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The Journal of the Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA) and Southern African Development Community-Centre for Distance Education (SADC-CDE)
International Journal of Open and Distance Learning Editor-in-Chief
Dr T. J. Nhundu Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL)
Volume 3 March 2010
Dr. D. H. Mohapi, University of Lesotho Dr. J. B. Mutangira, University of Swaziland Mr. V. Muyatwa, Directorate of Open and Distance Education, Zambia Mr. A. Franque, Insituto Nacional de Educacao a Distancia (INED) Mozambique Dr. G. Gatsha, Southern African Development Community-Centre for Distance Education (SADCCDE)
Editorial Advisory Board
Prof. David L. Mosoma, University of South Africa Dr .P. Kurasha, Zimbabwe Open University Dr. Daniel R. Tau, Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL) Mr. V. Muyatwa, Directorate of Open and Distance Education, Zambia Dr. D. Möwes, Polytechnic of Namibia Centre for Open Learning Ms L. Kolosoa, Lesotho College of Education Mr. G. Mazibuko, Emlalatini Development Centre, Swaziland Mr. T. Thuthoetsile, Southern African Development Community Open and Distance Learning Project
Reviewers of articles in the current volume
Dr. Vitalicy Chifwepa, University of Zambia Dr. C.W.S Sukati, University of Swaziland Dr. Getrude Nyakutse, University of Swaziland Dr. Regina Masalela, University of Botswana Dr. Johan Hendrikz, University of Pretoria Dr. Stanslaus T. Modesto, Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning. Prof. David Chakuchichi, Zimbabwe Open University
All articles for the journal should be addressed to Godson Gatsha, SADC-CDE, Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning, P. Bag BO 187, Gaborone, Botswana. Tel: 00267 3180094 Fax: 00267 3191089 cell: 00267 72163697 E-mail; email@example.com
The DEASA/SADC-CDE International Journal of Open and Distance Learning is published annually. Subscribers will be sent copies by air mail. The annual subscriptions are as follows: Southern Africa The rest of the World Pula 120/US$ 25 US$ 35
Copyright © DEASA/SADC-CDE. It is a condition of publication in this journal that authors vest copyright in the DEASA/SADC-CDE. However, authors are free to use their material elsewhere after the publication without seeking permission provided they acknowledge the copy-right holder as the first publisher. The authors of journal articles are responsible for copyright clearance for any part of the contents of their articles. The opinion expressed in the journal articles are those of the authors and do not reflect the objects or opinion of DEASA/SADC-CDE.
Editorial..................................................................................................................................3 Mega-Schools and Technology: Lifelong Learning Systems for the 21st Century J. S. Daniel and F. Ferreira.........................................................................................4 New Media and Technology, Lifelong Learning and Distance Education: Charting Symbiosis towards Educational Access and Equity S. Panda ..................................................................................................................12 Face-to-face Tutoring in Open and Distance Learning - The Nigerian Situation A. Ogunsola..............................................................................................................20 Trends in Distance Education Research in Southern Africa S. Tichapondwa Modesto........................................................................................ 30 Challenges faced by Distance Education Learners: A case study of Kyambogo University, Uganda R. Chireshe, D. Okot & A. Otto.................................................................................46 Engaging Action Research in Post-Literacy (PL) Materials’ Development: The Case of the National University of Lesotho-Institute of Extra-Mural Studies M. Mofana-Semeko..................................................................................................55 A Survey of Students’ Perception on Distance Learning Support - Implications for Qualitative Planning of Distance Education in Nigeria A. Olatoun Abiodun...................................................................................................70
A Survey of Students’ Perception on Distance Learning Support - Implications for Qualitative Planning of Distance Education in Nigeria
The inaugural issue of the DEASA-SADC CDE International Journal of Open and Distance Learning (IJODL) came out hardly three years ago, in September 2007, under sponsorship of the Southern Africa Development Community Centre for Distance Education (SADC CDE). This was a momentous occasion for ten countries that collaboratively came under the leadership of the Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA) to launch a regional mouthpiece for ODL research in Southern Africa. While the formation of IJODL was initially motivated by a desire to provide DEASA members with a platform for disseminating and sharing information on a plethora of distance education developments sweeping across the region, it soon became evident from the interest shown by researchers from outside the region that IJODL would transform into an international journal faster than the Editorial Board had been planned. There is no doubt that the growing international interest in IJODL is attributable to the editorial policy that seeks to establish a scholarly publication of repute, which has a strong preference for original research-based articles of high quality. The current editorial policy requires the IJODL to undertake continuous self-evaluation to ensure that it publishes papers of the highest quality. In the previous issue improvements in the quality of papers were acknowledged and associated with a thorough reviewer selection procedure and enhanced rigour in the blind review process used by the IJODL. However, what is most noteworthy in the current issue is the diversity of contributors. This issue of the IJODL contains contributions from Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Asia and North America. This is the first time, but certainly not the last, where the IJODL has contributors from across three continents. While the IJODL will continue to encourage international contributors to bring balance and provide international perspectives, the journal would remain faithful to its founding principles and continue to serve as the foremost platform for ODL researchers in Southern Africa. The IJODL is also considering the possibility of thematic publications under Special Issues, which provide opportunities for thorough and sustained treatment of selected topics. The current issue of the IJODL contains seven research articles that cover a wide range of open and distance learning subjects, including learner support, materials development and use of technology in distance learning. Unlike previous issues, contributions in the current issue have utilised a richer variety of research methodologies, including case studies, surveys and meta-analyses. T.J. Nhundu PhD Editor-in-Chief
J. S. Daniel & F. Ferreira
Mega-Schools and Technology: Lifelong Learning Systems for the 21st Century
J. S. Daniel and F. Ferreira Commonwealth of Learning Abstract Excellent progress has been made in this decade towards the goal of Universal Primary Education. One result is that a tidal wave of pupils now seeks secondary education, which many countries do not have the resources to provide by expanding their networks of conventional secondary schools. Another challenge is that many countries have made little progress towards the Dakar Education for All goal of ‘ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes’. Open schooling can provide part of the answer to both of these challenges. More importantly, it could also be the core that integrates and links together all the different elements needed to create innovative lifelong learning systems for the 21st century. With resources scarce during the period of recovery from the economic crisis, these open schools must operate at scale as mega-schools. School systems must use information and communications technologies to reduce costs instead of increasing them as they have done in the past. Introduction: Striving for Education for All The success of the drive for Universal Primary Education is generating a huge surge of children and young adults (estimates range from 200 to 400 million) who seek to continue their education and training to the next stage. There is no prospect of accommodating such numbers through the conventional provision of secondary schooling, skills training and adult education. Governments must encourage alternative approaches and providers that can deliver quality learning at scale with low costs. As well as extending conventional public school systems, governments should encourage the expansion of private schooling for the poor, draw lessons from projects involving ICT, and give special priority to expanding open schooling. Developing and expanding open schooling are particularly promising alternatives that can also be integrated with other approaches to make them more cost-effective and cost-efficient (Abrioux & Ferreira, 2009). An integrated approach also holds the promise of providing education that is better adapted to the needs of the 21st century. It can blur the unhelpful distinction between formal and non-formal education; build a bridge between knowledge acquisition and skills development; and has the potential to reduce the inequalities of access that blight conventional provision in most countries. Very importantly, open schooling is steadily becoming less expensive compared to the conventional school system. In many developing countries the expansion of conventional public schooling at the secondary level faces major challenges of both cost and effectiveness. Research shows that a country is unlikely ever to achieve universal secondary education if the unit costs at secondary level are more than twice those at primary level. In most developing countries the difference is far greater than that. Moreover, in some countries public sector schooling is losing credibility and, often, pupils – as parents choose alternatives to public schools plagued by decrepit facilities, uncommitted or absent teachers and a general lack of accountability. The steady expansion of private schooling, even in the poorest areas, is causing a reassessment of conventional development wisdom. For two decades development agencies have assumed that the right to free basic schooling should have priority over the right of parents to choose their children’s schools. It is hard to sustain this assumption as the evidence accumulates that some of the poorest parents are choosing private education
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because they find it better. Given the widespread assumption that information and communications technologies have the potential to expand quality education cost-effectively, we examine three major ICT initiatives in the developing world: One Laptop per Child; the Hole in the Wall; and the NEPAD eSchools demonstration project. We conclude that while computers do enrich and enhance learning, they need to be embedded within a wider framework if they are to make a systemic contribution to achieving EFA. The essential challenge is to develop learning systems that: a) can be conducted at scale; b) are inexpensive; c) deliver acceptable quality consistently; and d) can be adapted to diverse needs. Technology allows processes to be scaled up by combining division of labour with specialisation and appropriate equipment. In large scale distance learning systems specialisation and the division of labour are usually identified with three sub-systems: administration and logistics; course materials development and student support. Open Schools and Mega-Schools A short definition of open schooling is ‘the physical separation of the school-level learner from the teacher, and the use of unconventional teaching methodologies, and information and communications technologies to bridge the separation and provide the education and training’ (Phillips, 2006). This definition focuses on one important feature of open schooling: its use of distance learning that allows educational systems to operate at scale. We use the term ‘mega-school’ to designate open schools that have exploited this possibility. When Daniel (1996) coined the term ‘mega-university’ for large distance-teaching universities, he set the threshold at 100,000 active students. This figure was significantly higher than the enrolments on any single conventional university campus and distinguished such institutions from the rest of higher education. Secondary schools are usually much smaller than universities, so we define a mega-school as an open school with more than 10,000 active pupils. In the school sector this is an indication of useful scale, even though some open schools in high population countries have much larger enrolments, exceeding a million in several cases. However, using the figure of 10,000 rightly identifies an institution such as Namibia’s College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) as a mega-school. The total population of Namibia is only 2 million, yet NAMCOL’s 28,000 students account for 40% of the country’s secondary enrolment. Setting the threshold for a mega-school at 10,000 students distinguishes usefully between open schools that operate with lower unit costs than the conventional system and those, usually in the richer jurisdictions, that do not achieve – or indeed aim for – a significant cost advantage, such as the Open Access College of South Australia with 1,500 students. We focus here on mega-schools and on those open schools that aim to reach a significant proportion of the secondary school population, even if they do not achieve large numbers in absolute terms because they serve small countries. Open Schools: Ends and Means Most open schools deploy distance learning methods in similar ways. They carry out the three functions of administration and logistics, course materials development, and student support in much the same manner, even where they use different technologies. Administration and logistics take advantage of electronic data systems, even in less ICT-rich countries, although they may differ in the extent to which they use regional offices and study centres, rather than their headquarters, in managing the system. All use systematic instructional design and some elements of course teams in developing course materials. Student support is provided in local study centres, usually located within the facilities of other institutions and sometimes operated by them (e.g. the accredited institutions of India’s NIOS) (Abrioux & Ferreira, 2009). Differences between open schools become apparent, however, when we examine the ends that they pursue through these means. Open schools can achieve various purposes. A jurisdiction seeking to establish an open school must decide on the priorities that it wishes to
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pursue through it. Rumble & Koul (2007) point to three significant differences between open schools and conventional systems: mode, markets and curriculum. Mode refers to the use of distance learning. Markets indicate the clientele that open schools can serve. Conventional schools are not usually open to adults aged more than 20 years whereas open schools can serve people from a wide age range. Curricula may or may not differ greatly between open and conventional schools. Botswana’s College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL) offers exactly the same curriculum as the conventional schools and prepares its pupils for the same national exams. By contrast India’s NIOS, which is its own examining body, has worked hard to develop a set of curricula suited to its particular market, with a special emphasis on vocational education. Just as the adjective ‘open’ may designate different types of openness when used in the term ‘open university’, so it is with open schools. The degree and type of openness is a decision for those designing a particular open school. Admission may be decided on exactly the same criteria as the conventional schools or it may be more liberal. The curriculum may be exactly the same as in the conventional system – as it must be if both open and conventional schools prepare pupils for the same examinations – or more specifically adapted to the clientele. However, given considerable dissatisfaction with conventional secondary school curricula in many countries, open schools present the opportunity to do something different. Too often the regular curriculum is geared to preparing a small proportion of pupils for access to tertiary education, rather than giving the majority a basis for lives and livelihoods in the 21 st century. Because open schools usually reach out to those who do not have ready access to a conventional school they may serve them better by offering something different from the conventional curriculum. Which model: complementary, alternative or integrative? We can distinguish between three models of open schooling: complementary, alternative and integrative. Complementary open schools Complementary open schools offer the same curriculum as the conventional schools to children who never had a chance to attend a regular school or had to drop out because their grades were too poor. CNED (France), BOCODOL (Botswana), NAMCOL (Namibia), SLTP Terbuka (Indonesia) and Telesecundaria (Mexico) are examples of complementary open schools. Each reaches a significant proportion of the national secondary-age population and enables its pupils to study for the same certification as those in the conventional schools. Because they teach the national curriculum at scale, these open schools are able to invest in the production of better learning materials, whether as print, audio-visual media or software, than the conventional schools could expect to develop. It is desirable to share these materials across the whole education system because lack of good learning materials often undermines the quality of conventional schooling. What are the challenges facing complementary open schools? How can they improve their performance and contribute more fully to their national education systems? The answer is a combination of closer integration with the wider educational system accompanied by greater autonomy in governance and management. Closer integration – or at least better communication with ministries of education and/or national examination authorities – is particularly desirable in the area of curriculum. By definition, complementary open schools teach to the national curriculum. But since good distance learning courses require significant lead times and investment to develop and produce, governments should involve their open schools in all curriculum revision processes from the earliest stages. CNED, BOCODOL and NAMCOL have all had to scramble to react to curriculum changes – and sometimes to scrap quantities of learning material rendered obsolete by them.
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Governments should regard open schools as helpful allies in national curriculum development in the era of ICTs. The Commonwealth of Learning is facilitating a programme whereby open schools from five countries are working together to create secondary curricular materials in the form of open educational resources (see below). These can readily be versioned for each country and at the level of individual schools. All the complementary open schools are engaged in the development of vocational education as a growth area. CNED already operates to a national curriculum, the lycée professionel, but most other open schools are opening up the area of work-related studies as they go. Here again better coordination with ministries of education seems desirable so that relevant vocational curricula can be developed for the benefit of the countries as whole. Along with closer coordination, however, complementary open schools could serve their nations more effectively if their boards were given greater autonomy, especially in financial management and the setting of fees. Currently these supposedly independent bodies are so hemmed in by government controls on fees that strategic planning is practically impossible. In a time of rapid change the principle of subsidiarity, whereby decisions are made at the lowest appropriate level, is also a factor of efficiency and innovation that could benefit complementary open schools. Complementary open schools must do everything possible to improve the performance of their pupils. Since they teach to the same examinations as the conventional schools, the performance of the two systems can be compared directly. Open schools must continue to gain credibility by showing good results even though – or especially because – their pupils have a background of educational disadvantage. Alternative open schools Alternative open schools may cater to some of the same children as complementary open schools but they also aim to engage older youths and adults by offering programmes that are more vocationally oriented and have a greater focus on life skills. India’s National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), the Papua New Guinea Open College and, to some extent, Indonesia’s SLTP Terbuka can be considered as alternative open schools although they have very different national contexts, mandates and governance structures. Alternative systems that break new curricular ground are steadily becoming more attractive in comparison to complementary systems that simply extend the conventional programme at a distance. Clearly, however, adapting the school curriculum and the school year to meet the needs of youth who could not access the conventional school system – and who may be employed – poses a dilemma. How far should the system aim to produce the same results as the conventional secondary schools? Few parents and students wish to contemplate studies that do not hold the promise of certification. However, as Figueredo & Anzalone (2003) noted: ‘In most countries, the formal system, even when its curriculum is acknowledged as lacking relevance to the real world, casts a long shadow on aspirations and expectations. Curriculum developers for alternative models who start down the road to producing a more relevant curriculum are often roped back into traditional subject-matter content as students and parents become more vocal about passing examinations’. Today this sounds too pessimistic. Both India’s NIOS and the PNG Open College have shown that programmes that focus on life skills and work-oriented content are attractive to students and their parents. In these two cases, of course, the institutions provide their own certification, which is accepted at par with certification from the conventional system by employers and tertiary institutions. Governments may wish to establish or facilitate the creation of an open school that offers an alternative curriculum geared to ‘ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes’ (Dakar Goal 3). If they do, they must arrange for the new entity to have appropriate powers of certification.
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The alternative open schools can claim considerable success. NIOS is not only drawing many school-age youth into its alternative route (74% of its secondary students are aged 15 to 20) but also has achieved parity of enrolment between male and female students in its vocational courses. To the extent that these young women see a greater sense and purpose in education that promises economic independence and a better life, NIOS is acting as an important agent of social change. Integrative open schools Integrative open schools are placed at the heart of the whole school system in order to improve and strengthen the quality and reach of that system, to be a source of innovation, and to act as a catalyst for reform. For most educational authorities the pressing issue is to make the conventional system more effective and improve its quality. How can open schooling help? UNESCO conducted a thorough review of what makes for effectiveness and quality in schooling (UNESCO, 2004). From this we can construct a list of desirable features that could be obtained more readily by having an open school as a resource for the whole school system: • • • • • good learning materials focus on the curriculum regular, reliable, and timely assessment of learning pedagogical materials for teachers an inclusive learning environment with special attention to AIDS orphans, children with disabilities, those living in conflict zones, those obliged to work and those disadvantaged by gender, race and ethnicity, culture and language, religion, social status and migration relevant content teaching of reading and writing structured teaching: direct instruction, guided practice and independent learning appropriate language of instruction larger classes if accompanied by better inputs (assistants, materials, etc.).
• • • •
Having a source of good learning and assessment materials is an important foundation of effectiveness and quality. Open schools, as well as addressing the issues of inclusiveness at the national level, can be a prime source of good learning materials focused on the curriculum. Learning materials can be produced and shared in a very modern way as open educational resources and, more generally open schools can be a leaven for the entire school system. The collaborative creation of learning materials Open schools have to produce learning materials, usually in a variety of formats. These materials have always been useful to the conventional schools, which often have neither the money to buy materials nor the critical mass of teacher time and expertise to develop materials of quality themselves. Two developments have made the learning materials produced by open schools potentially even more useful to the wider school system. First, most learning materials are now developed in digital formats, even though they may eventually reach students in the form of printed materials. Holding materials electronically has three advantages: they are easy to move around; they can readily be adapted and revised; and they can be converted to eLearning formats when online learning becomes a possibility. Second, there is now a growing movement, inspired by the ideal that knowledge is the common wealth of humankind, to create a global intellectual commons in which learning materials are shared. This movement involves many thousands of teachers, at all levels, creating open educational resources (OERs), which are learning materials in digital format
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that are freely available for adaptation and use. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has supported many OER projects in higher education, is now supporting similar work in open schools through a programme that combines the professional development of teachers with the development of OERs. Twenty sets of self-instructional learning materials on the secondary curriculum will be produced in six developing countries: India, Namibia, Trinidad & Tobago, Lesotho, Seychelles and Botswana (a set of material refers to the complete syllabus for one subject at a Grade 10 or Grade 12 level in each of the six countries with the possibility of adapting it to the curriculum of any other country). This material will be suitable for use in both open and conventional schools and will permit open schools to offer current and new subjects through print and online teaching. The programme will create a pool of one hundred trained and experienced master teachers, who can train other teachers in their countries and support online materials development once the formal project is complete. These master teachers will also have been trained in the use of the Commonwealth of Learning’s instructional design template and will have the skills to develop learning materials collaboratively online, thus creating a new network of expertise in developing countries. Computers for children: can open schools help? Open schools could also act as organising elements for the expansion of ICTs in secondary schools generally. Elsewhere (Daniel, 2009) we examined three projects that put computers in the hands of children. The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and the NEPAD eSchools demonstration project placed computers in schools, whereas the Hole in the Wall (HITW) experiment put them in playgrounds and public spaces. Although the two projects involving schools gave disappointing results, especially to those who expected a revolution in teachers’ pedagogy and students’ performance, there continues to be a strong drive in most countries to get more computers into the schools. India, for example, is now planning to make ICTs a major plank of their programme for universal secondary education, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. The mounting evidence that the benefits of computers in the classroom are elusive should not lead to abandonment of the idea but ought to encourage educational authorities to plan their introduction carefully. Just one example of the pitfalls is a list of ten problems with teaching science online that includes slower reading speeds, lower comprehension (30% lower than paper), erroneous information on websites, broken links (linkrot), and the costs of infrastructure renewal and software updates (Schrock, 2009). Open schools seem well placed to help whole school systems implement computing. Collaborative projects in OER curriculum development can help to create locally adapted eLearning materials of quality that are always in short supply. Moreover, since open schools have to be technologically savvy to take advantage of new developments for their own students they are a natural source of expertise for wider use. Student assessment is an area of special relevance in this context. Regular, timely and reliable assessment is an important tool in securing students’ attention to content and the curriculum. It figured prominently in UNESCO’s summary of determinants of quality and effectiveness cited earlier. This list that is consistent with the results of Bernard and his colleagues (Bernard et al., 2009; Abrami et al., 2008) who showed that interaction with content – rather than with tutors or fellow students – is the most important way of promoting learning. Although reliable and regular assessment encourages students to focus on content, assessment is the element of their role that many teachers like least. Moreover, designing effective instruments for student assessment is a challenging task, which calls on skills that many teachers do not have. Because of their scale and flexible entry requirements open schools have to operate with large banks of assessment instruments (quizzes, examinations, etc.) for both formative and summative assessment. These are held as databases on computers so that they can be made available on demand. By strengthening this function of open schools governments
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could create an extremely valuable resource for their entire school systems. Conclusion We have shown that open schooling can add value to national school systems in many ways. Some open schools are large, particularly those in developing countries, and we have used the term mega-school to designate those with more than 10,000 students that constitute a significant element of secondary provision. Open schools can be embedded in national education systems in essentially three ways. Complementary open schools offer the same curriculum as regular schools in order to prepare pupils, who may have difficulty accessing those schools, to prepare for the same examinations. Alternative open schools usually serve a somewhat older clientele and design their own curricula and certification with more emphasis on vocational education and life skills. An integrative open school not only has its own student body but also strengthens the entire school system. It can do this by acting as a source of quality learning and assessment materials and a mechanism for introducing innovations, such as computing. References Abrami, P.C., Bernard, R.M., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M., Tamim, R., & Zhang, D. A. (2008). Instructional interventions affecting critical thinking skills and dispositions: A stage one meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 78(4): 1102-1134. Abrioux, D. & Ferreira, F. (Eds.) (2009) Open Schooling, Vancouver: Commonwealth of Learning. Bernard, R.M., Abrami, P.C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C.A., Tamim, R., Surkes, M.A., & Bethel, E.C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of interaction treatments in distance education. Manuscript in press, Review of Educational Research. Daniel, J.S. (1996). Mega-universities and Knowledge Media: Technology Strategies for Higher Education, London: Kogan Page Daniel, J S. (2009). Mega-Schools, Teachers and Technology: Achieving Education for All, Routledge, to be published Figuerdo, V. & Anzalone, S. (2003). Alternative Models for Secondary Education in Developing Countries: Rationale and Realities, American Institutes for Research Phillips, S. (2006). Exploring the Potential of Open Schooling, Connections Vancouver, Commonwealth of Learning, 11(1): 8-10 Rumble, G. & Koul, B. N. (2007). Open Schooling for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education: Costs and Effectiveness in India and Namibia, Vancouver, Commonwealth of Learning. Available at: http://www.col.org/resources/publications/consultancies/Pages/2007-07openSchl.aspx [Accessed: 5 May 2009] Schrock, J. R. (2009). US: Problems Teaching Science Online, University World News, June, Issue 0079 Available at: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php? story=20090604191432435 [Accessed 9 June 2009] UNESCO. (2004). Education for All: The Quality Imperative. EFA Global Monitoring Report, UNESCO Publishing: Paris
New Media and Technology, Lifelong Learning and Distance Education: Charting Symbiosis towards Educational Access and Equity1.
