a specially prepared package of learning material, designed to meet international standards for distance education.

Each learner worked through the material on their own time, checking their progress by completing self-check exercises incorporated in the package, as well as had optional tutorial sessions ones a week for elaborating with tutor on difficult point and problems. There were also opportunities to contact the tutor between the tutorials. The system was explained to the students at an initial orientation session. Minor adjustments to arrangements were made during the period of delivery in response to students demand.

4. Materials

- Student's guide - an illustrated booklet containing a welcome letter from the Centre Director, an introduction to the tutor, the course, and the method of study, a schedule of tutorials, exam information and hints on how to study at a distance. The final page is a form for reporting errors in the course material. The Guide was wirtten by "IATC" Fund staff with Janet Jenkins's assistance.
- Textbook - contains factual content, arranged in 12 units and 55 chapters of 152 pages. It is a newly published Armenian textbook for accountants on Law, Legal Training and Contracts. The book was written by Arthur Vagarshyan Associate Professor, Department of Law, Yerevan State University.
- The Study Manual of 152 pages provides the guidance and support necessary for using the textbook as self instructional material. Written for "IATC" Fund by Arthur Vagarshyan as well.
- The students registration card made it easy for "IATC' Fund to keep accurate records of participation and attendance.

The course material makes reference to legal documents, books and other resource material. The material was available at "IATC" Fund library or on the "IATC" Fund computer network, was a database on CD -ROM covering Armenian laws was installed.

5. Outcomes

- The project demonstrated the potential of distance education for accountancy training in Armenia
- a package of high quality interactive learning material was developed, in Armenian, for the Armenian context
- 45 students were provided with an extra course in a new subject, and over the 75% took the final examination for the course
- the methods and materials of distance education were tested were tested and a delivery strategy developed suited to the Armenian environment
- the project introduced and demonstrated the value of flexible independent study for Armenian professionals
- "IATC" Fund staff gained experience in development, management and delivery of distance education
- "IATC" Fund trainers acquired the skills and know-how to develop interactive learning material
- the results of the pilot project guided the development of "IATC" Fund strategy for distance education.


6. General Feedback

The choice for the project has been considered to be a good one for distance education as it combines factual content with problem-based learning.

6.1. Methods

The method used offered learners flexibility in time, place and pace of study. It also introduced a learner-centred approach, which encouraged independent learning. The formula of flexible independent study, with tutorial support available as required, has proved successful.

6.2. The Material

Both students and tutor raised questions about the scope of the course. Students would have liked more topics to be included including some practical ones. The tutor felt that not all subjects relevant to the accountants were covered the course covered the AAAA syllabus. An independent review of the syllabus would be helpful, before steps are taken to extend the course. This is matter for AAAA.

6.3. The development process

The process provided staff of IATC Fund, including the part time trainers, with valuable experience in development of interactive training packages and the delivery of flexible learning. This know-how should be of great use to "IATC" Fund applied in a number of contexts.
The successful development of the package was largely due to the determination and commitment of all involved, including the leadership of the Centre Director, the high standards achieved by the Senior Editor, Irina Grigoryan, and the superb contribution of Arthur Vagharshyan, the tutor and writer. It is a great achievement to develop a package of this substance and quality in such a short period.

6.4. The delivery System

The tutor guide was prepared for the tutor containing suggestions for techniques of facilitating group meetings and supporting independent students. In the circumstances, this was essentially a demonstration document, and can now be reviewed and amended.
The students clearly valued the contact sessions greatly.
- 26 people (62%) attended more than half the sessions (7 or more)
- No person attended every session
- One person attended no session
- 6 people (2.7%) attended 5 or less

Attendance rates were exceptionally good for distance education. However as experience grows of flexible independent study, it should be possible to reduce the number of hours to a more cost effective base. Attendance records suggest that more time appears is needed at the beginning and end, less in middle.

34 students (over 75%) sat the examination, out of which 33 passed the exam; 7 (20%) of these attended less then half the contact sessions, including one each who attended 3 or 4 sessions. These suggest that for some people the learning package satisfied most of their needs. It is typical of distance education that some people choose not to attend contact sessions.