By using the five basic characteristics, any learning materials in distance education can be prepared. There are three types of self-learning materials (Lockwood, 1998):
Reflective Action guide
Tutorial-in-Print: These are often called ‘tell and test’ type of learning materials that simulate a situation where a tutor is teaching a student through print. The lesson actually predicts, a priori, the possible responses of the learners while studying and working through the in-text questions and self-assessment questions. Thus, tutorial-in-print provides feedback to students. These materials are highly conversational in nature and are based on principles of ‘guided didactic conversation’ (Holmberg, 1986).
Reflective Action Guide: These self-learning materials depend heavily on the use of reflective-action-based activities that the learners are expected to do. These types of self-learning materials encourage the learners to think critically and use skills of reflection to develop their own construct or conceptions of knowledge. These activities demand more time and effort on the part of the learner and are more learner-centric. Thus, this type of self-learning materials allows scope of increased personalization of learning experiences.
Dialogic: This type of learning materials is based on the principles of multiple perspective dialogue between the teacher and learner. Dialogic self-learning materials are presented in such a way that they allow the learner to critically question what is presented and simulate a real form of communication with commentaries from the course writers to interpret the viewpoints and thinking of the teacher and the learner. Pask’s (1975, 1976) conversation theory of learning is at the root of dialogic materials. Conversation theory considers learning as a process of meaning-making through conversation of two individuals through natural language, symbolic language and meta-language. The process of conversation is an iterative process including ‘why’ and ‘how’ type questions in both the minds of the student and the teacher. A good conversation in the dialogic type of self-learning material should cover:
Conversation about the why and how of the topic
Conversation about the how of learning the topic
Conversation about improving the personal autonomy and responsibility of the learner.