S. Panda Staff Training & Research Institute of Distance Education Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Abstract This paper draws on the current tremendous developments in new media and technology, especially the web-based social technologies and their promises towards an egalitarian, just and equitable information society. The potentialities of the new social technologies, including open software and open education resources, are examined and the possibilities are established. The contributions are examined against the theories and debates concerning information society and digital divide vis-a-vis the established paradigm of diffusion of technology innovations. This is followed by a general discussion on the foundations and dynamics of lifelong learning and distance education - both as emerging and nascent domains of human development and social action. The genesis of lifelong learning is located and examined in the context of technologyenabled distance education, and with passing reference to large mega open universities such as IGNOU. Some of the myths concerning social technologies and open social software vis-a-vis lifelong distance learning and contextualization of constructivist learning are examined with a view to highlight the potentiality and desirability of new social technologies, the ethical and social non-neutralization of technology, the need for cohesive policy on social shaping of technology, and the imperative towards forging a symbiosis between technology, lifelong distance learning, and access and equity in the context of adult education. Developments in the New Media and Technology During the past century, and especially during the past few decades, there have been significant developments in media and technology. The new media, especially social technologies, have emerged towards faster communication, more communication, engaging communication, open communication, and communication for an equal and just society. Within education technology developments have come a long way from traditional audio-visuals and subsequent one-way broadcasting to the present form of interactive, collaborative and open technologies. In the process, there has been convergence of three independent technological developments broadcasting, telecommunications, and computing - within the web technology like Web 2.0. In addition, a one-window solution is now provided through convergence of digital broadcasting, mobile phones and personal computers/laptops. The web (www), created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Caillaian (in 1989) has led to 'semantic web'/Web 2.0 and novel approaches to social networking, an extension of Web 2.0 over Web 1.0 through open software and social technologies (Figure 1, O'Reilly, 2005).
Web 1.0 Web 2.0
This paper was presented at the 18th AMIC (Singapore) Conference on 'Media Democracy and Governance: Emerging Paradigms in Digital Age', July 13-16, 2009, Le Meridien Hotel, New Delhi.
S. Panda • • • • • • • Publishing (Britannica Online) Personal websites Content management Directories (taxonomy) Stickiness Downloading Consumer • • • • • Participation (Wikipedia) Blogging Wikis Tagging (folksonomy) Syndication (RSS) Uploading Prosumer (consumer + producer)
Figure 1: Comparison of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0
The technological developments within the tradition of open source have provided for immense social networking possibilities (Figure 2) through various technological services at social networking sites like Facebook, Linkedin, and MySpace.
Social Networking Technologies Distributed, participatory, collaborative, open, Blogs, moblogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS feeds, student-centred, constructivist, vodcasts, search engines, mobile learning, intelligent social learning publishing, etc. Social software, open software, open education resource, social networking Communication over Internet Protocol (CIP) Text + Voice + Video
Cellphone PDAs Computers Figure 2: Technologies and social networking
A comprehensive Web 2.0 framework given in Figure 3 (Dawson, 2009) explains the immense convergence, complexity and possibilities in interaction, collaboration and networking.
Figure 3: Web 2.0 framework (Dawson, 2009)
Social technologies and open source/open software throw open the entire gamut of technology-mediated interaction and knowledge creation (and interactive knowledge dissemination and use) for social publishing through YouTube and blogs, social bookmarking through Bibsonomy and Del.icio.us, and social cataloguing through Folksonomy and Tag Clouds. Also, collaborative content creation through collaboration, contribution and editing is possible through the collective intelligence tool of Wiki - an online collective encyclopaedia. With these developments, there has arisen the need for managing knowledge. Evans (2007) talks about two kinds of organisational cultures - 'culture of compliance' with significant institutional control and 'enabling culture' toward individually driven initiatives in an open source and social technology based environment (Figure 4). There is constant struggle in organisations between individual choices (left quadrant) and institutional self regulatory control (right quadrant).
Figure 4: Social software tools and cultural emphasis (Stuckey and Arkell, 2006. Quoted in Evans, 2007)
In the past decades, in terms of technology adoption, diffusion of innovation (Rogers, 1995) has been the catalytic strategy to successfully disseminate the technological innovation (of late, especially the Internet) and achieve its all promising benefits in the socio-economic life of the community. The innovators and early adopters could gradually convince the laggards and late majority to assimilate the technology innovation. Therefore, even if technological access is available, it may not lead to wider use. According to Rogers' (1995) explanation of the nature of innovation, decision-making process, characteristics of individuals in the community, consequences for individuals and communication channels for adoption of innovation are critical for successful diffusion of innovation. This is akin to a social system of 'information society', and, within this framework, the question is still debated: Will technology innovations like Internet really get diffused for adoption and application in a community of practice (CoP)? This points to the fundamental issues of the nature of the present society and the way technologies need to be harnessed for individual and social benefits. Some would argue for coming up of an information or learning age (DFEE, 1998), and a post-industrial information society promising rapid dissemination of information so essential for productivity and production, and a better life. While Beeson (2003) argues that submersion in a global information culture should be resisted, Black’s (2003) vision of the information society is of one that is built on the 'shifting sands of disquieting social change' (p.20) of the present times; hence, information cannot simply be reduced to bits of disaggregated data; instead, information should be treated as a process rather than an item, and as action rather than a thing. Further, the debates on the contribution of technological developments to socio-economic changes have been varied and at times contradictory. The argument by Giddens (1999) of ICT driving globalisation within broader socio-economic changes notwithstanding, Castells (1998) instead proposes a 'networked society' in which the technological developments and/or global communication networks drive contemporary economic changes and social structures. As against the traditional 'industrial capitalism', the contemporary 'informational capitalism' connects all to the global networks of information. In the newly defined production function, information technology and the 'cultural capacity to use it' (Ibid. p161) are extremely essential. The informational society, however, has created a divide between the selfprogrammable labour (those who can innovate with it) and the generic labour (those who can receive it and execute it) - the latter could easily be displaced by an automated machine. This leads to informational capitalism and social exclusion. While it may be essential to engage in ICTs in education and training, it may so happen that the individual choices so critical in social cohesion and progress become
In r a fo m l
E e m rg B tto o m n rm o s
subservient to the dominant goals of the networked informational capitalism. Therefore, as against diffusion, individual choice and social shaping of technology assume considerable importance (Lievrouw, 2002) In the contemporary developments of a learning society in which everything contributes to learning and that learning is not confined to the time-space bounded formal (classroom) learning, lifelong learning assumes considerable importance. Learning, developing new skills, continuing professional development, and learning to learn throughout the life are sine qua non to living. What promises, then, do technologies have in a learning society for lifelong learning and alternative paths of learning? Lifelong Learning and Distance Education According to Oblinger (2005: 69), “learning is an active process in which the learner develops his or her own comprehension by assembling facts, experience, and practice. Learning depends on participation as well; learning is part cerebral and part social”. Learning, though an individual activity, is social and occurs in a context. The context may belong to any domain of learning (like home, workplace, and classroom) and resource sites like the Web may significantly contribute to learning. However, learning contexts are embedded in social practices (Edwards, 2005); hence, communities, networks, and contexts are crucial for learning to occur. Learning takes place in a community and may be through various networks; however, context – which is a set of practices (Edwards, 2005) or specific knowledge that the community develops or shares (Wenger et al, 2002) - is most crucial to lifelong learning. While learning occurs across domains and sites, it is contextually situated. Cognitions are distributed across the learning society and therefore situated in context. Edwards (2006) further extends the discourse of context to include “the dimension of relationship between individuals and variously defined others, mediated through a range of social, organisational and technological artefacts”. Learning in the context of lifelong learning is a change in understanding in practice in social contexts, and so all social practices are learning contexts. Learning in a lifespan also requires decontextualisation and re-situating in case of transfer of learning. Therefore, any form of learning and technological mediation needs to address this and go beyond the bounded container called formal schooling/learning/education. In a constantly changing society and socio-economic activities, there is need to cope with those changes and to be part of the process itself. These changes which require people to adapt were identified by Halimi (2005) as including advances in science and technology, developments in ICTs and emergence of new ways of creating knowledge. Lifelong learning addresses, beyond formal discipline-based learning, the changing life contexts and all challenges associated with them. Learning, whether non-formal, informal, autonomous, collaborative or technology-based, involves acquisition of new skills, organising innovations, and refreshing perceptions and world view for peaceful and healthy living. In addition, learning should be humanistic, universal, self learning (at times in collaborative community of practice). Distance education, which is over one and half centuries old, but has only been progressively refined in the past few decades (due to technological progresses) as a technology-mediated facilitation of learning anywhere, anytime, and at any pace, supports the notion and process of lifelong learning. Distance education by its very nature of organisation democratises education and provides for equality of educational opportunity. The freedom to choose space, time, pace, pathways, content, and level of discourse while still being in gainful engagement in the world of work is a kind of freedom unthinkable in the bounded classroom context. This has liberated many, including those disadvantaged who could not, in one way or the other, afford a full-time campus-based study. The movements of open and flexible learning and social technology-based open source, self and group, learning have further strengthened lifelong learning. Egalitarianism, equality, lifelong, flexible,
learner-centred, autonomous learning are common to both lifelong as well as distance education (Peters, 2009), and that distance education 'can even be considered a forerunner of lifelong learning' (Ibid, p.235). Distance education has opened up faster in the past few decades, resulting in the emergence of many alternative institutional arrangements, including open universities coming into existence. In India, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has established itself as a national as well as regional lifelong learning agency providing knowledge and skills to diversified social groups including women and the downtrodden, and in areas which are just socially relevant and most of which do not find provision in conventional higher and further education settings. Open education institutions have furthered the cause of lifelong learning and thereby contributed to the changing globalisation and changing economic production processes. One may argue that though access to education and training provisions has been ensured, one needs to examine the possibility of equity and individual and community shaping of learning in the community of practice. Social Technologies, Social Networks and Lifelong Learning Web 2.0 and social technologies tremendously contribute to the way people organise, communicate, collaborate, contribute and make meaning in the community of practice. Social software, i.e. socially based tools and systems facilitate digital social networking and involvement and communication. They go beyond traditional publishing and dissemination of learning resources to creation of communities and community resources with built-in autonomy towards self-direction and selfmanagement. Wiki is the best example of collaborative and shared content creation, use and revision. These social technologies support lifelong learning driven by and for learners (Panda, 2009). Wikis, blogging, MySpace, Facebook - all contribute to critical and collaborative content generation in the community of practice. The web facilitates going beyond the traditional formal classroom context as the container with boundaries to actor networks (Nespor, 1994), activity systems (Engestrom, et al, 1999), communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991), and distributed learning (Lea and Nicoll, 2002), among others. Social networks and social networking is critical to the net-based lifelong learning. Commenting on culture vis-a-vis Web 2.0 social networking environment, a team of researchers observed that “online social networking is leading to the development of culture in its own right, often blurring the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds” (Gunawardena et al, 2009:7). In their study on a theoretical framework for collaborative learning process in a CoP through Wiki, the authors quote one of the co-researchers’ experience while going through the process herself that "....the wiki and social bookmarking provided a space where the exchange of knowledge occurred. That space-enhanced engagement and learning because it facilitated the creation of a common secondary discourse' (p.15). Network analysis, even in the digital context, is essential to appreciate social structure and its influence on human behaviour and human learning. Besides studying what kinds of constraints cause network structures to affect social structure and social change, it also studies how the pattern of ties in a network affects the access of people in a dependency relationship. What is important is to study both the common possession of attributes and norms by the individuals and also their involvement in structured social relationships (Wellman, 1983). Therefore, digital social networking needs to study both the form and content of the networks in the context of social relationships. This would contribute to better facilitate networked lifelong learning. Symbiosis toward Educational Access and Equity As has already been noted, community, networks, and contexts are important to (lifelong) learning. One may argue that every learner is a lifelong learner (politically, socially, economically, culturally and educationally) and that every learner belongs to a community and is attached to network(s) and, hence, relates to some context(s).
Each one needs to be provided with constant educational and training throughout the life span in formal, non-formal and informal ways; open distance education is at the forefront of the provision towards this access. In the context of technology-enabled lifelong distance learning, access to technology is crucial. The current technological wired broadband access in developing countries seems to have become vogue; one talks about access to wireless/WiFi and to instrumentalities for any time any place access. While access to technology has been a question in the developing world, the question that follows is the level of ability to access and use the technology. The open source social technologies are no exceptions. Legitimate peripheral participation assumes considerable significance here in respect of the level of discourse that the learners are able to be engaged with in a community of practice. While access still remains an issue, the concomitant challenge is equity. If one does an analysis of patterns in a learning community/community of practice, we may find wide variations in the level of cognition and discourse among individual members. From a social constructivist perspective, this needs to be seriously addressed to facilitate individual construction and social negotiation of meaning in an online community of practice. For successful and sustainable lifelong distance learning this continuous facilitation is foundation to quality discourse and quality learning. This also involves addressing individual identity, power, language and culture, and enhancement of individual self-efficacy (Gunawardena et al, 2009). Hybrid identities are shaped through the net-facilitated cultural flows, and the authors would suggest 'ideoculture' as the functional definition of Web 2.0 culture. Based on their research, Gunawardena et al (2009) formulated a spiralling socially mediated metacognition as a community of practice within an open source (Wiki) online environment: context → discourse → action → reflection → reorganisation → socially mediated metacognition, which could form the basis of organising discourse within social technology-based lifelong learning. Mentoring is crucial to such a formulation. The quality of learning needs to be facilitated through further facilitation of the relationship between individual learners with variously defined other learners in the group; and technology needs to be geared to properly facilitate this. Writing a recent critical article in regard to network organisations, Dutton (2008) underscored the importance of facilitation through sharing, contributing, and co-creating within the network (in that order of increasing quality), and concludes from research "that 'managing the wisdom of network individuals' is more significant than the notion of the wisdom of crowds" (p.212). Some of the issues raised that are of crucial importance to digital networks include a) who captures the benefits, b) wisdom of crowds and collaborative problem-solving, c) differences and commonalities of networks and their social, organisational and technical underpinnings, d) forms of collaboration and e) balance of power, influence and authority. While there is a need for facilitating enabling culture in an organisation or institution to support individually-driven initiatives in technology-enabled environment, both the form and content of the network patterns need to be studied and enriched. Further, alongside studying the structural constraints to individual or community access to networked learning, critical to access and equity is to examine why people participate in networked learning and to facilitate and enrich the participation. How can the networks be individually geared within existing social norms? How to cater for individual choices in a networked community within the normative social expectations? Besides a host of myths/concerns (Panda, 2008), many such questions need to be addressed for qualitative symbiosis of technology and lifelong distance learning toward access and equity. References Castells, M. (1998). End of Millennium. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd. Dawson, R. (2009). Web 2.0 and the Enterprise. Advanced Human Technologies.
Downes, S. (2006) Learning networks and connective knowledge. Retrieved July 11, 2009 from http://it.coe.uga.edu. Dutton, W.H. (2008). The wisdom of collaborative network organisations: capturing the value of networked individuals. Prometheus, 26(3): 211-230. Edwards, R. (2006). Beyond the moorland? Contextualising lifelong learning. Studies in the Education of Adults, 38(1): 25-26. Edwards, R. (2005) Contexts, boundary objects and hybrid spaces: theorising learning in lifelong learning. Paper presented at the 35th Annual SCUTREA conference, July 5-7, University of Sussex. Engestrom, Y., Miettinen, R. & Funamaki, R.L. (eds.) (1999). Perspectives on Activity Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Evans, V. (2007). Networks, Connections and Community: Learning with Social Software. Commonwealth of Australia, and Australian Flexible Learning Framework. Giddens, A. (1999). Runaway World: How Globalisation is Reshaping Our Worlds. Cambridge: Profile Books. Grant, L. (2007). Learning to be part of the knowledge economy: digital divides and media literacy. Future Lab (www.futurelab.org.uk). Gunawardena, C. N. et al (2009) A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools. Educational Media International, 46(1), 3-16. Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press. Lea, M. & Nicoll, K. (eds) (2002). Distributed Learning. London: Routledge. Leadbeater, C. (2007). Social software for social change. Discussion Paper for the office of Third Sector. Leslie, S. & Landon, B. (2008). Social Software for Learning: What Is It, Why Use It? London: the Observatory of Borderless Higher Education. Lievrouw, L.A. (2002). Determination and contingency in new media development: diffusion of innovation and social shaping of technology perspective. In L.A. Lievrouw and S. Livingstone (eds), Handbook of New Media. London: Sage. Nespor, J. (1994). Knowledge in motion. London: Palmer. New Media Consortium. (2007). Social Networking, the 'Third Place' and the Evolution of communication. A White Paper for the New Media Consortium. Oblinger, Diana G. (2005). Learners, learning and technology. Educause, September- October, 67-75. O' Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Retrieved July 11, 2009, from http://www.oreilly.net.com Panda, S. (2009). The world wide web and lifelong learning. In Peter Jarvis (ed.) The Routledge International Handbook of Lifelong Learning (pp.249-258). London/New York: Routledge. Panda, S. (2008). Technology, distance education and lifelong learning: a discourse. Professor G. Ram Reddy Memorial Lecture, delivered at the 14th Conference of Indian Distance Education Association, Gauhati University, Gauhati, November 15. Panda, S. and Mishra, S. (2008). Reflective online resources for online professional development. Interactive Discourse, 1(2), 12-42.
Peters, O. (2009). The contribution of open and distance education to lifelong learning. In Peter Jarvis (ed.) The Routledge International Handbook of Lifelong Learning (pp.223-237). London/New York: Routledge. Rogers, E.M. (1995). The Diffusion of Innovation. New York: Free Press. Wellman, B. (1983). Network analysis: some basic principles. Sociological Theory, 1: 155-200. Wenger, E. McDermott, R. & Snyder, W.M. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice. A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Face-to-face Tutoring in Open and Distance Learning - The Nigerian Situation
A. Ogunsola National Institute for Educational Planning & Administration, Nigeria Abstract Students studying through open and distance learning have very little access to and support from tutors and fellow students. For many ODL institutions, distance learning mainly involves learning through printed materials. While these materials are interactive and self-instructional, face-to-face dialogue, as in any educational endeavour, is still essential to supplement the study guides. The focus of this study was to explore the effectiveness of the face-to-face tutoring at the Open University of Nigeria. Simple and stratified random sampling techniques were used to sample 200 students from four study centres. A twelve-item questionnaire titled Face to Face Tutoring Questionnaire (FFTQ) and structured interview were used to generate data which was analyzed using frequency, percentage and a two-way ANOVA. Among the major findings of the study were that face-to-face tutoring (a) demonstrates understanding for students’ particular problems due to the distance education mode of study (67%); (b) provides guidelines on how to use the study guide effectively and optimally (89.5%); (c) provides information regarding writing of assignments (86.5%); (d) fosters deeper understanding of subject matter through contextualizing and identifying intra-relationships (87%); and (e) sex, age and location of the study centre have no significant difference in the perception of the students about the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring. Several recommendations were made based on the findings. Background Education, generally defined as preparation for life, plays a very crucial role in the development of human resources in any given society. This is because education is the preparation for every aspect of living, including satisfying people’s material needs, the growth of their personal talents, as well as personal character. Above all, education is also regarded as the vehicle to national development and prosperity. Education also directly contributes to individual earnings and the growth of national income. In today’s information societies where knowledge drives economic growth and development, higher education plays a pivotal role as the main source of knowledge – its production, dissemination and its absorption by society. Higher education is also directly linked to socio-economic inequalities. According to Varghese (2007) several studies have shown that income inequalities are higher where enrolments in higher education are low. Empirical evidence from India cited by Varghese (2007) indicates that higher education contributes significantly to a reduction in absolute and relative poverty. Apart from its contribution towards national development and poverty and inequality reduction, Varghese (2007) further lists several other important benefits of higher education as including the following; a) It ensures better employment, higher salaries and a greater ability to consume and save. b) Educating the poor helps to reduce inequalities and poverty
c) Universities are a symbol of self-reliance and provide new knowledge base
for policy decisions. d) Universities help design curricula, develop textbooks, train teachers and promote national languages and culture at all levels.
