Distance learning has become an attractive option for adult learners who need to update their skills and knowledge while managing work and family obligations. In distance learning, the instructor and learner are separated by time and distance, depending on a mediating agent to communicate. The growth of computer technologies and electronic communications during recent years has introduced opportunities to enjoy a rich learning experience without physically attending an educational institution.

This paper describes a model of distance learning consistent with the experiential approach and values of the School for International Training (SIT) and especially relevant to the programs in NGO Management offered by the Global Issues and Intercultural Management Department. These programs include the Bachelor’s Program in World Issues and the Master’s Program in Intercultural and International Management, also offered through the School’s participation in the Global Partnership, a growing consortium of educational institutions (BRAC, formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee and ORAP, the Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress in Zimbabwe) offering international educational programs to the professional staff of nongovernmental organizations.

Through a literature review and analysis of the systems implemented at other institutions, the author examined key issues such as educational approach, technologies used, cultural variables and accessibility. He also enrolled in a distance learning course to directly experience the learner’s perspective and interviewed 25 SIT community members (faculty, students and administrators) to identify the best practices to be included in a distance learning system offered through the School.

The research revealed that this system should have a face-to-face component to build a supportive group environment and mentoring program to build a community of learning not bound by place. The author proposed benefiting from the geographic dispersement of the Global Partnership centers to develop a regionally-based distance learning program combined with a face-t-face component held in the learner’s region: BRAC for Asia, ORAP for Africa, SIT for North America and eventually Latin America, Eastern Europe, etc., as other organizations join the Partnership.


International and Comparative Education