Technology has revolutionised the way people live and learn. The advantages are numerous and include the availability of cohesive learning materials, flexibility of learning, the removal of distance as a major entry barrier and time saving, once courses are developed. The constituent universities of the National University of Ireland have worked together over the last ten years using an action research approach in developing a blended learning system for rural development activists. Critical components of the model developed include a core of academic managers, a team of lecturers across a wide range of disciplines, a set of tutors and specially developed content delivered via CD and BlackboardTM. The use of student tutorial groups (learning cells) and inter-college seminars are seen as major contributors to high retention rates. Over 300 adult learners have participated in this system of learning and 55 have graduated with a BSc in Rural Development, while the remainder graduated with diplomas. A detailed evaluation of results, external examiner’s reports and focus-group discussions show that their performance is on par and in many cases exceeds that achieved with traditional learning systems. A survey of students completing the programme shows that they rate the system on par or better than traditional face to face learning systems. The paper details a case study of the development of the V-learn.ie model in Ireland and concludes that it is innovative in structure and in the extent of expertise that it can present to rural people. These developments have implications for extension as eLearning is increasing in popularity among extension organisations.

Keywords: Adult, Computers, Development, Education, eLearning, Learning, Rural


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