e) Public universities contribute to the development of national education
policies with a secular outlook, thus protecting national identities and traditions even when challenged by globalization. In spite of self-evident importance of higher education, nationally and internationally experiences have shown that conventional education is extremely hard pressed to meet the demand for places, especially in developing countries like Nigeria. The limitation of spaces in the universities imposes restrictions on access. Nearly every senior secondary graduate would like to enter university; a demand that conventional higher education would never be able to meet. This limitation in conventional higher education provides open and distance education a unique competitive advantage to provide unhindered access to higher education (Egerton University, 2004). In 2008 the National Universities Commission and Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities alerted the nation on the need to create space for prospective students. This is due to the fact that during the 2008/2009 academic year only 153 000 of the 447 928 candidates qualified for university admission got places in the existing universities because of limits imposed by the carrying capacities of Nigerian universities. According to Adediran (2008) this situation is retrogressive considering that Nigeria has 92 degree awarding institutions, made up of 27 federal universities, 31 state universities and 34 private universities. Given that this worrisome situation could easily result in social unrest might have persuaded Odutola (2008) to implore the nation to urgently do something to widen access to university education. To achieve this he suggested the following: a) Conscious and concerted injection of funds into the nation’s universities by the proprietors of these institutions. b) More private universities should be given operational licenses, while existing universities should be strengthened to admit more students Okebukola (2007) expressed worries about the inability of qualified candidates to get university places and, to this end, put forward the following suggestions: a) Re-introduction of the Higher School Certificate b) Qualified polytechnics and colleges of education should be given degree awarding status
c) The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) should be strengthened to
take in more prospective undergraduates. With reference to the National Open University of Nigeria, Waits and Lewis (2003) see the emergence of the system of open and distance learning as an inevitable and phenomenal evolution in the history of educational development. Unlike the formal education system with its inherent limitations regarding expansion, access, equity, and cost- effectiveness, the growth of open and distance has now made the provision of education more flexible, learner friendly, and multi-perspective in approaches to teaching and learning. According to Zhanga & Perris (2004), these developments have enhanced creativity, leadership and integrated development of human personality. The emergence of distance education extended access to education to those who had difficulty accessing conventional education, including the poor, illiterate, women, marginalized groups and those living in remote areas. Dhanarajan (2001) defines distance education as teaching and learning process in which students are separated from the teachers by a physical distance which is often bridged by communications technologies. Accordingly, distance education is the means by which the teacher is taken literally to the student and not vice versa. Open learning, on the other hand, refers to policies and practices that permit entry to learning with no or minimum barriers with respect to age, gender, time and place and with recognition of prior learning (Glen, 2005; Gagne & Shepherd, 2001). Therefore, open and distance learning combines the two concepts to provide learners with
greater opportunities to access education. Open and distance learning is not completely new in the practice of higher education in Nigeria. One form of distance education or another has been in force in Nigeria since the colonial period. However, contemporary open and distance learning differs considerably in a variety of ways from the traditional distance education. The model of distance education institutions that have become a part of mainstream higher education provision draws extensively on that of the Open University of United Kingdom (OOUK), albeit with reasonable modifications to suit national contexts. In Nigeria, open and distance learning was introduced to the university education system in 1983 but only became functional in 2002 (National Open University of Nigeria, 2006). It is a timely and phenomenal evolution in the history of Nigerian higher education. The vision of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) is to be regarded as the foremost university providing highly accessible and enhanced quality education anchored by social justice, equity, equality and national cohesion through a comprehensive reach that transcends all barriers (Aleazi, 2006). NOUN reflects a novel development in the provision of higher education in Nigeria. It is the first full-fledged university that operates in an exclusively open and distance learning (ODL) mode of education. NOUN focuses mainly on open and distance teaching and learning system and delivers its course materials predominantly via print, in addition to information and communication technology (ICT). To Ryan (2000) open and distance learning education courses are made up of a number of course components or learning materials which can include any of the following: teaching texts, study guides, course guides, readers or anthologies, assignments (with or without an accompanying tutor guide), television broadcasts or videotapes, radio broadcasts or audiotapes, software or online information and data, CD-ROMS, textbooks and laboratory materials. Tuition materials, which could be in electronic form, are sent with questions to be answered by students in their spare time. In addition, student support may be provided through personal communication at local universities or through on-line student tutors. Both the media used for open and distance learning and the student support arrangements affect the possible level of interaction in open and distance learning courses. Where online support is provided, many instructor hours are devoted to creating an "online presence" that gives learners a psychological perception that the instructor is omnipresent and responding to them in an online class. According to Smith, Ferguson and Caris (2001), without this psychological perception, students quickly become insecure and tend to drop the class. Since most web-based courses rely primarily on asynchronous communication in delivering course information to students, instructors and students do not interact simultaneously. Instead, messages are posted on a forum web page or are sent as email, and a reply is provided at some unspecified later time. Any follow up questions are dealt with through additional postings or messages with requisite delays. Overall, this process limits the amount and depth of interactions regarding course materials and procedures (Wang & Newlin, 2001). Within this context, it is trite that the credibility of any academic system, including open universities, is contingent on the quality of academic inputs and the teaching-learning processes that are put in place to create optimal learning experiences. However, due to limited scope of interactions, open universities have traditionally been regarded as second-rate institutions in comparison with the conventional system (Hellman, 2003). This perception places a huge burden on open and distance education institutions to establish systems that can ensure that their academic functionaries are well prepared for the demands of face-to-face interactions and the multi-tasking activities of open and distance learning. Statement of the Problem
There are several problems that face students studying through open and distance learning. In contrast to students studying full-time on campus, distance learners have very little access to and support from tutors and fellow students (Fredda, 2000). They study mainly in isolation and have limited access to resources such as libraries, appropriate study facilities and information communication technology. Some of these students also differ from full-time students in the sense that they are part-time adult students who have additional commitments of work, family and community involvement. Studying is therefore often second, if not third, priority for the majority of distance learners. Studying through open and distance learning also means learning mainly through the printed media. However, as in any form of educational endeavour, dialogue in distance learning is essential to supplement the study guides. The objectives of dialogue through face to face contact with distance learners include stimulating and motivating students, helping students overcome academic difficulties and problems of studying through ODL. The face-to-face tutor is expected to play a vital role in the dialogue that should facilitate active learning. The purpose of this study was, therefore, to examine the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring in the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). This was done with a view to enhance quality learning in ODL. To ensure a successful investigation, one main research question was asked and three hypotheses were formulated. Research Question
1. What are perceptions of students on the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring
in National Open University of Nigeria? Hypotheses
1. There is no significant difference in the perceptions of male and female
students on the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring at NOUN.
2. There is no significant difference in the perceptions of young and old students
on the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring at NOUN.
3. Location of a study centre has no significant difference on the students’
perceptions of the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring at NOUN. Research Methodology Design A survey research design was adopted in the study. Population The population of the study was made up of all the students in all the study centres of the National Open University of Nigeria in the six geo-political zones of the country. Sample and Sampling Technique Out of the six zones, four zones were randomly selected for the study. This represents 67% of the population. This percentage is considered adequate for the study. From each of the four zones, one state was subsequently randomly selected to represent each zone. Fifty (50) respondents were also randomly selected in each study centre, making a total of four study centres and two hundred (200) respondents in the four centres. Research Instrument A questionnaire purposely designed for the study and structured interview were the main instruments used for data collection. A twelve-item questionnaire titled Face to Face Tutoring Questionnaire (FFTQ) was used to generate data. The instrument was made up of two sections. Section A sought information about the demographic data of the respondents while section B elicited information on students’ perceptions of the
effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring. Validity of the Instrument The research instruments were subjected to expertise advice of education planners and managers to ensure context and construct validity. The comments, suggestions and corrections of the experts were carefully incorporated to improve the quality of the instrument. Reliability of the Instrument The reliability of the questionnaire was determined by the use of test re-test technique. A correlation coefficient of 0.87 was obtained which was high enough to make the instrument largely reliable. Technique for data collection A total of two hundred (200) copies of the questionnaire were administered personally by the researcher and three research assistants in four study centres. The face-to-face interaction between the respondents and the researcher/research assistants yielded a high rate of return. Consequently, hundred percent rate of return was achieved. Technique for Data Analysis Frequency and percentage distributions were used to answer the research question. Since the data are from scaled measures, a parametric test such as Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was considered appropriate for handling this data. Therefore, a two-way ANOVA was utilized to test the null hypotheses. The decision criterion for the rejection of the hypothesis formulated was set at the .05 alpha level. Findings Research Question 1: What percentage of students expressed positive perceptions about the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring in National Open University of Nigeria? The perceptions of the 200 respondents that were elicited through a twelve-item questionnaire are captured in table 1 below. Table 1: Students’ Perception of the Effectiveness of Face to Face Tutoring (N=200)
S/N 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Items Face-to-face tutoring demonstrates understanding for students’ particular problems due to the distance education mode of study. Face-to-face tutoring provides guidelines on how to use the study guide effectively and optimally Face-to-face tutoring provides information regarding writing of assignments Face-to-face tutoring encourages students to take notes during tutorials Face-to-face tutoring focuses students’ attention on the process of independent thinking and critical reflection Face-to-face tutoring utilizes students’ ideas and experiences in order to facilitate their deeper understanding of and ability to apply knowledge Face-to-face tutoring encourages students to share experiences and successes they have had in distance education Face-to-face tutoring fosters deeper understanding of subject matter through contextualizing and identifying intra-relationships Face-to-face tutors are regular for tutorials Face to face tutors are punctual at tutorial Agree 134 179 173 139 106 158 120 174 178 158 % 66.7 89.5 86.5 69.5 53.0 79.0 60.0 87.0 89.0 79.0 Disagree 66 21 27 61 94 42 80 26 22 42 % 33.3 10.5 13.5 30.5 47.0 21.0 40.0 13.0 11.0 21.0
A. Ogunsola sessions Face-to-face tutoring provides opportunities for 11. small group interaction Face-to-face tutoring helps tutors to provide a 12. brief summary of what has been learnt towards the conclusion of the tutorial
The data in table 1 show that about 67% (134) respondents agreed that face-to-face tutoring demonstrates understanding for students’ particular problems due to the distance education mode, while 89.5% (179) respondents affirmed that face-to-face tutoring provides guidelines on how to use study guides effectively and optimally. On the other hand, 86.5% (173) agreed that face-to-face tutoring provides information regarding writing of assignments, while 69.5% (139 students) were of the opinion that face-to-face tutoring encourages students to take notes during tutorials. Moreover, only 53% of the 200 respondents believed that face-to-face tutoring focuses students’ attention on the process of independent thinking and critical reflection, while 79% of the sample was of the opinion that face-to-face tutoring utilizes students’ ideas and experiences to facilitate their deeper understanding of and ability to apply knowledge. Sixty (60% or 120 of the respondents) affirmed that face-to-face tutoring provides students the opportunity to share experiences and to compare notes on successes and challenges they encounter in distance learning, while 87% (174 students) agreed that face-to-face tutoring fosters deeper understanding of subject matter through contextualizing and identifying intra-relationships. On the regularity of tutors, 89% of the sample affirmed that the face-to-face tutors are regular for tutorials while 79% of the respondents attested to the punctuality of their tutors. Furthermore, 88% of the 200 students were of the opinion that face-to-face tutoring provides opportunities for small group interaction with 73% of the respondents affirming that face-to-face tutoring helps tutors to provide a brief summary of what has been learnt towards the conclusion of the tutorial. Testing of Hypotheses Ho 1: There is no significant difference in the perception of male and female students on the effectiveness of face to face tutoring at NOUN. The result obtained from the analysis in testing hypothesis one is shown in table 2. Table 2: Two-Way ANOVA Result of Ho 1
Male Female p > .05
Mean Distribution of Opinions On Face to Face Tutoring Effective
10.00 9.50 1.660
The ANOVA results in table 2 show that the mean distribution of male students with the opinion that face to face tutoring is effective was 20.40, while the mean value for the male students with the opinion that face to face tutoring is not effective was 10.00. On the other hand, the mean value of the females’ opinions that face-to-face tutoring is effective was 18.80. The F-value of 1.660 was obtained which was not significant at the alpha level of 0.05. Therefore, the null hypothesis of no significant difference in the perceptions of male and female students on the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring was accepted. However, the mean value of both male and female students that believed that face-to-face tutoring is effective exceeded the mean value of those with a contrary opinion. Ho 2: There is no significant difference in the perception of young and old students on the effectiveness of face to face tutoring at NOUN. The result obtained from the two-way analysis of variance in testing hypothesis two is
presented in table 3 Table 3: Two-Way ANOVA Result of Ho 2
Young (21-30 years) Old (31years& above) p > .05
Mean Distribution of Opinions on Face to Face Tutoring Effective Not Effective
1.850 118 20.40 8.70
Data in table 3 shows that the mean distribution of opinions of young students of NOUN that face-to-face tutoring is effective was 18.80 while the corresponding mean distribution for older students was 20.40. The F- value of 1.850 was obtained which was not significant at the 0.05 level of significance. The null hypothesis of no significant difference between the perceptions of young and old students was not rejected. Ho 3: Location of study centre has no significant difference on the students’ perception of the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring at NOUN. The result obtained from the two-way ANOVA in testing hypothesis three is shown in table 4. The results in table 4 show that the range between the highest and lowest mean scores for effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring was 2.5, indicating that students’ perceptions were not too different. As indicated in table 4 below, the highest mean of 20.5 on the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring was obtained from students of the Oyo study centre and the least mean value of 18.0 was from the Rivers study centre. Table 4: Two-Way ANOVA Result of Ho 3
Location/ Study Centre
Bauchi Kogi Oyo Rivers
50 50 50 50
Mean Distribution of Opinions on Face to Face Tutoring Effective Not Effective
18.50 19.00 20.50 18.00 10.00 8.50 10.00 11.00
p > .05
It could be observed from the data in table 4 that the mean distribution of opinions of students that face-to-face tutoring is effective were 18.00 (Rivers study centre); 18.50 (Bauchi study centre); 19.00 (Kogi) and 20.50 (Oyo). The mean values of opinions that face-to-face tutoring is not effective are 8.50 for Kogi, 10.00 each for Bauchi and Oyo and 11.00 for Rivers. An F value of 1.41 was obtained, which was not significant at the 0.05 alpha level. Therefore, the null hypothesis of no significant difference on the perception of the students on the effectiveness of face-to-face tutoring was accepted. It is noteworthy that the mean distribution of opinions that face-to-face tutoring is effective is higher than the mean value of the respondents who expressed that face-to-face tutoring is not effective. Discussion of Findings The results of this study have shown that most of the students of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) are of the opinion that face-to-face tutoring has added value to learning in the university through the provision of guidelines on how to use
the study guide effectively and optimally; by providing information regarding writing of assignments and utilizing students ideas and experiences to facilitate deeper understanding, among other things. The findings of this study show that face-to-face tutoring is actually achieving its purpose. The area of greatest area of agreement by 89.5% learners was that face-to-face tutoring provides guidelines on how to use the study guide effectively and optimally, while the least area of agreement representing 53% learners was that face-to-face tutoring focuses students’ attention on the process of independent thinking and critical reflection. However, there was overall agreement by most learners that face-to-face tutoring is valuable to learners. The analysis of the results also revealed that there is no significant difference in the perception of both male and female students; young and old students and that the location of the study centres do not have any significant difference in the perception of the effectiveness of face to face tutoring. Furthermore, the mean distribution of the students with the opinion that face to face tutoring is effective was higher than the mean value of those that thought otherwise. Conclusion From the findings of this study, it can be concluded that students have a positive opinion about the face to face tutoring and that it enhances learning. Recommendations Based on the findings of the study, the following recommendations are made: Tutors and students should be encouraged to attend the tutorial classes regularly so as to derive maximum benefits that face to face tutoring offers. Students should form reading groups that could come together to study the guide before and after the face to face classes so that grey areas can be noted for discussion during the next face to face class. Face to face tutoring time should be optimally spent since dialogue enhances learning. References Adediran, S. (2008). NUC and Varsity Admission Crisis. Sunday Punch July 6, 17 (19,491). Aleazi, O. (2006). National Open University as a Model of Excellence, Sun News Dhanarajan, G. (2001). Combating Poverty through Adult Education, Paper presented at the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education. University of Guyana, March 5th Egerton University (2004). African Council for Distance Education. Conference of Vice Chancellors/Presidents Fredda, J.V. (2000). Comparison of selected student outcomes for internet-and campus-based instruction at the Wayne Huizenga Graduate School of Business and Entrepreneurship (Report No. NSU-RP-R-00-14) Nova Southeastern University Research and Planning, Fort Lauderdale, FL (ERIC Document No.ED453743) Retrieved May 15, 2008 from EDRS Online Gagne, M. & Shepherd, M. (2001). A comparison between a distance and a traditional graduate accounting class, T.H.E. Journal, 28(9): 58-65 Gallagher, J.E., Dobrosielski-Vergona, K.A., Wingard, R.G. & Williams, T.M. (2005). Web based vs. traditional classroom instruction in gerontology: A pilot study. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 79 (3): 1-11 Glen, F. (2003). A Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth, Vancouver: The Commonwealth for Learning Hellman, J.A. (2003). The Riddle of Distance Education: Promises, problems and
applications for development. Geneva: UNRISD National Open University of Nigeria (2006). A Profile. Lagos: Vice Chancellor’s Office Okebukola, P.A.O. (2007). Keynote address during the 3rd Convocation of Covenant University, Otta, Nigeria. Odutola, O. (2008). Only 153,000 Candidates will get Varsity Admission. The Punch, Tuesday, July 1, 2008. Ryan, R.C. (2000). Students’ assessment comparison of lecture and online instruction equipment and methods in classes, T.H.E. Journal, 27 (6): 78-83 Smith, G.G., Ferguson, D., & Caris, M. (2001). Teaching college courses online versus face-to-face. T.H.E. Journal, 28 (9): 18-26 Varghese, N.V. (2007). Higher Education and Development in IIEP Newsletter, Vol. XXV(1): 1-3 Waits, T. & Lewis, L. (2003). Distance Education at Degree-Granting Post-secondary Institutions: 2000-2001 (NCES 2003017). U.S. Department of Education, Washington DC: National Centre for Education Statistics Wang, A.Y., & Newlin, M.H. (2001). Online lectures: Benefits for the virtual classroom. T.H.E. Journal, 29 (1): 17-24 Zhanga, W. & Perris, K. (2004). Researching the efficacy of online learning: A collaborative effort amongst scholars in Asian Open Universities, Open Learning, 19(3): 247-264
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Trends in Distance Education Research in Southern Africa
S. Tichapondwa Modesto Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning Abstract This study explores and reflects on trends in distance education (DE) research in Southern Africa, focusing on the structure, priority areas, types of research methodologies, and research rigour evident in the discipline of DE. It begins with an outline of the theoretical basis, then seeks answers to the following three questions: 1. What is the structure of distance education research? 2. What methodologies are evident in the journal articles? 3. What is the quality of current research? Data collected were subjected to descriptive and inferential analysis. After selecting documented studies and analysing them, the study raises important conclusions. The main one is that the studies tend to be rather too descriptive and narrative; hence, they have somewhat weak methodological foundations. This observation points to an element of ordinariness, which led to the formulation of the ordinariness hypothesis and specification of some recommendations. Two of the latter are that researchers should broaden the scope of their research interest regarding areas of research priority, and secondly, that practitioners should be consciously exposed to more rigorous research methodologies. Introduction Conventional systems of education are considered superior to distance education. This is mainly because, over the years, scholars have established through research, a range of theories and principles about conventional systems, a state of affairs that has legitimised a subject like Chemistry or Physics as a discipline. However, DE is yet to fully attain this legitimacy. Notwithstanding the view that it is an academic area that is fast gaining momentum, a gap still exists in the literature as well as in practice regarding its status as a discipline. Presently, the issue is investigated with reference to DE research in Southern Africa. The field is characterised by non-conformist and non-traditional approaches, which in effect, question the existing norms of traditional education and seek to provide a new orientation to educational processes, a perception captured in the various definitions of the discipline (Wedermeyer, 1977; Moore, 1973; Peters, 1971; Holmberg, 1981). Dohmen (1977:84) who perceives distance education as a non-conformist discipline defines it as; A systematically organised form of self-study in which student counselling, the presentation of learning material, and securing and supervising of students’ success is carried out by a team of teachers, each of whom has responsibilities. It is made possible at a distance by means of media, which can cover long distances. (emphasis mine) The features of DE that I have highlighted in the preceding definition make it unique; hence the need to engage in serious research about it. The need for research in DE is reinforced by Evans (2000:2) who asserts that single-mode universities need to undertake significant research activities, otherwise they may be considered inferior to conventional universities on which they usually depend. This is further supported by Moore (1988) and Jegede (1991) who consider it imperative for all activities and practices within distance education to have a sound empirical base through research. Additionally, practitioners are encouraged to engage in needs assessment for DE research (http://carbon.cudenver.edu-Lsherry/pubs/issues.html, 2010). On the basis of this understanding, this study investigates trends in DE with the aim of establishing
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the extent to which rigorous research procedures and scholarship are reflected in DE publications, especially journal articles. Statement of the problem A problem was perceived while reviewing a distance education journal article on learning challenges faced by children of remote area dwellers of the Kalahari region. For the first time I realised the dearth of published research in this area and, hence, wondered whether there were other distance education research areas were under researched, especially in Southern Africa. In reading the article I found it striking that it described activities within a particular context, a case study of one remote area. This caused me to wonder even further, not only about the areas of research endeavour, but also about the types of research which scholars in the sub region engage in. The article motivated me to widen my investigation, during which I perceived a gap about the knowledge possessed by scholars relative to the status of DE research in Southern Africa. It is noteworthy that DE is gradually, but steadily, gaining legitimacy as a discipline in its own right (Keegan, 1990; Holmberg, 1996). Elsewhere, scholars such as Mishra (1998) and Calvert (1995) have conducted studies into methodological issues and priority areas for DE research. On the other hand, the Horizon Report (2009) encourages research in dialogue about the potential of collaborative learning and creative applications of emerging technologies. However, comparable studies on the same subject in Southern Africa seem to be scarce, hence the justification for the present investigation. To address the problem, the following research questions were asked: a. b. c. d. What is the structure of the research? What are the priority areas of research? What methodologies are evident? How rigorous is the research?
Focus on the questions is expected to shed light on research trends as well as suggest whether this is the sort of research that should be conducted and published in order to advance the interests of DE as a discipline. Published research in open and distance learning (ODL) is scarce in Southern Africa. Progressio, the South African journal for open and distance learning practice, and the newly launched (2007) DEASA-SADC CDE International Journal of Open and Distance Learning are two instances of concrete research evidence. It is noteworthy that since 2000 there has been increased interest in ODL issues in the region, and the Distance Education Association for Southern Africa (DEASA) has continued to organise annual conferences to promote research. Unfortunately, not all conference papers result in publishable research papers. Most are concept papers that merely give information about institutional practices. Such papers were not considered for inclusion in the present study. Similarly, undergraduate and post-graduate research studies that are not readily available for analysis were also not included in the study. The focus of the present investigation is on 67 articles from the two afore-mentioned peer reviewed Southern African based international journals. These articles were published between 2000 and 2005 and 2007 and 2009 in Progressio and the International Journal of Open and Distance Learning, respectively. However, this paper acknowledges a limitation that arises from delimiting the scope of this investigation to articles that appear in the two Southern African journals only and excluding articles published by Southern African scholars in other international journals, especially when such articles were a result of research conducted in Southern Africa. Theoretical grounding In this section theoretical ideas drawn from relevant literature and pertaining to distance education research are reflected upon, while criteria and ideas applied to data are given specific explication in the methodology section.
