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Three major CPD distance learning problems and their solutions

17 March 2014

Dr Rosalind Duhs explains how to avoid the pitfalls commonly faced when creating distance learning courses for continuous professional development (CPD)

Ros Duhs CPD distance learning problems and solutions

1 The loneliness of the long distance learner

This is a phrase coined by Helene Duranton in her research into social networking and student support. But loneliness can be avoided. At the UCL Teaching and Learning Conference 2014 on 3 April, UCL staff will hear Dr Etienne Wenger-Trayner discuss his theories on communities of practice – groups that share an activity and learn to develop as they interact.


Create an online community of practice by encouraging learners to comment on each other’s work, including drafts and personal blogs that chart their progress.

2 The gap between learning and professional life

Feedback tells us that people who complete CPD courses often don’t apply what they’ve learned when they return to their work. That means a lot of CPD is wasted time. We can remedy this issue by clearly linking learning and assessment to professional life.


In longer courses, you could introduce the use of blogs about how participants are using their learning and suggest they create videos about how they have applied new approaches to their professional lives.

3 High drop out rates

Feedback is important as it keeps learners in touch with their learning. If you look into distance learning CPD dropout rates, you’ll find they are incredibly high – from 20 per cent up to 70 per cent for some moocs. And that’s because people don’t feel involved in their communities of learning.


The traditional view of education has learning being passed from a single point – the lecturer – to students. However, multi-directional learning can help increase engagement among disparate groups. You may consider assigning people to groups so they can get feedback from their peers. We also find that quizzes can help as people can test their learning and get instant feedback.

For an introduction to Ros Duhs's CPD and Short Courses Toolkit, attend her series of linked lunchtime workshops. To register, send an email to

You can also get in touch with Ros directly by sending an email to

Further information

Page last modified on 17 mar 14 16:42

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