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The review of literature on research trends in DE presented in this study is anchored on the fact that distance education fulfils the functions of an educational system as explained by Koul (2000:51) who describes a DE system in the following way: The relevance of any educational system ought to be adjudged in terms of the criteria that give the system a significant social function. Thus it is not presumptuous to say that the basic issue of credibility can be seen as one of either success or failure to meet such criteria. It may also be added that the system must have a cognitive function in addition to the social one. The following four aims that characterise the functioning of an educational system can be isolated as (a) giving instruction in skills, (b) building a cultivated society, (c) advancing learning, and (d) transmitting knowledge in its various manifestations. Arguably, distance education fulfils all these as a discipline and, hence, any research DE should be undertaken with these characteristics in mind. However, several scholars have drawn attention to some of the barriers to distance education research, including Berge, Muilenburg and Haneghan (2002) who reported that barriers to research in DE are greater at the initial stages of an organization. This is mainly because there will not be clear systems of scholarship in place, apart from other constraints like funding and lack of expertise. In trying to overcome barriers in training and research, Cho and Berge (2002) have advised that leaders would find solutions to reduce or minimise obstacles in their own institutions if they gave close consideration to barriers faced by other organisations. Research in DE ought to be systematic. Whatever research approach is used, it should also culminate in the development of a cohesive theory. According to Keegan (1990:5), “a theoretical basis would replace the ad-hoc way of responding to crisis situations which normally characterise this field of education”. By definition, Moore (1985:51) sees a theory as “simply an organisational statement of what is known, a map of the field”. In this respect, therefore, twofold purposes of a good theory should be to give practitioners a guide for practice and provide a summary of what has been discovered in a given area of speculation. According to Mishra (1998), systematic research in DE started in the 1950s, while the first theoretical work, “Write, teach and learn”, was published in 1959 in East Germany (Keegan, 1990:51). The establishment of the Open University (UK) in 1969 was a major milestone especially because of its concern for research. Today reputable journals, including The American Journal of Distance Education (USA), Distance Education (Australia), The Journal of Distance Education (Canada), and Open Learning (United Kingdom) have been established. These developments demonstrate how research has either generated theories about distance education or has utilized such theories to feed back into distance education praxis (Jeffries, 2009). Evans and Jakupec (1996) have divided DE research into three broad areas; namely, the structure of DE research literature, methodological issues, and areas of research priority. This theoretical guide is used in this study as foundation for investigating the corpus of research literature in the two Southern African distance education journals. Researchers have also come up with theories about areas of priority in DE research. For example, Sherry (cited in Berge and Mrozowski 2004:2-4) came up with the following research priority areas: • • • • • • • • Design issues Redefining roles of key participants Strategies to increase interactivity and active learning Learner support Operational issues Policy and management issues Equity and accessibility Cost/benefit trade-offs
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Technology selection and adoption
However, within the context of Southern Africa, Tichapondwa and Tau (2009) have examined research in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa and came up with the following compendium of research areas: • • • • • • • Definition of distance education Open and distance learning in new environments Managing the distance education system Open and distance learning study materials Learner Support in DE Communication issues in DE Challenges and the future of DE
Gupta and Renu Arun (1986) and Panda (1992), in their analysis of DE in India gave an equally comprehensive list of categories in the field. Calvert (1986) also provided a conceptual framework for DE research in his discussion of Canadian progress in systematic DE research. The rigour of research in any discipline is accounted for by the methodologies used. In that respect, DE is no exception. Phipps and Merisotis (1999) theorise about the following four methodologies: a) Descriptive research, defined as the collection of data through observation, questionnaires, attitude scales and interviews. b) Case study research, which involves a detailed investigation of one or more instances of a phenomenon. c) Correlational research, which is described as the collection of data in order to determine whether a relationship exists between two or more quantifiable variables. d) Experimental research, which tests hypotheses concerning cause and effect. A fifth methodology was proposed by Naidu (2004) as: e) Evaluation study, which is concerned with systematic acquisition of feedback on use, worth, and impact of some object in relation to its intended outcome. With specific reference to the descriptive category, Naidu (2004:3) makes the interesting observation that “good descriptive research comprises valid and reliable data, which reveal interesting trends, and chart new directions”. The definition of each type is given, and the positive and negative characteristics of each are detailed in the methodology section. The five methodology categories will be used for adjudicating the rigour of research articles in this paper. In the review of research literature, it struck me that a new area of research priority, additional to categories by Sherry (cited in Berge and Morozwski 2004), is emerging. It is referred to as research about research. This is an interesting phenomenon because preoccupation with research about research addresses core issues of DE as a discipline. In particular the practice seeks answers to the central question: Why research in DE? The present study focuses on this area of scholarship. Daniel (2002) identifies three reasons for researching DE learning; namely, evidence, expectations and environmental considerations. Evidence refers to the information gathered as a result of personal commitment and the academic mode of thinking. By undertaking a study, the researcher gains more evidence and forms hypotheses that increase knowledge about DE. Regarding expectations, Daniel (2002) reports that great stakeholder expectations have been inspired by the resurgence of DE. Societies have come to expect that DE can bring about radical changes to education and create opportunities for mobility where conventional education systems have failed (Tichapondwa, 2008). Therefore, researchers have a duty to inform whether such expectations are grounded in reality. Meanwhile, the environment in which DE is introduced is of importance to research,
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whether it is a new or changing environment replete with challenges (Tichapondwa & Tau, 2009). In such environments, conventional education which has held sway for centuries has become comparatively more stable, while DE is regarded as inchoate. Researchers in DE have a duty to inform and guide by articulating how responsive DE research is to environmental imperatives, such as demand for certain courses and the feasibility of delivering them through DE. Jeffries (2009) adequately addresses this in his discussion of the advance of technology in DE. The three reasons for research are fulfilled through the conduct of research in discourse that is unique, esoteric and peculiar to DE. However, a cursory comment of the application of DE research findings in environments different from, but comparable to, the one in which the study was originally conducted is appropriate at this point. According to Cookson (2002), distance education research practices of one country may not necessarily successfully transfer to other national and cultural contexts. He goes on to state that “despite that premise, my assumption is that if we focus on the principles that underlie specific practices, specific innovations originating in one national and cultural context may more likely be adapted to fit other national and cultural contexts” (p152). There can be no grounds to dispute the assumption. In actual fact the assumption is even more pertinent to DE research in Southern Africa, where contexts across the regions are comparable. For a research study to suit national and cultural contexts, the age-old issues of reliability and validity will always remain critical criteria for assessing the structure and methodological rigour of research studies. Validity refers to the extent to which results can be generalized from a given sample to populations, while reliability is the extent to which independent researchers can reproduce a study and obtain results similar to those in the original study. The foregoing is consistent with the thesis for this study; which is, if ODL institutions are to increase shared knowledge and praxis in the field, their effectiveness would depend on how far academics demonstrate genuine commitment to research. Such a commitment can be forged and reinforced by a concerted programme of enquiry and a quest for increased quality in the discipline that has come to be known as distance education. Both quantitative and qualitative research benefit from cross-cultural comparison, rather than from claustrophobic focus on narrowly focused concerns. Method This section focuses on procedures used for data collection and analysis and covers sampling, structure and priority areas, methodologies evident in the articles and qualitative testing for the rigour of articles. Data were collected from a sample of 34 articles from Progressio and 33 from the International Journal of Open and Distance Learning. For the former, the articles were drawn from volumes 22 through 27, published online between 2000 and 2005. For the latter, 16 articles were drawn from volumes 1 and 2 and abstracts for 17 articles submitted for volume 3 (2007 to 2009). These were then analysed using prespecified categories as the analytical framework. In brief, the criteria were that each article be published between 2000 and 2009 and that it should provide a description of the methodology used in conducting the research reported in the article. To establish areas of research priority, the nine areas proposed by Panda (1992) were used. Additionally, a tenth category, research and scholarship, was suggested in keeping with trends in international research. The ten pre-specified categories are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Concept, growth and development. Curriculum/course planning and development Instruction/ teaching Media and technology Learners and learning Institutional policy and management
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7. Economics of distance education 8. Evaluation of a phenomenon 9. Staff development 10. Research and scholarship The last mentioned area has become an important and regular aspect of study in distance education research (see Berge and Mrozowski, 2004). Together with the nine areas proposed by Panda, the typology was used to adjudicate the categories of the sampled articles. A determination of the areas attracting most attention, and those attracting the least will be made, supported with evaluative comments. To test for the types of research methodologies used, the typology proposed by Phipps and Merisotis (1999:12) was applied, together with that proposed by Naidu (2004). Each type has a clear definition of what it purports to cover. This is followed by a characterization of the positive and negative features of each methodology in order to qualify each study type. It is these features that would lift the study from a mere description of research types to the crucial evaluation of the rigour identifiable in 67 research articles sampled for analysis. A summary of the pre-specified notions (method types and characteristics of individual methods) is presented in table 1. Table 1: Types of research methodologies Category Descriptive: collection and reporting of data on organizations, programmes and processes. Case Study: in-depth study of one project, or one subject, presented in narrative form. Positive features Comprises valid and reliable data; reveals trends; innovative and charts new directions; contributes to what is already known; has validated measurement tools. Has a character, totality and a clear boundary; reflects some unity in the phenomenon being reported; seeks patterns, regularity, and commonality in the study. Negative features Tells nothing new; only reports what was done and why; boring; not creative or ambitious about description; crudely developed instruments Narrates a story; does not go beyond dry description; boring; not innovative; no critical analysis; crudely developed instruments. Mainly descriptive and narrative; data collected using crudely developed instruments
Correlation: involves Reveals a clear relationship; collecting data to provides estimation of how determine if, and to related the two variables are. what extent a relationship exists between two or more variables. Experimental: tests hypothesis concerning cause and effect of one variable on another.
Manipulates the independent Use of crudely developed variable to determine its effect instruments; poor control; on the dependent variable; descriptive presentation. subjects are assigned to experimental and control groups; systematic selection of subjects to eliminate bias. Aims at influencing decisionmaking; can be formative, summative, or monitoring evaluation; studies the impact and outcomes of processes designed to contribute to solution of a problem Narrates or describes phenomena; little evidence of critical analysis and judgment; data collected using crudely developed instruments.
Evaluation: studies the systematic acquisition of feedback on the use, worth, and impact of some object in relation to intended outcome.
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One negative feature characteristic of all five types is foreknowledge of outcome, that is, the researcher already knows the result before carrying out the study (Naidu, 2004). As an example, a topic like: “Problems faced by distance education learners at X College”, is not likely to surprise the reader mainly because problems of that nature might have already been researched into and are accessible in DE literature without necessarily conducting research. In some cases, an article can use multiple research methods, as when a case study combines with descriptive study. In the analysis of data, only the primary method will be recorded. In this case the study would be classified as a case study, and not a descriptive study. Each study was classified under the categories proposed by Panda (1992), and those for research methodology by Phipps and Merisotis (1999). Data interpretation was both statistical and qualitative. Statistically, frequencies and percentages were computed and conclusions drawn. Qualitatively, articles were subjected to analysis for purposes of determining the rigour evident in the use of each type of methodology. In particular, the positive and negative features of each methodology were used as criteria for quality evaluation. Limitations The main limitation of the study was that only two journals constituted sources of data for the 67 articles, while international journals which carried articles by Southern African researchers were excluded. Compared to the database of 890 articles drawn from four international journals in the study by Berge and Mrozowski (2004), the number of articles in the present study is severely limited. Given that limitation it can, however, be argued that the limitation is reflective of the infancy state of research in the region, where the number of journals is limited and the frequency of publishing is erratic. It is, nevertheless, progressive to start with what is available, though limited, than to wait for a period of plenty whose advent cannot be predicted. Closely linked with the above limitation is the one about applicability. In compliance with the academic mode of thinking, research results are meant to be externally valid and ipso facto transferable to comparative scenarios. If the database is limited, it follows that this has a constraining effect on applicability. Notwithstanding this logic, analysis of the articles in the current study has been conducted in depth. This is an important mitigating factor because in-depth discussion of little material gives more insight into comparable situations. Further, it is a defensible argument that effort has to begin at some point, and that such a point is probably now when developments in ODL are gathering momentum faster than during any decade since the 1950s. Results This section presents results in three parts. First are results on the priority areas of distance education research, followed with statistical results on the methodology types. The third section presents qualitative results based on interpretation of articles against the positive and negative criteria characterizing each methodology. The priority areas Table 2 below reflects the findings on the areas of research priority already alluded to, following Panda’s areas of research priority. Table 2: Distribution of areas of research priority in the articles (N= 67) Area 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Concept, growth and development Curriculum/course planning and development Instruction/teaching Media and technology Learners and learning No. of articles 7 4 11 10 13 Percentage 10.4 6.0 16.4 15.0 19.4
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6. Institutional policy and management 7. Economics (of distance education) 8. Evaluation (of a phenomenon) 9. Staff development 10. Research and scholarship Total
7 1 11 1 2 67
10.4 1.5 16.4 1.5 3.0 100
The majority of articles, 35 out of 67 or 52.2%, are on the three areas concerned with learner support, with the category of learners and learning at the top, followed by articles concerned with instruction/teaching and evaluation of learning processes (accounting for 16.4% each). This is followed by the area of media and technology in learning support that was covered by 10 (15 %) of the articles. Almost all the articles in this category were concerned with how media can best be used to support the learner. This category is largely about learner support and, hence, it raises the number of articles on learner support to 67%. The areas of next preference for researchers in Southern Africa are areas of concepts, growth and development, and institutional policy and management, each covered by 10.4% articles. Surprisingly, curriculum/course planning and development account for only 6%, while 3% articles were on research and scholarship category. What emerges from these results is that each of the ten areas of priority objectified using the analytical framework was represented in the literature, with learner support being the most preferred research area. This appears consistent with the literature, which indicates that pedagogy/learner support, as opposed to staff development, economics of DE and research and scholarship, are more commonly discussed. This resonates with the findings by Schlosser and Anderson (1994:16) that “because the field is so practical, research in distance education has been dominated by attempts to answer questions of immediate, practical significance. This led researchers to emphasise questions dealing with students”. It can be concluded that currently, research effort in the sub region is more focused on pedagogy; hence, there is much greater need for awareness to conduct research in other areas. Research literature shows a comprehensive and balanced accommodation of all the structural areas of DE research, which appears not to be the case in a preponderance of research conducted in Southern Africa. The type of methodologies Table 3 below lists categories of research methodologies; the first four by Phipps and Merisotis (1998) and the fifth one by Naidu (2004). The results of this investigation show that a majority of the 67 pieces of research used descriptive approach (40.2%), closely followed with case studies at 38.8%, evaluation studies (13.4%), then correlational (4.5%) and, finally, experimental studies (3.1%). Table 3: Categories of research methodology Category Descriptive study Case study Experimental study Correlational study Evaluation study Total No. of articles 27 26 2 3 9 67 % 40.2 38.8 3.1 4.5 13.4 100
Results in table 3 above, which show that all the five types of research methods are represented in distance education research carried out in Southern Africa is comparable to what obtains internationally (Berge and Mrozowski, 2004). Second, there is greater preference by researchers in Southern Africa for descriptive or case study methodologies over other research methods. In actual fact, as will be
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elucidated later, it is difficult to distinguish between these two methods. The results of this study show that where a descriptive was the primary method, more often than not, the case study method was used conjointly, and vice versa. However, a disturbing pattern was the dearth of experimental studies. The well-known argument in support of this trend is that experimental studies are most rigorous and scientific and less applicable to social settings. When viewed that way, the results probably show some inclination towards less rigorous research in DE studies conducted in Southern Africa. Qualitative analysis In undertaking qualitative analysis of the distance education research conducted in Southern Africa, this study considered the attribute of quality as excellence regarding the way categories of research priority, methodology, and structure were handled in the articles. As Cookson (2002:2) puts it, “excellence is the state of being good or superior relative to certain standards”. For example, a study on interactive learning is said to be of quality if the researcher shows a comparative perspective of the research area and chooses the most appropriate methodology against the criteria of reliable and valid data. In this regard, consideration was also given to innovativeness, revelation of trends in the discipline, generation of new directions and knowledge in the subject under investigation and the study’s contribution to existing knowledge. In exploring quality, the key features of each methodology type presented in table 1 were used to analyse the quality of research articles. Only 5 of the 27 descriptive studies reflected some of the positive criteria noted in table 1. One of the articles “Towards facilitating a human rights culture at a distance” (Progressio, 25(1) 2003), while dealing with the common theme of culture using a survey approach, goes beyond mere description to collect valid contextual data and contribute to how findings on human rights in distance education could be generalized to comparable situations. Similarly, the topic: “Using the Internet to keep track of new developments in distance education” (Progressio, 22(2) 2000), describes a context in which the internet is used in the conduct of DE. In the process the article manages to validate ways of managing learning. This represents an innovative way that charts new directions for DE providers. The article “Learning support in a severely underdeveloped context as experienced by distance learners” (International Journal of Open and Distance Learning 1(1) 2007), uses attitude scales and interviews to collect data in the context of a San community in the Kalahari. The description, though narrative, makes use of validated tools and reflects innovativeness when dealing with the subject. To demonstrate the effectiveness of this study, the Commonwealth Secretariat sponsored a conference (15-20 February 2009) in Botswana to look at ways of reaching nomadic populations in Africa. This was a follow-up to publication of the article and related circumstances. Good descriptive studies should bring out evidence of what happens in the field and meet reader expectations, otherwise “no one wants to read a description…if there is nothing inherently creative or ambitious about the process” (Naidu, 2004:3). However, a majority of studies that dealt with topics such as quality assurance, faceto-face interaction, teaching management, and learning materials used interviews, questionnaires and document analyses. While these are acceptable data collection tools, what was most striking was that the instruments, especially questionnaires, did not seem to have been carefully thought out or validated. On the other hand, a majority of the studies told nothing new other than simply reporting or narrating challenges faced by distance education learners. There was very little creativity, if any, about the approaches to the studies, and apart from specifying what was happening in a given situation, there was no attempt to go beyond by infusing what Mishra (1998) has called cross-cultural insights. These seems to agree with Naidu’s (2004:3) observations that there are more of bad than good studies and that “the bad ones, and there are plenty of these, are boring, and they tell you nothing new.”
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What the researcher thought was even more disturbing was the apparent possession of foreknowledge of the research outcome. It appeared individual researchers knew, for example, what the challenges were or what the benefits of face-to-face tutorials were even before collecting data. In essence, this defeated the whole purpose of conducting research. Commenting on this type of methodology, Minnis (1985) observed that “most research remains overwhelmingly descriptive. The focus is narrow, with emphasis on particular institutional problems”. Results from the present study revealed that in the context of Southern Africa the situation is very similar. On the other hand, studies that used case study methodology specified the context as well as challenges in a given aspect of distance education within an institution and then indentified institutional strategies used. This was followed by a defence of the ways used to overcome the challenges. Three out of 26 articles that were singled out as being most rigorous in the manner of reporting include “Managing a tutorial system: The UNISA ABET experience” (Progressio, 27(1) 2005), which was based on a survey of stakeholder views. This presented a clear boundary and a character of the case. Data collection was consistent with the instruments used, and the analysis led to conclusions that were considered to be truly representative of any DE case. Patterns of managing tutorials emerged and these could be applied to similar situations. Though the case study: “Perceptions as factors of media selection: A case of the University of Zambia” (International Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 3(1) 2009) made specific observations about the particular situation, the results were striking on account of the uniqueness of perceptions, though some were general. The study brought out some commonality as well as some divergence, which would be of interest to DE practitioners. In that regard the literature contributes to what is already known, albeit in a creative fashion. Similarly, the article “The effects of editing printbased materials on accessibility: a pilot study” (Progressio 27(2) 2005) made a related contribution. In fact, the requirements of a good case study research are not too different from those of a good descriptive research. A majority of case studies dealt with the themes of study materials, tutorial systems, electronic media usage, learner expectations, management of learners constraints faced by women learners, etc. Analysis of literature revealed certain trends. All studies tended to tell stories by describing phenomena, while in a majority of cases there was no focus on the innovativeness of what was being described. One would have expected critical analysis that would have led to novel insights that could be generalized to populations. The use of instruments such as oral interviews did not tap into issues supposed to be guided by DE theories. The narratives move pedestrian fashion; for example description of a delivery technology or how a regional manager manages a region. This has led some scholars to criticizing this research type as weak (Mitchell, 1991). In other words, the majority of research publications, across the five methodology types, are characterized by the sort of ordinariness that rouses little excitement or surprise in the reader. Regarding correlation, evaluation, and experimental studies, there are few of these. The point to make is that what was analysed of these studies bore similarities with the two that have already been discussed. This is in terms of choice of instruments, innovativeness and contribution to knowledge. As in descriptive and case study research, there were exceptions of good studies in all three. On experimental research it would noted that it is the only type of research that can truly test hypotheses concerning cause and effect relationships. It is known for being objective and can contribute new knowledge. However, out of 67 articles only two were experimental, and both from the International Journal of Open and Distance Learning (2007 & 2009). The article on “Insights from the Socratic Method” based its conclusions on the performance of two groups (dependent variable) following application of two different methods of tutoring (independent variable). The results
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were instructive, and led to a review of face-to-face teaching methods by at least two institutions, which had come across the article. The article: “Comparison of distance education modes of training teachers in Ghana”, which examined the use of DE in teacher education used purposive and simple random sampling techniques. Four hypotheses were formulated and tested using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). The study revealed statistically significant differences among teachers exposed to various modes of training. Unfortunately, few researchers engage in experimental studies. Secondly, the only two systematic studies analysed showed greater potential to contribute to knowledge that could readily be applied in solving DE problems. However, the result that there are not many experimental studies does not come as a surprise when the scenario is compared with research elsewhere. Naidu (2004) found that the studies he analysed were of survey and descriptive in nature, of which less than one-third were experimental. This is significantly higher than for Southern African, where only 3.1% of the studies were experimental. Discussion This investigation was guided by questions on the structure of DE research; whether research in Southern Africa meets expectations and the methodologies commonly used. Presently, we look at the implications drawn from the findings, bearing in mind conclusions drawn in the previous section and the theoretical views spelt out in the literature review. Recommendations will then be made as a way of improving the quality of research. One of the conclusions is that there is a dominance of articles whose emphasis is on the interests of practitioners. This was evident in the high number of articles in the area of learner support, teaching and interactive learning. On the other hand, there were important research areas, including economics, staff development and scholarship, that did not receive much attention. The implication is that research has not yet matured enough to be as inclusive as would be expected in the progress of DE as a discipline. It is, therefore, recommended that researchers make a more conscious effort to broaden their research interests. It was also concluded that most research remains overwhelmingly descriptive and narrowly focused on institutional problems. This trend makes it difficult to come up with generalizations beyond the specific case studies, let to apply to the rest of the sub region. It is, therefore, recommended that practitioners develop, as a matter of academic priority, cross-cultural and national and regional comparative perspectives. The weak methodological footing, noted as a trend in the articles, calls for re-tooling of researchers. The re-tooling activity implies that institutions should make a conscious effort to expose professionals and any interested DE stakeholders to ideas about practitioner research and, in particular, to more rigorous methodologies. This can best be done through staff development courses for practitioners. The scarcity of experimental research has already been noted and given that such research has the potential to yield more meaningful results, the need to engage more in experimental research cannot be overemphasised. Admittedly, experimental research is hard to carry out properly in DE contexts due to the difficulty of controlling for confounding variables in such open settings. However, the increasing effort to conduct research in many of our institutions suggests that researchers in the region cannot continue to eschew studies of an experimental nature. Innovativeness, retooling, and academic commitment should be foundational to research efforts. To move away from mediocre research, characterised by ordinariness, it is needful to embrace empiricism. One trend that was also noted in the majority of articles is the lack of sound theoretical underpinning for researched topics. In order to conduct studies more effectively, researchers are well advised to support such efforts with theoretical ideas
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that will serve as a framework for investigation. In the absence of such grounding, research effort becomes a hit and miss affair, risking guesswork, which is anathema to scholarship. The four general concerns noted above as evidence of trends in DE research are focus on a limited number of areas of research priority, a weak methodological base that is largely descriptive and focusing mainly on institutional problems, the scarcity of experimental research and the lack of theoretical grounding. These trends lead to a formulation a ‘theory of ordinariness’, which applicable to any research endeavour where the quality of excellence is compromised because of the prevalence of the four characteristics. Ordinariness is typified by overt reliance on the commonsensical rather than the empirical when making a research presentation. Ordinariness theory hypothesises that there is a lack of innovativeness and a dependence on narrating institutional platitudes. From that perspective, research literature brings out evidence of limited applicability that fails to meet expectations of what we should see happening in DE as a discipline. However, I wish to argue that ordinariness typifies a passing phase in the research culture of a given environment. In Southern Africa, DE research is still in its early stage - the infancy stage. It is characterised by a great deal of enthusiasm to inform, but limited skill and training. This stage passes when training is consciously sought in order to appreciate the scope and procedures rated to be more scholarly. The direct result would be a maturing research orientation evident in the quality of excellence in works of research. In the conscious furtherance of DE research, organisations should consciously strive to identify barriers (cf. barriers already discussed in the section dealing with theoretical grounding) in their situations, and address them squarely guided by lessons drawn from comparable circumstances. Contribution In view of the foregoing, the major contribution of this study is that it informs. By discussing the structural characteristics of DE research, it fed back into the theory of the discipline by characterising priority areas of research into categories. The research demonstrated that both the categories of priority areas and those of methodology types can be used as analytical frameworks applicable to the adjudication of literature. The study also illustrated how specific criteria, negative and positive, can be used to determine the quality of journal articles. In the process, the issue of rigour was demonstrated. In view of the quality of the majority of articles, and informed by comparison with research findings elsewhere, the study came up with the ordinariness theory. Above all, the investigation established trends in research efforts in Southern Africa. Now that this initial exploratory study is in place, aspiring researchers can tap on the findings and shape their research focus from a more informed perspective. In addition, this study promotes debate in the critical area of scholarship. Conclusion This paper aims at stimulating constructive scholarly debate. In addition, the paper seeks to share reflections on the status of scholarship in the sub-region. Distance education has, over the years, distinguished itself from the conventional education systems and is developing research methodologies unique to it, albeit, areas where it overlaps with conventional education. Southern Africa has embraced DE as a viable system that brings with it numerous measurable benefits. For that reason, this study set out to explore trends and directions in research scholarship in the field, fed back into existing theory, and led to formulation of ordinariness theory on the basis of proven facts about the structure and content of the articles reviewed. It is hoped that the study has triggered meaningful debate that should lead to an improved awareness of what is at stake for the innovative practitioner in the nascent field of distance education.
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References Austin, T.X. (2009). Horizon Report. New Media Consortium. Berge, Z. L. & Mrozowski, S. (2004). Review of research in distance education 19901999. Practitioner research and evaluation skills training in open and distance learning. Vancouver: Commonwealth of Learning. Berge, Z.L., Muilenburg, L.Y., & Haneghan, J.V. (2002). Barriers to distance education and training: Survey results. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 3(4): 409-418 Calvert, J. (1986). Research in Canadian distance education. In Mugridge, I. and Kaufmen, D. (eds.) Distance Education in Canada. London: Croom Helm Calvert, J. (1995). Mapping knowledge in distance education. In One world many voices: Quality in open and distance learning, 17th World conference Proceedings. D. Stewart (Ed.) p. 384-388. Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. Cho, S.K. & Berge, Z. L. (2002). Overcoming barriers to distance training and education. Education at a Distance, USDLA Journal Vol. 16 (1): 101-108 Cookson, P.S. 2002. Access and equity in distance education: research and development and quality concerns. Keynote address at the Annual Conference of the Asian Association of Open Universities. New Delhi. Daniel, J. (2002). Why research in distance learning? Conference paper at CRIDALA Conference. Hong Kong. Dohmen, G. (1977). Das Fernstudium, Ein neues padagogisches. Tubingen:Diff Evans, T. (2000). The strategic importance of institutional research in open universities: building on reflective practitioner. Indian Journal of Open Learning. 9(1): 1-12. Evans, T. & Jakupec, V. (1996). Research ethics in open and distance education: context, principles, and issues. Distance Education 17(1): 72-94. Gupta, A. K & Renu, A. (1986). Survey of recent Indian writings on distance education. Distance education, 7(2): 281-288. Holmberg, B. (1987). The development of distance education research. The American Journal of Distance Education, 1(3): 16-23. Holmberg, B. (1981). Status and trends of distance education. London: Kogan Page. Holmberg, B. (1996). The discipline of distance education: character and scope in the 1990s. Epistolodidaktika, (1): 5-36. Jeffries, M. (2009). Research in Distance Education. http://www.digitalschool.net/edu/DL.history_mjeffries.html (Retrieved 13/11/2009) Jegede, O.J. (1991). Constructivist epistemology and its implications for contemporary research in distance learning. Paper presented at the second seminar on RIDE, Deakin University, Australia, November 19-21. Keegan, D. (1990). Foundations of Distance Education. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge. Koul, B.N. (2000). Growth and philosophy of distance education. STRIDE: IGNOU. Minnis, J.R. 1985. Ethnography case studies, grounded theory and distance education research. Distance Education, 6(2): 189-198. Mishra, S. (1998). Distance education research: A review of its structure, methodological issues and priority areas. Indian Journal of Open Learning, 7(3): 267-282.
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Moore, M. (1973). Toward a theory of independent learning and teaching. Journal of Higher Education 44: 661-679. Moore, M. (1985). Some observation on current research in distance education. Epistolodidaktika, 1: 32-62. Moore, M. (1988). Editorial: The American Symposium on research in distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education. 24: 133-151 Naidu, S. (2004). Research, scholarship and publishing in Distance Education. Retrieved 22 August 2009 from http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/carfax Panda, S. (1992). Distance education research in India: stock-taking, concerns and prospects. Distance Education, 13(2): 309-326. Peters, O. (1971). Theoretical aspects of correspondence instruction. In O. Mackenzie, and E.L. Christensen, (Eds.).The changing world of correspondence study. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press. Phipps, R. & Merisotis, J. (1999). What is the difference? A review of contemporary research on the effectiveness of distance education in higher education. Institute for Higher Education Policy. Retrieved 13 November 2009 from http://www.irrodl.org/V1.html Saba, F. & Twitchell, D. (1988). “Research in distance education: a system modelling approach”. American Journal of Distance Education, 2(1): 9-24. Schlosser, C.A. & Anderson, M. L. (1994). Distance education review of literature. Ames, IA: Research Institute for students in education, College of Education. Iowa State University. Sherry, L. (1996). Issues in distance learning. International Journal of Educational telecommunications, 1(4): 337-365. Sherry, L. (2009). http://carbon.cudenver.edu-lsherry/pubs/issues.html (Retrieved 1201-2010) Tichapondwa, S.M & Tau, D.R. (2009). Introducing Distance Education in new environments. Vancouver: Commonwealth of Learning Tichapondwa, S.M. (2008). The effects of a course in classroom text and discourse on oracy in high school classrooms. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis. University of South Africa. Wedemeyer, C.A. (1977). Independent Study. In A.S. Knowles (ed.). The International Encyclopaedia of Higher Education. 5: 2114-2132.
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Challenges faced by Distance Education Learners: A case study of Kyambogo University, Uganda
R. Chireshe, Walter Sisulu University D. Okot & A. Otto, Kyambogo University, Uganda Abstract This paper reports the results of an exploratory study that investigated the challenges faced by distance learners on the Diploma in Education Primary External (DEPE) programme at Kyambogo University in Uganda. A sample of one hundred (N=100) second and third year distance learners from Kibuli, Lodonga, and Christ the King centres took part in the study. A survey design was used. The SPSS version 10.0 was used to analyze the data. The study identified a number of challenges being faced by DEPE students. The challenges include lack of time and resources, work pressures and responsibilities, domestic interruptions, isolation, death in the family, slow feedback, inaccessibility of counsellors, late delivery of modules and financial problems. Recommendations, based on the findings, are made on how to alleviate some of the challenges. Background to the study The Institute of Teacher Education, Kyambogo University, (ITEK) introduced the Diploma in Education Primary External (DEPE) in May 1999 to meet the high demand for Universal Primary Education (UPE). Primary school teachers were to upgrade themselves through distance learning. This is in line with the general belief that distance education provides unparalleled opportunities for students in remote rural areas and in-service teachers who want to study while working (Dhanarajan, 2000; Bertram, 2000). Distance learning is always considered as an important form of acquiring education and knowledge especially for those learners who need flexibility in time, space and objective. In distance learning the tutor and the student are separated in time and/or location. Beside flexibility, distance learning makes it possible for learners to access high-quality courses from the best educational institutes around the world, instead of being restricted to what is available to them locally (Kamran, 2005). Literature on distance education programmes tends to suggest that distance learners encounter many challenges in their studies (Akinade, 1998). Research further states that the benefits of distance learning notwithstanding, distance learners still face several challenges such as higher dropout rates compared to campus based learning (Kamran, 2005). Other challenges faced by distance learners include lack of time, work pressures and responsibilities, domestic interruptions, isolation and shortage of finance (Chireshe & Peresuh in press; Bharati, 2004; Jegede & Kirkwood, 1994; Mclntoch, 1974; Molefi, 1998; Perraton, 1993; Rowntree, 1992; Thorpe, 1988). Dass (2001), on the other hand, identified time management and study related problems as two major challenges faced by distance learners in Malaysia. According to Gous, Haasbroek, Gieyling and Du Toit (1982), distance learners are adults who have missed or had no earlier opportunities for academic and professional advancement. Most of these learners lack post-school education; hence, student problems such as writing and language fluency are both understandable and more acute among distance learners. This observation is supported by Purvis (1979) who contends that reading and learning skills of distance learners are generally poor. As a result, some distance learners find it very difficult to read a unit or take notes. Meanwhile, Gous et al., (1982) have suggested that the challenges of distance learners usually fall into one or more categories that include time management, lack of concentration, motivation to study, personal or emotional difficulties. Daniel and Maquins (1983) argue that although distance learners are usually highly
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motivated, they often find family and professional obligations competing with their studies for the little spare time they have available. In addition to shortage of time, Mapfumo (1995 a), Molefi (1998) and Chireshe & Peresuh (in press) have pointed that distance learners lack access to library facilities where they find much needed resources for their assignments. Mapfumo (1995a) further argues that most distance learners are physically far away from the institutions that provide tuition, that is, they are isolated from lecturers and other learners. They will therefore spend long hours working on their own with no one to ask or assist immediately. Further, they do not receive regular feedback from lecturers that fulltime students would normally get. This isolation results in frustration and poor performance in coursework and examinations. Furthermore, distance learners have little academic and psychological support from their families (Bharati, 2004). Besides isolation, Purvis (1979) feels that distance learners may receive a raw deal from part-time tutors. For part-time tutors, pressure of work elsewhere and/or lack of motivation may prevent them from becoming academically competent in the areas they teach, thus disadvantaging their students. Distance learners do not receive as much of the educational guidance as they need (Mapfumo, 1995 b; Bharati, 2004). There is no doubt that students need services that enhance their problem solving skills in personal, family and career-related matters. It has been observed by professionals and students that distance learning tutors lack adequate training in guidance and counselling. Therefore, challenges faced by distance learners who need guidance and counselling sevices are not always well looked after (Mapfumo, 1995b). In view of the above information on challenges faced by distance learners, the present study sought to investigate the challenges experienced by distance learners enrolled on the DEPE programme at Kyambogo University, with a view to coming up with some possible solutions and recommendations. The findings of this study may empower Kyambogo University to plan and revive its student support systems so as to make it more appropriate to the needs of the distance learners. Student support systems are an important factor in student learning and distance education (Morse & Turman, 1996; Kinyanjui, 1998). In addition, the results of this exploratory study may suggest potential research areas for future investigation. At the local level, the researcher is not aware of formal systematic research undertaken at Kyambogo University to establish the challenges faced by distance learners. Since the University intends to establish degree programmes by distance in future, it is necessary to establish the challenges faced by those already studying by distance and use the findings to enhance future distance education programmes. Statement of the problem A survey of the literature has demonstrated that distance learners face a number of challenges (Bharati, 2004; Perraton, 1993; Purvis, 1979; Daniel & Maquins 1983; Mapfumo, 1995a; Chireshe & Peresuh, in press; Kamran, 2005; Dass, 2001; Jegede & Kirkwood, 1994). Accordingly, this study investigated challenges faced by Diploma in Education Primary External (DEPE) students at Kyambogo University and whether these were affected by learners’ demographic characteristics. Hypotheses The following hypotheses were formulated for this study: 1. There are no significant differences in the challenges faced by male and female students. 2. There are no significant differences in the challenges faced by students from different centres. Methodology Design
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A survey design, which was mainly quantitative, was used in this study. Preference for survey design was informed by a desire to cover a wide geographical area and achieve greater representativeness and extrapolation of the findings. In addition, the quantitative approach was considered most appropriate to explore relationships and test hypotheses. Sample The sample for this study was drawn from all second and third year Diploma in Education Primary External (DEPE). The purpose and importance of the study were explained to the learners prior to their participation. The sample comprised 100 second and third year DEPE students from Kibuli (40), Lodonga (30), and Christ the King Gulu (30) centres. The three centres were chosen to ensure representativeness in terms urban, rural, and remote centres and even Internally Displaced Centres (IDC). The sample comprised 51 males and 49 females. Instrument The researchers adopted a structured questionnaire used by Chireshe and Peresuh (in press) in a study of challenges faced by distance learners of the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU). The instrument, which appears in the appendix 1, had a correlation coefficient of 0.8. Finally, this questionnaire had also been used on a sample of learners whose characteristics were similar those of learners on the current study. Procedure The researchers personally distributed the questionnaire to volunteer second and third year Diploma in Education Primary External (DEPE) learners at Kibuli, Lodonga, and Christ the King centres during the January 2008 face-to-face sessions. Data analysis Quantitative data from this study was analysed using the Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 10.0. The responses from the open-ended items were analysed by using a theme analysis approach where dominant themes within the data emerged and were highlighted. Results Table 1 shows major challenges experienced by that the research sample include time shortage, role conflict, library inaccessibility, work pressure, and lack of study skills, exam preparation techniques, and counselling facilities, unfair marking, slow turnaround time, financial challenges and death in the family. However, Chi-square analysis showed that there were no significant differences on the effect of challenges on female and male students; hence the hypothesis that there were no significant gender-wise differences in the challenges could not be rejected. Table 1: Distribution of students’ responses by gender (N=100) VARIAB RESPONSE LE CHI-SQUARE CHALLENGES TEST STATISTIC Gend Yes No er
Male Enough time Female Male Enough resources Female Male Colleagues near 4 (7.8%) 4 (8.0%) 5 (9.8%) 16(32.7 %) 32(62.7 %) 47(92.2 %) 45(91.8 %) 46(90.2 %) 33(67.3 %) 19(37.3 %) X2 = 0.003; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2 = 7.86; df=1; p<0.05 significant X2=3.20; df=1;p>0.05 Non
R. Chireshe & A. Otto 22(44.9 %) 35(68.6 %) 39(79.6 %) 43(84.3 %) 42(85.7 %) 46(90.2 %) 46(81.6 %) 14(27.5 %) 9 (18.4%) 44(86.3 %) 38(77.6 %) 44(86.3 %) 41(83.7 %) 16(31.4 %) 14(28.6 %) 40(78.4 %) 27(55.1 %) 6 (11.8%) 6 (12.2%) 1 (2.0%) 2 (4.1%) 19(37.3 %) 18(36.7 %) 29(56.9 %) 13(26.5 %) 8 (15.7%) 3 (6.1%) 16(31.4 %) 13(26.5 %) 27(55.1 %) 16(31.4 %) 10(20.4 %) 8(15.7% ) 7(14.3% ) 5(9.8%) 9(18.4% ) 36(72.5 %) 40(81.6 %) 7(13.7% ) 11(22.4 %) 7(13.7% ) 8(16.3% ) 35(68.6 %) 35(71.4 %) 11(21.6 %) 22(44.9 %) 45(88.2 %) 43(87.8 %) 50(98.0 %) 47(95.9 %) 32(62.7 %) 31(63.3 %) 22(43.1 %) 36(73.5 %) 43(84.3 %) 46(93.9 %) 35(68.6 %) 36(73.5 %)
Female Male Role conflict Female Male Work pressure Female Male Domestic interruptions Female Male Library accessible Female Male Problems in study skills Female Male Exam preparation Female Male Female Male Facilitator incompetence Female Male Female Male Female Male Easy access to facilitator Female Male Female Male Female Male Marking fair Female Illness by close relative/spouse Assignments marked and returned on time Knowing programme counsellor Have easy accessibility to counsellor Out of school for more than 10 years
significant X2=1.56; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=0.38; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=1.52; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=2.26; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=1.29; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=0.13; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=0.09; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=6.15; df=1;p<0.05 significant X2=0.01; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=0.39; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=0.003; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=9.44; df=1;p<0.05 significant X2=2.34; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=0.29; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant
R. Chireshe & A. Otto 10(19.6 %) 6 (12.2%) 43(84.3 %) 41(83.7 %) 47(92.2 %) 45(91.8 %) 21(41.2 %) 38(77.6 %) 26(52.0 %) 30(61.2 %) 41(80.4 %) 43(87.8 %) 8(15.7% ) 8(16.3% ) 4(7.8%) 4(8.2%) 30(58.8 %) 11(22.4 %) 24(48.0 %) 19(38.8 %)
Male Leisure time Female Male Was orientation useful Female Male Have financial problems Female Male Female Male Death in the family Female Accommodation problems during face to face
X2=0.01; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=0.01; df=1;p>0.05 Non significant X2=0.003; df=1 p>0.05 Non significant X2=13.67; df=1; p<0.05 significant X2=0.86; df=1; p>0.05 Non significant
However, the Chi-square statistics in table 1 also show that there were significant differences between male and female students concerning shortage of resources, incompetency of facilitators, relatives falling ill and shortage of accommodation during face-to-face sessions. More female students said there were no resources, facilitators were incompetent and that accommodation was a problem for face-to-face sessions then male students. Also more male students indicated that they were being affected by the illness of their close relatives/spouses than female students. Table 2 shows that there were no significant differences in perceptions of students grouped according to study centre concerning shortage of time and other resources, role conflict, work pressure, inaccessibility of library, examination preparation, accessibility of counsellors and facilitators, unfair marking, slow assignments feedback, financial challenges and death in the family. On the basis of these results, the hypothesis that there are no significant differences in the challenges faced by students from the 3 different centres cannot be rejected. Table 2: Students’ response to Yes/No items by centre (N=100) Variable
Centre Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Colleagues near by Enough resources Enough time
Yes 3(5.0% ) 3(10.0 %) 3(10.0 %) 12(30. 0%) 6(20.0 %) 3(10.0 %) 18(45. 0%) 19(63. 3%) 17(56. 7%) No 38(95. 0%) 27(90. 9%) 27(90. 9%) 28(70. 0%) 24(80. 0%) 27(90. 0%) 22(55. 0%) 11(36. 7%) 13(43. 3%)
Chi-square test statistic
X²=0.82; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=4.12; df=2: p>0.05 Non significant
X²=2.44; df=2: p>0.05 Non significant
R. Chireshe & A. Otto 32(80. 0%) 20(66. 7%) 22(73. 3%) 37(92. 5%) 24(80. 0%) 24(80. 0%) 35(87. 5%) 22(73. 3%) 29(96. 7%) 7(17.5 %) 8(26.7 %) 8(26.7 %) 34(85 %) 20(66. 7%) 28(93. 3%) 34(85 %) 24(80 %) 27(90. 0%) 14(35. 0%) 10(33. 3%) 6(20.0 %) 22(55. 5%) 21(70. 0%) 24(80. 0%) 5(12.5 %) 2(6.7% ) 5(16.7 %) 0(0.0% ) 2(6.7% ) 8(20.0 %) 10(33. 3%) 8(26.7 %) 3(7.5% ) 6(20.0 %) 6(20.0 %) 5(12.5 %) 8(26.7 %) 1(3.3% ) 33(82. 5%) 22(73. 3%) 22(73. 3%) 6(15.0 %) 10(33. 3%) 2(6.7% ) 6(15.0 %) 6(20.0 %) 3(10%) 26(65. 0%) 20(66. 7%) 24(80. 0%) 18(45. 0%) 9(30.0 %) 6(20.0 %) 35(87. 5) 28(93. 3%) 25(83. 3%) 40(100 %) 28(93. 3%) X²=2.06; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Have easy accessibility to counsellors Knowing programme counsellors Facilitator incompetence Out of school for more than 10 years Exam preparation Problems in study skills Library accessible Domestic interruptions Work pressure Role conflict
X²=1.59: df=2; p>0.05 Significant
X²=2.94; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=6.91; df=2; p<0.05 Significant
X²=1.14; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=7.634; df=2; p>0.05 Significant
X²=1.18; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=5.02; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=0.21; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant X²=1.44; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
R. Chireshe & A. Otto 1(3.3% ) 14(35. 0%) 15(50. 0%) 8(26.7 %) 6(15.0 %) 19(63. 3%) 17(56. 7%) 1(2.5% ) 4(13.3 %) 6(20.0 %) 13(32. 5%) 6(20.0 %) 10(33. 3%) 5(12.5 %) 4(13.3 %) 7(23.3 %) 33(82. 5%) 24(80. 0%) 27(90 %) 37(92. 5%) 28(93. 3%) 27(90. 0%) 24(60. 0%) 23(76. 7%) 12(40. 0%) 22(55. 0%) 18(60. 0%) 16(55. 2) 25(83. 3%) 26(65. 0%) 15(50. 0%) 22(73. 3%) 26(65. 0%) 11(36. 7%) 13(43. 3%) 39(97. 5%) 26(86. 7%) 24(80. 0%) 27(67. 5%) 24(80. 0%) 20(66. 7%) 35(87. 5%) 26(86. 7%) 23(76. 7%) 7(17.5 %) 6(20.0 %) 3(10.0 %) 3(7.5% ) 2(6.7% ) 3(10.0 %) 16(40. 0%) 7(23.3 %) 18(60. 0%) 18(45. 0%) 12(40. 0%) 1344.8 %)
Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Kibuli Christ the king Lodonga Death in the family Accommodation problems during faceto-face Have financial problems Was orientation useful? Leisure time Making fair Assignment marked and returned on time Illness by close relative/spouse Easy access to facilitator
X²=3.62; df=2: p>0.05 Non significant
X²=3.62; df=2: p>0.05 Significant
X²=5.60; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=1.69; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=123; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=1.23; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=0.25; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
X²=8.36; df=2; p>0.05 Significant
X²=0.21; df=2; p>0.05 Non significant
The Chi-square statistics in table 2 also show that students from the 3 centres significantly differed on how they were affected by the following challenges; domestic
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interruptions, study skills, relatives falling ill and shortage of accommodation for face to face sessions. More students from Christ the King centre revealed that they were not affected by domestic interruptions and study skills issues than those from other centres. The majority of students from Kibuli centre indicated that they were not affected by the illness of close relative/spouse than students from other centres. The majority of the students from Lodonga centre indicated that accommodation for faceto-face was not a challenge for them than students from other centres. Discussion The study revealed that Diploma in Education Primary External (DEPE) learners encountered a number of challenges such as lack of time, lack of resources, study skills and exam preparation, domestic interruptions, unfair marking, inaccessibility of counsellors and facilitators, delay in feedback, financial problems and death in the family. This finding on challenges faced by distance learners is consistent with international literature (Chireshe and Peresuh in press; Bhurati; 2004; Jegede & Kirkwood, 1994, Mclntosh, 1974: Molefi, 1998; Perraton, 1993: Rowntree, 1992: Dass, 2001). The finding on counsellor inaccessibility reflects Mapfumo’s (1995b) conclusion that distance learners do not receive much attention in terms of guidance and counselling. The study also revealed that learner perceptions concerning challenges encountered were not influenced by gender and study centre. However, the study revealed that female students were affected more by shortage of resources, facilitator competency and accommodation problems during face-to-face sessions than male students. More female students could have reported facing accommodation challenges because women are naturally particular about where they sleep unlike men and could have disliked the available accommodation which is normally used by student teachers. The study also further revealed that more male learners were affected by illness of relatives/spouse than their female counterparts. This could be a result of traditional structures that puts responsibility for families on men who, accordingly, are the first to receive information about family problems, including illnesses affecting extended family and relatives. However, centre-wise results revealed that more students from Christ the King centre were affected more by challenges to do with domestic interruption and study skills than learners from the other two centres. Christ the King centre in Gulu is essentially an Internally Displaced Camp (IDC), where there are rough living conditions. These conditions may be a source of domestic problem and may not be conducive to the development of good study skills among learners. On the other hand, a majority of learners from Kibuli centre were less affected by illness of relatives/spouses. This could be due to the fact that Kibuli is predominantly a peri-urban centre. Most learners under Kibuli centre live in and around Kampala city where living conditions are far much better than those in small towns or rural areas. A majority of learners from Lodonga centre, meanwhile, reported that accommodation was not a problem for them. This could be attributed to the fact that the 2006/2007 enrolment for the centre was much less than the expected 250 learners. The low enrolment had created more accommodation space in the centre for learners. Finally, a finding that learners faced challenges like late delivery of modules, late release of results, and unpreparedness of some facilitators may be related to Purvis’ (1979) idea that distance learners normally receive a raw deal from part-time tutors. This is mainly a result of the part-time nature of the job of distance education tutors. Conclusion and recommendations This study shows that there were a number of challenges faced by Diploma in Education Primary External (DEPE) learners in Kyambogo University, which may interfere with their studies. Accordingly, the following recommendations are made on
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the basis of the findings of this study.
1. DEPE should come up with a strong support to help in adaptive response that
would assist students in issues like time management study skills, exam preparations, managing role conflict, balancing studies and family issues. DEPE can have learner support services unit/section looking after these issues. During face-to-face sessions each centre should have at least one counsellor for guidance and counselling to address students’ issues. 2. Competent facilitators should be engaged. This might help overcome the problems of delayed feedback and fairness of marking assignments. These facilitators should be continuously in-serviced on distance education delivery mode to enhance their competencies thus, ensuring provision of quality support to students. 3. Modules should be delivered well in advance for the learners to access. 4. Results should be released on time as this will act as a motivation for students. References Adekanmbi, G. (1999). A Comment on the Education and Training of Distance Education Practitioners in Africa. Centre for Continuing Education, University of Botswana. Chireshe, R. & Peresuh, M. (in press). Problems faced by Zimbabwe open University distance Education students: A case study in Masvingo Region, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Bulletin of teacher Education. Bharati. S. (2005). learner-Institute Interaction and Third World Dilemmas: Turkish online Journal of Distance Education, 5(1) Retrieved 24 May 2008. Bertram, C. (2000). A mixed mode: Distance education Model for Teacher Education: Rational, Students experiences and quality. A paper presented at the 2nd National NADEOSA Conference, 21-22 August. Daniel, J. S. & Marquins, C. (1983). Interaction and Independence: Getting the Mixture Right. In D. Stewart: D. Keegan & Holmberg (Eds). Distance Education: International perspectives. New York: St Martin’s Press Inc. Dass, L. (2001). Exploring problems and coping mechanism of distance learners: A University Sains Malaysia Profile. Malaysia Journal of Distance Education, 3(1): 1-21 Dhanarajan, G (2000). Education in knowledge societies. A plenary key note speech delivered at the 11th General Conference of the National Association of Universities, Durban, South Africa. Gous, J., Hasbroek, D.B., Greyliung, H.T., & Du Toit, A.H. (1982). Effective study Series 3, South Africa University of South Africa (UNISA): Pretoria Student Services Bureau. Jegede, O. J & Kirkwood, J. (1994) Students’ anxiety in learning through Distance Education. Distance Education, 15(2): 279-290. Kamran, S.M. (2005). Evaluating the possibilities and problems of distributed Multimedia technologies in the development of online collaborative Learning Environment. Unpublished Masters’ Thesis, Royal institute of technology, Sweden
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Kinyanjui, P. (1998). Distance Education and Open Learning in Africa: What works or does not work. EDI/World bank Workshop on Teacher Education through Distance Learning, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mapfumo, J.S. (1995a). Learning to learn at a distance. Harare: University of Zimbabwe. Mapfumo, J.S. (1995b). Review of Guidance and Counselling Services in Distance University Open London: Routeldge & Kegan Page. Molefe. F. (1998). Support services for Distance Education Student at the department of Non Formal Education. A paper presented at the Distance Education Workshop for Setswana Part-Time Writers, Gaborone, Botswana. Morse, L.C & Turman, B. (1996). A distance education infrastructure. On line internet. http://wings.buffalo.edu/publication/mcjm/v41/froria/html. Retrieved on 21 November 2007.Perraton, H. (1982). Alternative routes to formal education: Distance teaching for school equivalency. Bulletrieve: John Hopkins University press. Purvis, J. (1979). Some problems of Teaching and Learning within the Open University. Education Research, 2:163-177. Rowntree, D. (1992). Exploring Open and Distance learning. London: Kegan Page. Thorpe, M. (1988). Evaluating Open and Distance Learning. Longman: Harlow. APPENDIX 1 Male…………… Item
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Female………Centre…………….. Brief description of Item Yes No
Show your response by a tick
Do you have enough time for your studies? Are there enough resources for your studies? Do you have colleagues nearby to consult when you encounter problems in your studies? Are you experiencing role conflict as a result of being a worker/parent? Are you studies negatively affected by work pressures and responsibilities? Are there any domestic interruptions and demands interfering with your studies? Is the library easily accessible to you? Have you encountered problems in study skills? Have you encountered problems in exam preparation? Have you been out of formal school for more than 10 years now? Are your tutors/facilitators competent? Do you know your programme counsellor? Do you have easy access to your tutors/ facilitator? Has your close relative/spouse been ill for some time now? Are your assignments marked and returned to your on time? Is the marking for assignments fair? Do your studies leave you with leisure time? Was your fist orientation/induction into DEPE very useful? Do you have financial problems that pertain to your studies? Is accommodation for face to face sessions a problem for you? Did you have death in the family during the past year?
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List any other problems not given above …………………………................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................... ... Thank you for taking part in this study
Engaging Action Research in Post-Literacy (PL) Materials’ Development: The Case of the National University of Lesotho-Institute of Extra-Mural Studies
M. Mofana-Semoko Institute of Extra-Mural Studies, National University of Lesotho Abstract This paper reports the findings of an action research investigation of the development of post-literacy (PL) materials by learners of an adult education degree programme of the National University of Lesotho’s Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (NUL-IEMS). The PL materials were also used to gain insight into workplace problems of organizations represented by learners. Finally, a review of literature on action research as a form of collective, self-reflective inquiry that participants in social situations undertake to improve practices provided a framework for this study. Two question guides were used to collect information on learners’ levels of PL materials writing skills and their awareness of the writing process. Focus group discussions were also used to explore learners’ feelings and knowledge of the writing process. The results show that learners did not have relevant PL materials writing skills, but had skills related to community development, problem solving, extension work, health issues and community level conflict resolution. Several problems experienced by learners in the writing of PL materials are also reported. Over a seven-year period, commencing 2001/02 academic year, PL materials from learners were collected almost consistently in each four month semester. The materials were designed to address workplace and community level problems, including management issues, community development, vocational education, technological, health, legal, civic, environmental, agricultural and entrepreneurship issues. The study concludes that learners were generally happy with their PL materials. Introduction One of the programmes offered by IEMS, an institute of the National University of Lesotho, is a degree in adult education. Two literacy courses on the adult education degree programme, Adult Literacy Teaching Methods and Media Techniques in Community Education, provide the subject and focus of this investigation. These two courses require learners to develop post-literacy (PL) materials that could be used in their work situations. Accordingly, this study investigates the issues of literacy concern within the organizations that learners work for and how these concerns could be addressed by the PL materials developed by learners on the two courses. The overall aim of the study was to improve IEMS provision of literacy courses through the use of action research methodology using adult learners in the Year I and Year III of the adult education degree programme. The paper begins by providing a context of the study by briefly outlining the literacy context of Lesotho. The paper then outlines the concept of action research and its relevance for this study. It then moves on to describing the action research process at IEMS. Literacy context of Lesotho In 2001 Lesotho’s adult literacy rate was 73.7% for males and 90.3% for females (Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, 2004). The overall functional literacy rate was 57% in 1997, that is, those who are able to use their reading and writing skills profitably (Ministry of Education and Training, 2000). However, the literacy levels of these people who achieve literacy through school or adult education often
deteriorates because they do not use them frequently. Therefore there is urgent need to find ways to develop post literacy (PL) skills at varying levels for these people. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) is committed to the provision of alternative educational opportunities to people who did not have access to formal education. It is committed to the 1990 Dakar Declaration of education for all (EFA). It is doing this through the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC) and the Non-Formal Education (NFE) Inspectorate department. These departments work in collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other providers of non-formal education programmes such as the National University of Lesotho’s Institute of Extra Mural Studies (NUL-IEMS), to provide literacy to out-of-school youth, herd boys and adults. What is action research? This study uses action research, defined variously by different authors. For example, Dick (2002) views it as a flexible spiral process which allows action and research as a natural way of acting and researching at the same time; an iterative process of acting-reviewing-acting-reviewing. According to Altrichter, Kemmis, Mctaggart and Zuber-Skerritt (2002), action research is a form of collective, self-reflective inquiry that participants in social situations undertake to improve practices. Tripp (2003), on the other hand, sees it as an umbrella term for the deliberate use of any kind of a plan-act-describe-review cycle for inquiry into action in a field of practice.
Meanwhile, Mcniff and Whitehead (2006) define action research as an inquiry conducted by practitioners to investigate and evaluate their work. Altrichter et al (2002), also see it as an enquiry with people rather than on people. The NUL-IEMS study therefore fits into this concept of action research, since it was an ongoing review and teaching enquiry with the learners. The NUL-IEMS action research study The IEMS action research is an activity which is done with learners who are actually getting and putting together information into organized content for materials production, with the help of the facilitator who is also the researcher. Both facilitator and learners are involved in action, researching and learning in the two courses. The aim of the two courses is to enhance the existing PL materials stock in both the department and the IEMS library, since materials currently used on this programme are outdated and give obsolete examples of projects or programmes which have long been closed or phased out. Also the library at the IEMS is very small and has few books or reference materials. The idea to produce PL materials that are community development oriented was informed by a desire to generate case studies so that IEMS learners could experience real life work situations. These materials would also be helpful to organizations from which learners are drawn. The benefits of these
materials to the institute, learners, and the learners’ organizations is consistent with Dick’s (2002) suggestion that action research outcomes should benefit the institution and community that is engaged in the process. The aim of action research, according to Altrichter et al (2002) and Zuber-Skerrit and Perry (2002), is to improve practical situation and to solve a practical problem. Accordingly, learners in this study address real workplace problems at organisation or community level by presenting content that provide solutions to perceived work-related problems. Who are the participants in NUL-IEMS action research? The action research is led by a full-time Institute employee, who is the facilitator for two groups of learners on the two courses on the adult education degree programme in the Department of Adult Education. The learners, on the other hand, are full-time employees of community-based organizations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), governmental agencies and other grassroots associations. Thus, the fact that the researcher and learners are full-time employees resonates with Zuber-Skerrit (2002), Zuber-Skerrit and Perry (2002), Altrichter et al (2002) and Dick (2002). In 2006/07 academic year this action research also involved two colleagues from the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC), a centre famous for the production of post-literacy materials in Lesotho. These colleagues gave invaluable advice on PL materials production using their experience in distance learning materials production at LDTC. Meanwhile, in the 2007/08 academic year, tutors from regional campuses participated with learners in writing PL materials. The orientation sessions organized by the Department for these tutors helped them appreciate the complexities and skills required in the development of PL materials. The role of the researcher in the investigation The main role of the researcher, as facilitator, is to guide the process of writing PL materials from the beginning to the end. The researcher plans the activity with learners and monitors the writing process up to the stage where learners submit final copies. This dual role of the facilitator is referred to by McMillan and Schumacher (2001) as participant-researcher. The Zuber-Skerrit and Perry (2002) description of a participant-researcher as a full-time employee or part-time PhD student is consistent with the context of the current action research where the lead researcher or facilitator was also working towards acquiring a higher education qualification. The role of the participant-researcher in the current study was, as suggested by Fouche (2002), to study participants, empower them, and create awareness among them. More specifically, the researcher was working and learning with learners and empowered them on both the importance and process of developing PL materials. According to Chilisa and Preece (2005), the researcher became the main datagathering instrument as she interacted with participants. How was the action research done? The IEMS action research started in 2001/02 academic year and comprised the process of planning with each new group of learners and all third year level learners since 2001/02. Usually one group of learners comes during the first semester, while the other group comes during the second semester. The learners were taught and led through the process of how to produce PL materials for their target audience, while the researcher acted as the editor of those materials. Therefore, this action research methodology developed both the researcher and the learners in accordance with Zuber-Skerrit and Perry (2002) and Zuber-Skerrit (2002) who maintain that in action research both the facilitator and learners learn to improve practice in their organizations. Since learners were engaged in the first or second semester, the development of PL materials lasted a semester or four months. Typically, each group came to the IEMS for a residential week of studies at the beginning of the semester where they were initially introduced to planning of production of PL materials. Thereafter, meetings
were held with learners every first weekend of the month to continue with the process of materials development and production. Meanwhile, learner initiated consultancy meetings would be held during week days to assist learners throughout the semester until production of PL materials was completed. This pattern of the process of action research is not unique to NUL-IMES. Zuber-Skerrit and Perry (2002) described this as ‘work-based education’, which involves being away from work for a short time for the purpose of studying to acquire skills to improve work practice. The process of materials’ development at IEMS The development of learner-generated materials at the Institute started in 2001/02 academic year and continued through the current academic year, 2007/08. These materials are completed within four months of a semester in a given academic year. The process begins with learners being exposed to PL materials of previous years so that they have some idea of what they are expected to produce. However, although there were no PL materials produced by learners for the first academic year 2001/02, the researcher managed to collect a few brochures from different organizations to show samples of PL materials. The display helped learners focus on implementing plans for a semester. Year I learners produced materials on individual basis. They made their own choices of topics they would like to address. Learners came up with topics of their choice and were expected to produce PL materials for their target audience. The learners chose topical issues, including issues perceived as problematic for their workplaces and for which they designed reading materials that became sources of information or advice and guidance to colleagues at the workplaces. When the learners had decided on their topics, they were asked to write a short introduction to explain the problem the material was addressing. Then each stated the general aim for the production of the materials and formulated appropriate learning objectives, which clearly show what the target audience was going to able to do after reading the materials. All learners made class presentations of the objectives and the group was assisted to achieve the same understanding on how to formulate objectives. Each objective was used to develop content headings so that the number of objectives determined the amount of content to be covered. Only learners who successfully completed this stage were allowed to proceed to next stage where they would develop an outline of the PL materials. Thereafter, learners commenced materials writing process with the assistance of the participant-researcher or facilitator who edited the first, second and even the third draft. The process followed with Year III learners, on the other hand, was a little different from that for Year I learners. Year III learners produced PL materials in groups and not individually, and were awarded group marks. Each group agreed on a topic and target audience and, together, developed aims, objectives and content. The groups decided on the types of media to produce and use, since their course trains them to use such media for community development. On completion of these materials, groups made class presentations, received feedback and used it to produce the final copies for submission to the Department. PL materials for Year III included overhead projector slides, posters, handouts (e.g. leaflets, pamphlets, booklets or magazines), radio cassettes and video cassettes. In accordance with the respective concepts of critical reflections from previous action and transferred experiences (Dick, 2002 & Zuber-Skerrit, 2002), observations made with learners and experiences gained in the first semester were used in the second semester, while experiences and problems from the previous academic year were used in the following year. Thus, action for the current cycle is carried out with past experiences in mind. The facilitator reflects with the learners and starts a new cycle of production of materials, drawing on experiences from the past. The learners own the research results, that is, the materials they produced. They became excited with
their products, which belonged to their organizations. Altrichter et al (2002) regard this as ‘ownership of data’, Zuber-Skerrit (2002) as ‘tangible results’ or ‘outcomes’ and Dick (2002) as ‘practical outcomes’. The Methods used for this Study Data collection The study mainly followed a qualitative research design, which generates a lot of information from various data collection methods and allows for triangulation of data. This includes detailed descriptions of what was observed, voices of participants, the researcher’s reflections, pictures and photographs (Chilisa and Preece, 2005). The study was guided by the review of relevant action research literature. Information was collected using two question guides to assess learners’ levels of understanding of how to conduct the writing process and to obtain their evaluation of the materials writing process. Finished PL materials reflected problems experienced by learners’ organizations that were addressed by learner-generated materials. Also focus group discussions with learners elaborated on their feelings, understandings, and problems related to materials writing process. Finally, informal observations enhanced understanding of how learners engaged with the writing process for each semester. Data analysis Data was collected during and at end of semester because, according to McMillan and Schumacher (2001), tentative data analysis begins as the researcher mentally processes many ideas and facts while collecting data and supported by de Vos, Strydom, Fouche and Delport (2002) who say that qualitative inquiry involves data analysis at the site during data collection. In qualitative research, therefore, analysis begins from the time the researcher enters the field and continues throughout the study (Chilisa and Preece, 2005). The idea of compiling and analyzing the interviews while they are still fresh is promoted also by McMillan and Schumacher (2001), since this can raise the credibility of the research by giving a summary of the results to the participants for approval. Data collection and analysis in qualitative research has no specified fixed method. According to McMillan and Schumacher (1997), qualitative phases of data collection and analysis are interactive research processes that occur in overlapping cycles, while de Vos, Strydom, Fouche and Delport (2002) assert that there are no rigid stepby-step procedures to follow for data collection and analysis because both are tightly interwoven processes that must occur alternately. Meanwhile, data collected with the question guide at the beginning of the semester, to assess the level of learner understanding of the development of PL materials was compiled and organized into a summary of points which indicate the skills and knowledge learners had regarding materials development. The information regarding their skills and knowledge level was compiled and the main points were listed. The problems experienced by organizations represented by the learners, as reflected in the PL materials were bulleted under categories of themes, which reduced data into small manageable set of themes (de Vos et al, 2002). Data from the second question guide used at the end of the semester revealed their evaluation of the writing process. A list of the points from the use of this tool was summarized. Also information collected through the use of focus groups was compiled and summarized as a list of key points on their feelings and understanding of the exercise. Focus groups discussion data collected at the end of a semester was compiled and summarised according to learners’ likes and dislikes of the activity. Finally, the researcher’s journal notes, which made up her observations were also organized into a list of main points observed throughout the writing process. Summary of the Results The results presented hereunder reflect five thematic categories. The first category is
on base-level of skills and knowledge of learners at the commencement of the writing activity. The second category is on the problems addressed by the materials over a three year academic period. The third category is on themes of different types of media developed by Year III learners. The fourth category on learners’ feelings contained what they liked and disliked about the activity and, finally, the last category captured the facilitator’s observations of the writing process. Base-level of skills and knowledge of learners Although learners knew the importance of developing PL materials, 90% did not have materials writing skills, including learners from organizations were developing and using PL materials for their clientele. However, learners demonstrated other skills in relation to: • community education • • • • problem solving extension work health science and dealing with conflicts at community level.
The learners had knowledge of different types of PL materials and reported using them in their workplaces. Those that they used included the following: • Charts used to interpret HIV/AIDS statistics • • • • • Pamphlets Brochures Mining magazines Handouts Flipcharts
Problems addressed by PL materials The problems that were perceived critical and had to be addressed by PL materials came from three campuses namely Maseru, Mahobong and Mohale’s Hoek. Learners in Maseru campus started writing PL materials in 2001/02 academic year, while the process commenced in 2007/08 in the other campuses. The findings of this study are, therefore, illustrative of the range of problems and PL materials developed for various target groups by learners from different organizations and institutions. Problems addressed by 2005-2006 PL materials written in Maseru campus Thematically presented below are examples of the problems addressed by different PL materials during community education training activities of different institutions reflecting their varied organisational vocations. The PL materials are used as educational interventions for teaching target audiences how to go about solving problems in their daily personal and business initiatives or activities. A summary of the themes covered in PL materials by Maseru campus learners is presented hereunder: Business entrepreneurship • Basotho entrepreneurs lack sufficient resources in their businesses and therefore fail to comply with legal aspects concerning their businesses. As a result, they are unable to meet the demand of the people they serve.
Tax payers do not understand their legal obligations regarding income tax and find it difficult to comply. Many end up paying heavy penalties or facing legal action. Business owners used to come in great numbers to advertise their goods and services. Lately the number has declined
Rapid growth of bed and breakfast hospitality in Lesotho has led to calls for the formation of an association that would enable members to run their businesses in a more efficient and profitable manner.
Community development • Most Basotho houses are built by unskilled people who are not familiar with modern ways of maximizing the use of solar energy to improve the comfort of those houses by making them warm in winter and cool in summer
• • •
Lesotho is experiencing tremendous soil erosion as a result of overgrazing of pastures, burning rangeland and deforestations habitually carried out by herd boys. It is high time we stopped discrimination and created awareness among herd boys and make them realize their worth and develop the skills they already have through formation of working groups. Inheritance on arable land has been the major source of land administration problems.
Health issues • People living with HIV seem to think that being HIV positive confirms their disability and therefore cannot fend for themselves, thus the government should assist them in one way or another
• • •
Proper nutrition plays a vital role in assisting AIDS patients to recover quickly through boosting immune system. Basotho produce large quantities of fruits and vegetables but use very primitive and unhygienic preservation methods, often using open surfaces where there is a lot of dust and flies. There is a high rate of consumption of expired canned foodstuff, overrefrigerated foodstuff and stale food due to poor storage management. This has become a major source of food poisoning related illnesses, especially among members of the Lesotho Defence Force.
Problems addressed by 2006-2007 PL materials written in Maseru campus: The examples of problems addressed by Maseru campus learners during the 2006/07 academic year increased compared to those for the preceding year. This might reflect an increase in the number of organizations represented by learners, leading to a corresponding increase in the number of issues to be addressed in these organisations. In addition to the themes addressed the previous year, new issues of environmental development and management services featured in 2006/07. Health issues • During the rainy season water collected from uncovered wells, dams, and rivers is contaminated and causes illnesses and should be purified.
HIV/AIDS and pregnancy Reduced number of years of breastfeeding babies by their mothers is becoming a concern.
Environmental development • One of the major challenges that face Lesotho is loss of biodiversity
People lack understanding of the importance of natural resources conservation and the role and significance of natural resources in tourism.
Community development • People should be encouraged to undertake self-help projects like vegetable production in their gardens to combat high rate of poverty at Leqele community caused by mining retrenchments.
Encouraging Basotho to do Block-Farming, to increase productivity and maintain farming as the backbone of the country
Business entrepreneurship • Lesotho’s water is still much untapped and the water bottling market remains unsaturated as there are only two operating water bottling companies currently in Lesotho • After the death of parents the level of economy in a family declines and orphans need to learn skills on income generating activities.
Management Services • Many post offices in Lesotho are managed by junior officers and some officers at Maseru Post Office Headquarters are not rightly placed. • The high rate of fraud at Lesotho Post Bank Problems addressed by 2007-2008 PL materials written in the three campuses of Maseru, Mohales’ Hoek and Mahobong: For the 2007/08 academic year, the degree programme had extended to the two regional campuses of Mohales’ Hoek and Mahobong so that writing of PL materials went on in all three campuses. The examples of problems addressed by the PL materials written in the three campuses are presented according to campus. Problems addressed by 2007/08 PL materials from Maseru campus: The themes addressed are the same as those addressed in the previous year, and this says the literacy programmes or institutions and non-governmental organisations take a long time before helping the communities to solve their daily problems. However, two new themes are included for this year that is civic education and legal issues. Health • The youth, faced with challenges arising from poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, now resort to unhealthy lifestyles such as drug abuse, alcoholism, violence and prostitution.
Students of the main campus of the National University of Lesotho encounter problems of alcohol and substance abuse, poverty, socio-economic and political problems, peer pressure, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and rapes that lead girls to unexpected pregnancies. The HIV/AIDS patients in Mafeteng Hospital fail to recover after pregnancy. A lot of children of HIV/AIDS mothers become infected with HIV and develop AIDS and die within the first two years of life.
Community development • Herd boys destroy community projects by engaging in wanton behaviour, such as breaking community water pipes and bricks and some of the equipment meant to be used for water projects.
Herd boys destroy road signs because they do not know what they are about. They also destroy water pumps, burn grass and climb electric poles, not knowing that they are dangerous. Herd boys do not know the importance of tourism and, as a result, harass the tourists. Since the establishment of the Lithabaneng Community-Based Programme, there is no understanding among stakeholders (working orphans), including guardians, Lithabaneng community members, and the chief, as to how the organization operates and what documents are required so that vulnerable children can get help from the organization. This results in lack of cooperation between stakeholders. Crop production has decreased in Lesotho due to weather changes lately,
such as a lot of hail, drought, frostbite and heavy rains - hence need for cooperative farming. Business entrepreneurship • Inappropriate collection of government revenue by revenue collectors in different government ministries. • The problem of pyramid schemes or associations that work in the country yet they are not legally registered, but are able to attract a huge number of people to invest their money with them.
Management services • Teachers of the combined government-community Takalatsa Primary and Secondary schools seem to encounter problems that prevent them from discharging their duties in their workplaces effectively. • • The School’s Management Committees do not know which forms they should use in charging teachers. The mother tongue language should be used to facilitate the basic literacy programmes. Lesotho has more than three mother tongue languages but only one language is used for teaching and learning. The Lesotho Education Policy excluded other languages.
Civic education • Although herd boys have a right to vote, in most cases they do not know that they have to register in order to vote during national general elections. They spent most of their time in the cattle posts and do not participate in general elections. They should be educated on the importance of registering and participating in general elections.
Many Basotho do not know that it is their right to have a passport and do not know the requirements for getting a passport. They are often sent back after waiting in the queue for long hours without getting help. A number of people do not know the importance of registering births and deaths. They do not bother or register very late, thereby hindering the National Planning process because of unavailability of accurate statistics.
Legal issues • People generally do not like crime because it negatively impacts on their individual and collective development.
Men are abused at home by wives and children and also at the workplace, but are shy to report cases when they occur. Usually the orphans are cheated by relatives who enrich themselves on properties that should belong to orphans after the death of their parents.
Problems addressed by 2007/08 PL materials from Mahobong campus: Out of 14 Year I learners at the Mahobong campus, 9 completed and submitted their materials, while the remaining 5 submitted incomplete materials. Since this group of learners was doing it for the first time and there no PL materials from the previous years for use as reference materials. In addition, the learners also wrote the materials without the benefit of the course facilitator. However, although the substance of their materials differed with those of learners from the other centres, the themes addressed in Mahobong were generally the same as those of Maseru, suggesting that learners might have been from different districts but coming from the same organizations. Civic issues • Violence in the families, including violence against women and children • Improper allocation and use of land in Lesotho
• • •
There is need for communities to contribute money towards maintenance of water pumps since lack of maintenance of water pumps in rural areas cause people to use unclean water. Women in Lesotho are no longer interested in becoming pregnant because of myths and misconception about HIV/AIDS; hence, there is need to educate and support women on HIV/AIDS and pregnancy. Some expectant women do not attend antenatal clinics and decide to deliver at home because they do not want their HIV/AIDS status to be known.
Environmental issues • Destruction of forest trees Legal issues • Punishment alone by criminal justice does very little to heal the wounds of crime victims; hence, there is need for communities to be encouraged through chiefs to establish restorative justice committees. Civic education • Majority of voters are not aware of the ongoing process of updating of voters lists in preparation of national general elections Problems addressed by 2007/08 PL materials from Mohales’ Hoek campus: Out of 26 Year I learners in Mohales’ Hoek campus, only 15 submitted completed materials while 8 submitted incomplete ones and the rest did not submit at all. They were also doing it for the first time. Examples of such materials are given below: Education issues • Adult Education – What is it all about? Many people want to know what adult education entails. Legal issues • Report violence and sexual abuse Community development • Rural areas are experiencing increased levels of poverty; hence poverty reduction strategies through homestead gardening should be promoted. • Need for planting vegetables in the garden: Doing Conservation Farming Management issues • The national education policy fails to include other tribal languages spoken in the country • Problems of lack of resources and facilities facing teachers and children in schools in the rural areas.
Issues addressed by media developed by third year learners Since 2001/02 academic year third year learners of the degree programme have been developing five types of media per academic year, including overhead projector transparencies, posters, handouts, audio cassettes or CD (only in the past two years) and video materials. These different types of media covered the following themes: • Health education • • Environmental development Community development Agricultural issues, including animal husbandry and farming methods Business entrepreneurship Vocational education or skills
• • • •
Social issues Legal issues Civic education and democracy Technological skills: use of automatic vending machine Commodity production e.g. Vaseline, building stones, leather products and some crafts.
Learners’ feelings and understanding of the activity Learners had some opinions about the development process of PL materials. Their likes and dislikes of the writing process are presented below in bullet form: What learners liked about the activity • Opportunity to question the services provided by their organizations
• • • • • • •
Liberty to choice a topic of their choice Learners were happy to have developed PL materials and have something to show as a product. Challenging creativity through problem solving Useful material A chance to educate people and information giving The idea of thinking and coming up with the problem Being creative in identifying the problem that exists and also to apply measures to be taken to overcome the problem Ability to disseminate information to the readers Producing work-related product that would assist workplace supervisors to be aware of the importance of adult education The activity introduced learners to writing pamphlets and other materials The materials address the most felt needs and problems of target groups The user-friendliness of materials Materials are written in a simple manner and learners can read on their own Prepares both the writer and the facilitator to be professional writers The exercise gave freedom to express feelings and knowledge on paper The information will last longer when in printed form than when it is said by word of mouth.
• • • •
What learners did not like about the activity • It was difficult for one who did not have a skill of writing in this style
• • • • • • • • •
Time consuming and expensive, especially because it had to be typed and edited several times to come up with the correct and interesting materials. Difficult to consult the facilitator for those who lived far away. The illiterate will not benefit from the materials. Consulting the facilitator time and again. Takes time from other competing activities. Wanted to include everything and it made the material voluminous. Needs careful research to avoid wrong information being disseminated. The materials could not be accessed by the blind. Difficult to put into practice unaided explanations given by the facilitator.
• • •
Basotho have no reading culture. The material will experience the problem of distribution. The far away submission date may make others to forget about the exercise. (As facilitator one would like to think that this means that the activity should be given a limited time so that learners are forced to do it and finish with it on time).
Facilitator’s observations The observations of the facilitator based on her journal notes on the performance of learners throughout the process of writing are summarized hereunder: • The whole exercise was generally difficult for groups doing it for the first time. The most difficult part was formulating outcome-based learning objectives and drawing up an outline for the materials.
The writing process became easy for a number of them because they were choosing an area of concern that interested them. They knew what they were doing and found it motivating because the issues that were addressed concerned their workplaces. Sometimes learners got frustrated when they failed to get help from the facilitator who might have not been in her office for consultations. Some learners tried to cheat by taking materials developed by learners in the previous years, but this was often quickly discovered. Some changed topics at the eleventh hour. At the beginning of a semester learners wanted to be provided with examples of materials produced in the past. Some of the materials were done thoroughly and were perfect in terms of clear objectives, content presentation and use of simple and good Sesotho or English language. Learners were motivated by their products and felt proud of them. Lack of computer skill was a setback for some of them and were reluctant to be sent back to incorporate comments after editing because it meant paying hired typists. Learners helped one another, with those who had access to computers at workplaces helping those who did not have access or lacked computer skills. Learners also got help from friends from other workplaces. Some of the learners were already getting positive feedback from colleagues on their materials. Many learners submitted on time after materials were edited more than twice. Those who did not finish at the end of a semester came to ask for extension and that was always granted. The delay to start the writing activity resulted in some learners having to rush when they realized it was getting late. This brought them frustration as they then realized that it was not so easy for them to do the exercise. A few learners put little effort and were forced to submit unedited materials.
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Conclusions When they joined the institute, adult learners usually did not have an idea that it was important for them to develop some teaching materials themselves, neither did they think they could do it. It was a far-fetched thing, as they did not have skills for such an activity.
Media-wise, Year I learners mainly developed leaflets, pamphlets and booklets, while Year III learners developed the types of media prescribed in their course syllabus. Most of the learners addressed work-related problems on management, community, health, legal, civic, environmental, agricultural, and entrepreneurship issues. While the themes addressed by the materials might have been the same, the contents were invariably different. They addressed themes from different angles, indicating differences in concerns of districts where learners were based. The materials were meant for different target groups in all spheres of life. Learners had likes and dislikes about the exercise, which reflected perceived advantages and disadvantages. Learners found the materials to be very useful and the experience acquired from the exercise was something they were proud of and also proud of themselves for their accomplishments. However there were some things they did not like about the exercise. Learners found that it distracted their attention from other important activities, as they soon found that it was demanding and took the whole semester. The facilitator observed at the beginning that learners did not trust themselves due to lack of skills in writing. As a result, learners needed examples of ready-made materials from previous years. Others were excited about the activity from the beginning and they took it as a critical and eye-opening intervention. However, the exercise was eventually enjoyed by all the groups in different academic years as they realized how important the activity was to their workplaces. They became proud of their products and their capabilities. Recommendations The following recommendations were made on the basis of the data collected through all the tools used:
Learners felt their time was taken by the activity. There is a need to balance the time allocated with the workload for learners on these two courses. In order for learners, particularly those in regional campuses, to produce good PL materials, they need very strong support in this activity, especially that of the facilitator. It is recommended that the facilitator should visit learners in other campuses regarding this activity.
References Altrichter, H, Kemmis, S., McTaggart, R. & Zuber-Skerrit, O. (2002). The Concept of Action Research. The Learning Organisation. 9(3): 125-131. Chilisa, B. & Preece, J. (2005). Research Methods for Adult Educators in Africa: African Perspectives on Adult Learning. Cape Town and Hamburg: Pearson Education, UNESCO Institute for Education. de Vos, A.S., Strydom, H., Fouche, C.B. & Delport, C.S.L. (2002). Research at Grass Roots: For the Social Sciences and Human Service Professionals. (2nd Edition). Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers. Dick, B. (2002). Postgraduate programmes: Using action research. The Learning Organisation. 9(4): 159-170. Fouche, C. B. (2002). Problem Development. In de Vos, A. S. et al, Research at Grass Roots: For the Social Sciences and Human Service Professionals. (2nd Edition), (pp. 267-273). Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers. McMillan, J. H. & Schumacher, S. S. (1997). Research in Education: A Conceptual Introduction. New York: Longman. McMillan, J. H. & Schumacher, S. S. (2001). Introduction to Designing Qualitative Research. New York and Montreal: Longman. Mcniff, J. & Whitehead, J. (2006). All you need to know about Action Research. New
Delhi: Sage Publications. Ministry of Education and Training. (2000). National Literacy Survey in Lesotho. Maseru: Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre. Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. (2004). Lesotho Population Data Sheet. Maseru: MFDP. Tripp, D. (2003). Action Inquiry, Action Research: e-Reports. Retrieved on 17 February 2006 from. http://www.fhs.usyd.ed.au/arow/arer/017.htm) Zuber-Skerrit, O. (2002). A Model for Designing Action Learning and Action Research Programmes. The Learning Organisation. 9(4): 143-149. Zuber-Skerrit, O. & Perry, C. (2002). Action Research within Organisation and University Thesis Writing. The Learning Organisation. 9(4): 171-179.
A. Olatoun Abiodun
A Survey of Students’ Perception on Distance Learning Support Implications for Qualitative Planning of Distance Education in Nigeria
A. Olatoun Abiodun National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration, Nigeria Abstract This study examined the perception of open and distance learning students on learning support required by them. This study was necessitated by the present social demand for education, which has culminated in sporadic expansion of distance learning centres in Nigeria education sector. A random sampling of 300 students of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) was used as the sample for this study. A descriptive survey study was used; guided by four (4) research questions. A questionnaire instrument titled “Distance Learning Support Questionnaire (DLSQ)” was used for this study. Data collected was subjected to both descriptive and inferential statistics namely; percentages, mean, standard deviation and T-test. Findings revealed students’ perception with respect to the twelve (12) items raised. The results also showed that were no significant gender-wise differences in the perceptions of learners towards distance learning support services, while significant differences were reported between the perceptions of rural and urban and old and young distance education learners. The implication of this study for qualitative educational planning was likewise stressed and this will go a long way in making the desires of many of the recipients of this type of education realizable and achievable. Introduction One of the major challenges facing the education sector in Nigeria is the issue of access and participation. Various government policy papers have outlined a number of strategies to address this imbalance. Distance education has been identified as a system that could provide access to education for those people who did not have the opportunity to study fulltime either because they lived in remote rural areas or because they had fulltime jobs or one way or the other dropped out of school some years back. Dodds’ (1991) definition of distance education as any form or organised educational experiences in which teaching and learning take place with the teachers at a distance from the learners most of the time shows the appropriateness of this system for remote learners, those in fulltime employment or others unable to attend fulltime study for various reasons. Another benefit of distance education is that it enables a limited number of teachers to reach a very large number of students, thereby opening the way to endless economies of scale and cost reduction (Rumble, 1992). Meanwhile, Holmberg (1995) describes distance education as the planned separation of the acts of teaching and learning in terms of time, place and pace. This view is corroborated by Fagbamiye, (2000) who opines that de-concentration is more evident in distance learning. Dual mode institutions are usually universities, which combine the distance mode with the conventional face-to-face mode. Fagbamiye (2000) further explains that the mode of distance education delivery ranges from the well-established print medium to the newest forms of multi-mode approach, which is a combination of face-to-face, print, audio video broadcast, teleconferencing etc), to impart knowledge on learners. Given the benefits of distance education, the recent sharp decline in enrolment of learners for distance education in Nigeria might suggest the existence of fundamental problems in the provision of distance education. This trend, if not addressed, would undermine the purposes of establishing distance education centres in the Nigerian education sector. Jaiyeoba (2000) reported that students’ enrolment rate for distance education programmes dropped from 75% in the year 2006 to 55% in the year 2008.
A. Olatoun Abiodun Lewis (1984) suggests the reasons for relatively high rate of dropout include learners finding themselves in unfamiliar situations. In addition, many learners associate learning with being taught by a teacher who is physically present, while others who are unfamiliar with distance learning packages finding learning more difficult since many of them lack capacity to learn this way. In addition, many adult distance learners feel lonely and neglected. The feeling of loneliness and neglect may emanate from an apparent lack of academic support (e.g. face-to-face contact sessions) which could enable them to obtain assistance from lecturers or fellow students. This may account for why many distance education learners drop out. This sentiment is supported by Simpson (2000) who says that distance learning is often a very isolating experience where learners are isolated from other learners, tutors, and teaching institution and, sometimes, even from their own family and friends. Such isolation may inhibit and even prevent the possibility of enriching dialogue in their studies According to Oakisa-Makoe (2005), there is for an environment that improves students’ commitment and motivation to learn. Therefore, learning support services should be an integral part of successful distance education. The role and importance of learner support can only be appreciated if curriculum developers and educators understand how distance learners learn. Distance education should be a service oriented undertaking, whereby the learner or client is central to the learning process. Therefore, the centrality of the learner in distance education necessitates the provision of necessary support for students. In distance learning, learner support is very broad; encompassing a variety of activities that go beyond the production and delivery of course materials that help students progress in their studies. It covers as wide a spectrum of activities that range from the organisation and management of student support (including staff development) to direct interaction with students by tutors, advisors, mentors and other role players (Simpson, 2000). A successful distance education programme must design and apply effective learner support services and systems. Unfortunately, many distance education systems invest more resources in the technical system at the expense of the learner support system. Equivalent or more resources should be invested in the learner support system if the distance education enterprise is to be successful (Gunawardena, 1996). Dillon and Blanchard (1991) described four types of support systems: 1) Learner support and learner needs 2) Learner support and content 3) Learner support related to the institutional context, and 4) Learner support and technology. To this end, learner support has been defined by Garrison and Baynton (1987) as the resources that learners can access in order to carry out the learning processes. Garrison (1989), on the other hand, suggests that in distance education environment, learner support should be concerned with a range of human and non-human resources that guide and facilitate the educational transaction. Such resources may include library facilities, various media and software programmes, community leaders, as well as various socio-economic variables that include learners’ financial self-sufficiency and capacity to cope with their roles and responsibilities in the family and community. However, the most important form of support in an educational transaction is the teacher, who through guidance and direction can assist the students to achieve their goals and develop control of the educational process (Garrison, 1989). One important means of analyzing the effectiveness of the teaching-learning experience in a distance education system is through the analysis of the learner
A. Olatoun Abiodun support system. This is because learner support system is perceived to contribute to the 'process' of a course as much as do the learning materials (Hodgson, 1986). Accordingly, learning support systems that are developed in recognition of student needs help the distance learner become competent and self-confident in learning, social interactions and self-evaluation (Rae, 1989). In view of the above literature and within the context of diminishing distance education enrolment in Nigeria, this study examined distance learners’ perceptions of distance learning support through a survey of National Open University Nigeria (NOUN) learners. Specifically, the following research questions were addressed in this study: 1) What are the perceptions of National Open University (NOUN) learners to learning support? 2) Are there any significant differences between the perceptions of male and female NOUN students to distance education learning support? 3) Are there any significant differences between the perceptions of rural and urban distance education students of NOUN with respect to learning support? 4) Are there any significant differences between the perception of old and young distance education students of NOUN with respect to learning support? The Features and Model of Distance Learning Systems in Nigeria A number of factors were considered as basic ingredients that inform the design of an open and distance learning (ODL) programme for Nigeria. These include:
a) The mission: In defining the mission of a distance learning system, such as
that of NOUN, the role of the system within the specific context of education policy was considered. The mission of ODL in Nigeria is to enable government to fulfil its social obligations as well as to encourage the citizens to shoulder personal responsibilities in developing their full potentials and contribute to nation building.
b) The Vision: In stating the vision of a distance learning system, such as that of
NOUN, the role of the system within the Nigerian context was considered. For Nigeria the vision of ODL is to provide highly accessible and enhanced quality education and anchored by social justice, equity, equality and national cohesion through a comprehensive reach that transcends all barriers.
c) Programmes and Curricula constitute very important components of the
NOUN. Courses offered are similar to those offered by conventional institutions. These courses are subject to similar regulations as regards content and assessments, in comparison with the conventional universities.
d) Teaching and Learning Strategies and Techniques depend partly on the
type of programmes and the needs they are designed to meet. The principle adopted for NOUN emphasizes the needs of learners rather than those of teachers.
e) Learning Materials and Resources make up necessary components in all
distance-learning systems. Development and production of materials is often considered as a sub-system in distance teaching organizations and NOUN is no exception. The Learning materials for NOUN and resources have been developed based on the best practices and tailored to meet national needs.
f) Communication between teachers and learners is seen as a necessary
component in distance education as in all other forms of education. Open learning systems on the other hand are often heavily based on self-study. The importance attached to student-teacher interaction may vary considerably
A. Olatoun Abiodun between different systems, and has been closely linked to educational strategies for Nigeria (NOUN, 2005). Theoretical Framework for the study The constructivist theory of learning serves as the theoretical framework for this study. From the constructivist point of view, learning consists of what the learner brings to the situation by restructuring initial meaning in widening complex understandings (Leder, 1993). This implies that learning is an organic process of invention, rather than a mechanical process of accumulation. Constructivism takes the position that learners must have experience in hypothesising, researching answers, posing questions, investigating and inventing for new constructions to be developed. It implies that lecturers cannot guarantee that learners will acquire meaning just by dispensing knowledge. The learners must construct meaning while the lecturer serves as a creative mediator in the process. Based on the above premise, a lecturer/tutor of distance education does not serve as the main source of meaning transmission; both the lecturer and student assume multiple roles (Leder, 1993). The lecturer as facilitator of learning provides a tentative structure of meaning through interactive text, review questions, skill-building, questions and assignments, while learners begin to construct and confirm their own meaning. This implies that group learning in distance education promotes active construction of meaningful meaning through interactions with other learners. Hawes (1990) opines that the construction of meaning involves critical thinking, which is characterised by reasoned or reasonable evaluation. In distance learning, learners are expected to use critical thinking in activities requiring careful judgement or sustained reflection. Critical thinking also requires both the production of things (ideas, arguments, reasons, plans, strategies, action, etc) and their evaluation (choice, judgement, selection, etc) according to the purposes and constraints of the situation. Accordingly, it is important to provide distance learners with all necessary learner support services that promote skills for construct and critical thinking so that learners become aware, explore alternatives, work through transition, achieve integration and take action (Apps, 1991). The provision of necessary learner support services will reduce the burden distance learners experience as an isolated person because, to some students, studying in isolation can be an important factor that leads to considerable disadvantage on their lived experience, meaning attribution and involvement. On the other hand, the lack of learner support services may impede a learner’s motivation in a learning situation by the impairment of their aspirations. Review of Related Literatures The amount of support services an institution can offer largely depends on the capacity and resources at the disposal of the institution. According to Molefi (2002), learner support services in distance education can be put into the following two categories: • • Academic, including such packages as tutorial, advising and counselling services. Administrative functions, such as enrolment, admission and registration, record keeping, information provision, and delivery of study materials.
Learner support services are also important from the emotional perspective. Thus, while traditional students have many physical clues of their attachment to the institution, the provision of learner support services to the distance learning population is an important part of creating the feeling of belonging for learners who learn in relative isolation. Meanwhile, the literature (Boettcher & Cartwright, 1997; Kovel, 1997) lists other learner support services as access to library materials and facilities, delivery of course materials, traditional mail services, counselling,
A. Olatoun Abiodun mentoring, job placement, and peer interaction. This is an indicative and not exhaustive list of the services needed by distance learners. For example, Adekanmbi (1994) suggests that learner support services should provide distance learners with a learning environment that is calm, relaxed and friendly. Similar sentiments were earlier expressed by Ijaiya (1999) who reported that both conventional and distance education students learn best in a conducive environment. Jaiyeoba (2000), in her study on managing tutors and learners in distance education programmes, concluded that tutors play important roles in motivating learners and assisting them to succeed in their studies. She further stressed that, despite the poor qualities of some study materials, a good tutor who effectively utilises the allotted time can make a world of difference in bringing distance learning to life, while a poor tutor can cause a lot of damage to the learning climate and turn away even the most dedicated and serious learners. Meanwhile, the UNISA experience reported by Deidre (1997) shows that the presence of tutors assists learners greatly in developing necessary skills that will enable them to interact with study materials, both for the course they are currently studying and for those which follow. Lewis (1984) confirms that since distance education learners often find themselves in unfamiliar learning contexts, there is need for special learning packages and with tutors who are available for tutorial classes to address any identified challenges. He further stresses that challenges faced in the provision of learner support services are no longer limited to face-to-face interactions, but include a variety of means such as post, telephone, computer and the challenge of helping learners accept and use unfamiliar media for contact. Race (1989) highlights a number of ways through which tutors can support learners in distance learning. Some of the ways are as follows include understanding the feelings of learners and their problems, being a good listener, offering learners whatever help is required, encouraging learners to form study groups, building learner confidence in studies, being proactive to learners’ needs and making themselves available when required. Demiray (2002) asserts that open and distance learning (ODL) delivery systems are made of myriad of innovative features that support learning, such as multi-media course packages that range from print materials to e-learning, which is designed, developed, adopted or adapted to suit the specific needs of a particular subject matter and the differing learning habits and techniques of students. Meanwhile, the pedagogy of ODL texts traditionally manifests itself in what many distance education materials designers refer to as ‘instructional devices’ that act as learning support for distance learners (Hartley, 1994). These textual materials contain instructional devices that act as teaching techniques, tactics, and educational strategies that are incorporated and integrated into instructional texts. The list of instructional devices typically used in ODL texts include advance organisers, objectives, graphics organisers, pre-tests, overviews and activities in the text. These instructional devices can be clearly marked (signalled) in the text by the typography position or style, or they can be embedded as part of the subject matter discussion. In support of the above view, Holmberg (1989) says that all ODL text should not only carry the subject content, but must also carry the pedagogy and the simulated forms of communication, such as guided didactic conversation that promotes feelings of personal empathy and belonging with the distance learner that consequently improves motivation and learning quality. To illustrate the importance of learner support services in ODL, Simpson (2000) argues that learning centres need to be evenly distributed and not only based in towns and cities. This will give willing learners the opportunity to learn within the vicinity of his/her environment. This is corroborated by Quan-Baffour (2005) who stresses that it is the moral responsibility of distance education organisers to support learners, particularly those who live under difficult conditions in the rural areas.
A. Olatoun Abiodun Therefore, learner support services should be seen as precursor to successful distance learning. However, effective learning support also depends on the unique needs and characteristics of the learner. One important factor that contributes to success in distance learning is the motivation or confidence of the learner. According to Dillion and Blanchard (1991), less motivated learners may benefit from interaction with the teacher or tutor, while less confident learners may need more group support than more confident learners. Older learners, on the other hand, may require more support in testing environments than young learners. However, if we want to know learner needs in a distance education system, we must know the characteristics of adult learners, because a typical distance learner is an adult learner. To this end, Ference and Vockell (1994) gave a list of adult characteristics, which suggest that distance learners are 1) activelearners, 2) experienced-based, 3) experts, 4) independent, 5) hands-on, 6) life-centred, 7) task-centred, 8) solution-driven, 9) value-driven, 10) skill-seeking, 11) self-directing, 12) externally and 13) internally motivated. This list assists distance education curriculum developers and educators to have better understanding of the learners, how they learn, and how best they can respond to their needs in the development and provision of necessary learning support. Another way of supporting distance learning is proper analysis of courses, paying attention to the characteristics of the learners for whom the course was intended. However, a profile of learners is never complete without reference to their learning styles; something that Bennett (1997) says is usually neglected in teaching. Simpson (2005) notes that many institutions that offer some kind of distance education programmes do not give their students adequate support. He stressed further that some ODL programme managers have not often been in the shoes of new and unqualified learners for them to empathise with how such learners value support. Boonzaaier (1996) identified two kinds of support that distance educators should be offering to their learners. These are the intellectual support or tuition mainly for academic development and personal growth and organisational /system and emotional support or counselling for student development and personal growth. These support actions should never be seen as mutually exclusive but as inclusive and complementary. Van Schoor (1996), on the other hand, suggests that counselling is as central to learner support as tuition. The need to refocus on a more process-oriented culture which acknowledges student problems and the need to deal with these problems holistically has brought student counselling in from the fringes to play a pivotal role in a democratised distance education environment. Another important learner support area is the need of study groups. According to Knowles (1988), the need for study groups for distance learners is more effective if groups of learners with heterogeneous backgrounds, learning styles, motivation, needs, interest and objectives comes together to share experiences. Group techniques that could facilitate interaction include group discussions, simulation exercises, problem solving techniques, case studies and laboratory methods. Finally, Oosthuizen, (1994) suggests that there is need for thorough examination of the context of distance learning programmes before organisers can provide answers to the question ‘what learner support may be required mitigate distance learner needs? In this context Gous (1987) asserts that characteristics such as age, culture, environment, occupation, gender, scholastic, skills and experiences should be looked into more closely. However, the varieties of experiences brought to the learning situation by adult learners have implications for adult education (Knowles, 1988). For example, a group of adults would be much more heterogeneous in background, learning styles, motivation, needs, interests and objectives than a group of youths. All these have implications on any form of learner support for distance learners.
A. Olatoun Abiodun Methodology Design Descriptive survey research design was employed in carrying out this study. The perception of distance education students’ perception on learners support was surveyed and the data collected were subjected to statistical analysis. Population and Sample The study population consists of all the National Open University Nigeria (NOUN). The sample consists of 360 NOUN students. Stratified random sampling techniques based on the following strata were employed: male and female, rural and urban, young and old was used to select 60 students across NOUN centres in the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. Centres with over 20 000 population, electricity availability, water, road network, health facilities, administrative capacity e.g. state or local capital were classified as urban centres, while centres in a community with less than 20,000 people and with little of the features listed above were classified as rural centres. For old and young students, distance learners aged 55 and above were regarded as old while those from age 20 to 55 years were regards as young students. The Instrument An instrument titled “Distance Learning Support Questionnaire (DLSQ) was developed and used for data collection. The DLSQ consisted of two sections. Section A sought information on learners’ sex and level, while section B consists of 13 items designed to measure the perceptions of NOUN learners on several distance learning learner support aspects; quality teaching and learning, portfolios, counselling, textual materials, and accessibility. The items used a two-point Likert scale of Agree (A) and Disagree (D). The validity of the instrument was ensured through rational analysis of the items on the instrument by some experts in educational management and test construction. Their comments were used to modify the items. The reliability of the questionnaire was tested using test- retest method on five schools that were not part of the sampled schools and the reliability coefficient obtained was 0.85. Data Collection and Analysis The questionnaire was administered using a research assistant. Out of the 360 questionnaires administered, 330 were retrieved. Data collected were collated and analysed using percentages, mean, standard deviation and T-test statistics. Results and Discussions Research Question 1 1) What are the perceptions of National Open University, Nigeria learners to learning support? Table 1: Frequencies and percentages of National Open University, Nigeria Students’ perception on distance education learning support
Items 1 Allotted time for face-to-face tutorial is adequate. 2 Tutors are always accessible and willing to assist learners. 3 4 5 6 7 Tutors are always punctual and regular for face- to face tutorial. Studies progress report arrives on time. Centres are conducive for effective learning and interactions. The Institution is proactive to students’ grievances, queries and problems regarding studies. The existence support groups assist in comprehension of study materials. Agree Disagree Frequency % Frequency % 115 35 215 65 150 170 200 210 205 190 46 52 61 64 62 58 180 160 130 120 125 140 54 45 39 36 38 42
A. Olatoun Abiodun
The school gives pre-course, in-course, and post course counselling. All texts pedagogy are associated with necessary instructional devices to aid learning. Textual materials cater for diverse learning opportunities. The navigational tools in texts assist learners in finding their ways and planning their reading tasks. All the outreach centres serve majority of the willing distance learners. Assigning students to centres are based on students’ geographical areas/locations.
8 9 10 11 12 13
180 212 200 205 110 150
55 64 61 62 33 46
150 130 130 125 220 180
45 39 39 38 67 54
Table 1 shows the perceptions of distance education learners on learning support. From the table, responses to the first question show that 215 or 65% of the students sampled were not satisfied with the allotted time for face-to-face tutorials. Their responses to item 2 from the table shows that 54% of the sample disagreed with the item that tutors are accessible and willing to assist learners with clarifications and interactive sessions. In addition, on the statement that tutors are always punctual for face-to-face tutorials, 52% of the sample agreed with this statement. Sixty-one (61%) of the sample agreed with the statement that the study progress report arrive on time, while 64% of the learners agreed that their centres were conducive for effective learning and interactions. Similarly, 62% of the students reported that the institution is proactive to their grievances, queries and problems regarding studies, while 58% of the sample felt that the existence of learner support groups assists in comprehension of study materials. Also 55% learners reported that proper academic counselling was provided with respect to pre-course, in-course and post-course counselling, while 64% agreed that all their texts pedagogy were associated with necessary instructional devices to aid learning. Meanwhile, 61% of the sample reported that their textual materials cater for diverse learning opportunities, while 62% of them agreed that the presence of navigational tools in texts assists in finding their way and planning their reading tasks. Finally, 67% of the sample reported that the NOUN outreach centres are yet to serve the majority of distance learners, while 54% reported that learner distribution to centres were not based on learner’s geographical areas or locations. Findings from items 1, 2 and 3 support those of Jayeoba (2000), Race (1989), Simpson (2000) and Lewis (1984) on the importance of tutors in motivating learners as well as assisting them to succeed in their studies. Tutors should be available and make judicious use of their time for tutorial classes to address any identified challenges. Meanwhile, findings on items 4, 6, and 8 confirm earlier findings by Boonzaaier (1996) and Van Schoor (1996) on the importance of counselling as a learner support strategy for distance learners. According to these researchers, counselling is a process-oriented culture which acknowledges student problems and the need to deal with these problems holistically. Student counselling plays a pivotal role in a democratised distance education environment by making the institution more proactive to students’ grievances, queries and problems. The finding on item 5, which shows that one requirement of learner support is to ensure that the learning environment is calm, relaxed, and friendly, is in agreement with similar findings by Ijaiya (1999), Javis (1987) and Adekanmbi (1994). Item 7 on Table 1 confirms the findings of Knowles (1988) and Even (1987) on the need for study groups for distance learners. According to them learning is more effective if groups of learners with heterogeneous backgrounds, learning styles, motivation, needs, interest and objectives come together to share experiences. This implies Learning becomes more effective when learners learn collaboratively.
A. Olatoun Abiodun The findings on textual materials are in agreement with those by Hartley (1994), Holmberg (1989) and Gous (1987) on instructional devices in ODL textual materials. These devices are a set of teaching techniques, tactics and educational strategies that are incorporated and integrated into instructional texts as a form of support to aid learning for distance learners. Instructional devices in ODL textual materials include advance organisers, objectives, graphics organisers, pre-tests, overviews and activities in the text and they are clearly marked (signalled) in the text by the typography position or style, or they can be embedded as part of the subject matter discussion. The importance of learning centres reported by the sample through items 12 and 13 confirm the findings by Quan-Baffour (2005) and Simpson (2000) who also reported that learning centres need to be evenly distributed so as to serve all the willing distance education learners. Also opportunity should be given to learners to learn within the vicinity of his/her environment with adequate provision of learning support to learners. Research Question 2 2) Are there any significant differences between the perceptions of male and female distance learners concerning the provision of learner support services? Table 2: Gender-wise difference in perceptions concerning learner support Group N X SD DF t Probability level 0.05 Critical Value 1.96 Remark NS
Male 134 28 17 Female 196 32 31
NB: 1.48<1.96 this implies that 1.96 is greater than 1.48; NS = Not Significant
Table 2 above reveals the perceptions of male and female learners on the provision of learner support. The means representing male and female teacher perceptions are 28 and 32 respectively. However, the t-value of 1.48 is lower than the critical t-value of 1.96 at probability level of 0.05, indicating that there are no significant differences in the perceptions of learners classified by gender. This shows that both male and female learners perceived the impact of learner support on their learning experience to be the same. While Gous (1987) reported that characteristics such as age, culture, environment, occupation, gender, scholastic, skills and experiences should be examined to determine their influence on the provision of learner support services, this study has revealed that there were statistically significant differences between male and female learners of the NOUN. Research Question 3 3) Are there significant differences between the perception of rural and urban distance learners concerning the provision of learner support services? Table 3: Differences in perceptions between rural and urban learners Group Urban Rural N X SD DF t Probability level 0.05 Critical Value 1.96 Remark S
170 38 22 160 21 28
NB: 6.12>1.96 this implies that 1.96 is less than 6.12; S = Significant
From Table 3 the respective means on the perceptions of rural and urban distance learners on the provision of learner support are 38 and 21. The calculated t-value of 6.12 is higher than the critical t-value of 1.96, at the 0.05 cut-off point, indicating significant differences in the perceptions of rural and urban NOUN learners. This finding, which shows that urban learners had significantly more positive perceptions on the provision of learner support services than rural learners, suggests inequalities in the provision and access to learner support services between rural and urban
A. Olatoun Abiodun learners in NOUN. It is for such research findings that Quan-Baffour (2005) and Simpson (2000) have argued that learning centres should be distributed evenly to give willing learners the opportunity to learn within the vicinity of their environments with adequate provision of learner support services, particularly for those who live under difficult conditions in the rural areas. Research Question 4 4) Are there any significant differences between the perceptions of old and young NOUN learners with respect to the provision of learner support services? Table 4: Differences in perceptions between old and young learners Group Old Young N X SD DF t Probability level 0.05 Critical Value 1.96 Remark S
171 45 24 159 26 36
NB: 5.60>1.96 this implies that 1.96 is less than 5.60; S = Significant
According to Table 4 above, the means representing the perceptions of old and young distance education learners on the provision of learner support services were 45 and 26 respectively. The calculated t-value of 5.60, which is higher than the critical t-value of 1.96 at 0.05 probability level, suggests statistically significant differences between the perceptions of old and young learners with respect to provision of learner support. The import of this finding should be considered within the context of earlier findings by Oosthuizen, (1994), Gous (1987) and Knowles (1988) who attested the influence of age, culture, environment, occupation, gender, scholastic, skills and experiences on learning styles, motivation, needs, interests and objectives of distance learners. Thus, significant variations in the perceptions young and old learners reported in this study has implications on the learning styles, motivational levels, needs and interests of these groups of NOUN learners. Implications of the study on Qualitative Educational Planning The findings of this study suggest several implications that educational managers and planners should consider when developing learner-centred support services. To develop a robust learner support system and services for distance learners, educational managers and planners in NOUN should consider the following; • • • • identify learners’ needs; develop a comprehensive learner support system that addresses learners’ needs; conduct extensive research into the subject; conduct regular monitoring and supervision to assist in collection and collation of reliable data and to develop a meaningful two-way dialogue between information providers (educational planners) and information users (decisionmakers operating at all levels of an education system) as regards situation analysis of NOUN operations would assist to inform certain decisions by the policy makers with respect desirable learner support system.
In addition, educational planners should come up with an action plan on the best way to respond to identified learner support needs of these distance learners. The following steps would guide this planning process:
1. Identification of policy-related questions that are faced by decision makers
aiming to improve the quality of distance education. 2. Prioritisation of these questions and precise linkage of them to potential future policy decisions at the appropriate decision-making level with respect to students’ learning support in distance education.
3. Use policy-related questions to (i) identify information that is relevant to
A. Olatoun Abiodun learner support that might be available in existing data collections, (ii) determine new data that might be required, (iii) eliminate redundancies due to overlaps in existing data collections, and (iv) terminate rarely-used “traditional” data collections. 4. Review appropriate coverage level of the data collection with terms of operationalisation of distance education service delivery (census or survey), timeliness of data collection (yearly or less frequently), and establishing major gaps that are common in most data collections (especially information describing student educational achievement, student time spend on various curriculum offerings, student “tracking” patterns, tutor knowledge of subject matter, competencies, efficiency and unit cost measures etc.). 5. Produce detailed specifications of distance education quality indicators that would be assessed, including the provision and justification of construct names, operational definitions, computer-based coding systems, techniques and materials for use in data collection and detailed test blueprints that meet reliability and validity requirements. 6. Collection, analysis, and preparation of appropriate data according to acceptable scientific standards and the creation of appropriate data archives that would be readily accessible for later secondary analyses. 7. Analyses of data using approaches deemed appropriate for the questions posed and the backgrounds of the audiences that would receive the research reports, including the presentation of appropriate measures of sampling and measurement errors. 8. Develop linkages of suitable information dissemination procedures with both the policy questions posed initially and the decision-making levels at which the policy decisions would be taken, including formulation and testing of new policy questions that emerge during the conduct of the data analyses. All this would pave way for successful implementation of distance education programmes in Nigeria and go a long way in meeting the required learner support needs of distance learners, which would further enhance educational productivity and promote system efficiency. Conclusion In conclusion, it is evident that everybody needs support as they go through life, especially when there is a paradigm shift in what had been obtainable and accustomed to in the past. On its part, this study has established that NOUN distance learners require learner support services to ensure assure them of a rich learning experience and promote success on distance education programmes. Finally, there is need for better understanding of the characteristics of adult learners as a precursor to the development of an appropriate learner support system and services that would enhance learner participation in active and challenging ways in the learning process. References Adekanmbi, G. (1994) “Setting up a distance teaching institutions” In M. Omolewa & G. Adekanmbi (Eds.) University Initiatives in Adult Education, Ibadan: Ibadan University Press. pp 95 – 108. Apps, J.W. (1991). Mastering the teaching of adults. Malabar, Florida: Krieger. Bennett, C. (1997) Teaching students as they would be taught: The importance of cultural perspectives. B.J. Shade (Ed), In culture, style and the educative process. (pp102-107) 2nd edition. Springfield, Illinois: Charles, C. Thomas. Boettcher, J. & Cartwright, G. P. (1997). Designing and supporting courses on the WEB. Change. 29 (10). September/October). Boonzaaier, C. (1996). “Why did so many students go? A survey of withdrawing
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