Southern African Development Community

Centre for Distance Education (SADC CDE)
SADC CDE is an Open and Distance Learning Centre of Excellence in Southern Africa established for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Excellence in ODL
Newsletter - July 2011

CONTENTS
■ ■ ■ Experience from the Gender Course Reflections on PREST Course SAIDE On-line Learner Support Workshop

■ ■ ■ ■

ODL programmes at University of Pretoria NADEOSA Experience 2011 DEASA Conference – Malawi Botswana ODL Policy Development

Gender Course – My Experiences
Ms. Mmabaledi Seeletso - Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning

Gender studies is a very important discipline to study in this era as it accords students the opportunity to explore the various concepts through an interdisciplinary perspective that focuses on the significance of sex as a social construct. Gender studies helped me better understand the unique contributions of both men and women to society, as well as the various gender roles in their different contexts. I have always been interested and involved in issues of gender, and other gender related matters. This programme, as such, helped me understand better gender roles and norms. The course also equipped me with skills of how I can professionally reach out and help women and girls, especially the marginalised in rural areas. I have been, for some time now, associated with empowerment of women and the girl child, and promotion of gender equality through the Young Women’s Christian Association of Botswana and the National Youth Centre which at empowering the youth of Botswana, irrespective of gender. Through the Gender Course, certain issues became clearer to me than ever before, and theseinclude the fact thatgender stereotyping; (i) (ii) (iii) Is a part of many people’s “culture” and seems to be a part of their thinking, Is so inherent in people’s minds that you, as an individual, can even get stereotyped about your own gender, Prevents people from being multi-skilled as they do roles defined by the society in which they live.

Through my studying of the Gender Course, I became better equipped to encourage positive interaction between peers. I am now in a position to educate both boys and girls about girls and women, as well as about boys and men – and how the boy child and men can live peacefully side by side with the girl child and women. Basically it is about nurturing and teaching them gender based skills that include assertiveness, humility, stress and anger management and any other relevant issue that might be of importance to them.

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(SADC CDE) Newsletter - July 2011

My Story after Doing the Post Graduate Certificate Course in Practitioner Research and Evaluation Skills Training in Open and Distance Learning (PREST) Baganetsi Mmolawa - Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning

I had always wanted to discover things for myself and be able to speak with authority. I had always admired scholars who presented their work backed by theory and quotes from popular gurus in their disciplines. Doing the course helped me achieve all that. Also, I particularly appreciated the time and network I established with other students who did the course. I have acquired solid theoretical knowledge as well as the ability to define my research agenda. Although very strict, I loved the honest and open attitude of my Tutor Dr Modesto which allowed me to further nourish my curiosity about research. His supervision was unique. How many people can manage to read multiple students’ assignments and research articles and find time to give detailed comments and suggestions while being aHead of Department! The course stimulated my interest in areas such as the most appropriate models and theories that can be used to address today’s issues faced by evolving institutions such as BOCODOL. The course has been professionally enriching, and because of the skills and confidence I gained, I am no longer a secret admirer. I presented two research papers at international conferences and participated in reviewing materials for a certificate course in ODL. The courage and focus to do all that came right from my participation in the PREST course. I see the course as a powerful tool for transforming individuals who want to contribute to the knowledge base to become 21st century ODL research experts.

(SADC CDE) Newsletter - July 2011

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Testimony on the PREST Course
Webster Hamweete - University of Zambia

I wish to thank Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL) for initiating the PREST programme. You may not realise the impact of this programme until you appreciate my testimony. Through out my education ladder up to Masters degree level, I have always attended conventional type of education. It was until May 2009 that I got enrolled on the PREST programme that I encountered what constituted distance learning. At first, I thought that since I already had a Masters degree in Educational Administration and Policy Studies, this programme would be a walk over. Tied to this was my many years of working in an institution that was offering programmes of studies by distance learning and also being a Lecturer for twelve years. Little did I realise that there was a lot to be learnt. I had to relearn the science and art of academic writing. I also had to learn how to present essays as well as acceptable journal articles. A number of times as practicing ODL practitioners, we take certain things for granted and assume that we can always fall back on the experience we have had whilst pursuing other forms of training. I had to learn to adjust to the acceptable in-house style as recommended by BOCODOL. This was not easy but I had to work hard to ultimately manage. I also would like to say that the programme was not an easy one. Most of the tasks given were really demanding to the point that if one did not read and understand the modules given by BOCODOL, it would be difficult to submit an acceptable piece of work. The programme was challenging mostly because I was not on leave and so most of the studying was done after working hours when I was exhausted. As you know, working as a Lecturer demands that marking is done even after working hours. It was not easy to come to terms with all these surrounding pressures. The PREST programme has made me a better DE practitioner. As a result of my going through the programme, I am able to run workshops on distance education with other colleagues who did the same programme with less difficulty. I thank Dr Tichapondwa Stanley Modesto for his firmness and his consistency on insisting on me to do what was acceptable in pursuing the PREST programme. Many thanks also go to Dr. Godson Gatsha for his ever encouraging words.Allow me to also acknowledge Professor Richard Siachiwena for his tireless efforts in ensuring that those in DE institutions are grounded in DE matters. I also thank SADC-CDE for sponsoring me for this programme. I also thank the University of Zambia for the support rendered through the Director of the Institute of Distance Education, Mr Chishimba Nkosha. Last, but not the least, I thank my wife Charity Shilengwe Hamweete who is also pursuing BSC in Nursing for always beckoning on me to study the PREST programme almost every day. I also thank my son Hamweete Luyando Hamweete for reminding his Papa to work hard. I salute all and may you continue with this great work. Page 4 (SADC CDE) Newsletter - July 2011

Overview of SAIDE On-line Learner Support Workshop
Mr. Keorapetse Maokaneng - Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning

1.0

Introduction

The workshop was organized by South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) at their offices in Johannesburg, SA in the week of 01- 09 November 2010. The participants were drawn from BOCODOL and Namibian College of Distance and Open Learning (NAMCOL). The aims of the workshop were to; • Expose the participants to the use of learner management systems (lms) and in particular moodle as a tool to support e-learning • Familiarise participants with some of the theory and practice of online distance learning. My personal expectations of the workshop were to;
• • •

Have a better understanding of the main tenets of e-learning Better appreciate the challenges of e-learning and how to handle them Be better equipped to support learners on line

2.0
(a)

Lessons Learnt
The Learner management system (LMS)

Generally the LMSs (in this case moodle) are programs that allow for interaction between learners and the facilitator. They are better suited for educational instruction than a website or CD which are static in that they just give information but allow very limited or no interaction. Moodle allows both synchronous and asynchronous interaction depending on the availability of resources and the preparation made. It is especially important to highlight the asynchronous aspect in our case because learners will not necessarily be available for real time interaction with tutors or with each other most of the time. The program can also be used to monitor and track the level of participation in learning activities by an individual learner. It therefore becomes easier to offer learning support with this kind of tool in place.

(SADC CDE) Newsletter - July 2011

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(b)

Impact of technology on Distance Education

Using web tools is quite a revolutionary way of learning. The learners are exposed to a myriad of sources and experiences as they go along. The media becomes a platform for creation and blending of information using a variety of sources and not just a conduit running from the expert to the learner. The learner is therefore actively involved in the creation of knowledge rather than just being a recipient. Theoretically, it is a true learner centered method in which learning democracy or independence is emphasized. E-learning thus makes a big impact on distance education. Institutions offering this mode of education are compelled to be aware of its existence and make strides to incorporate it into their business if they have to remain relevant in the future. (c) Course design and Learning Material Preparation

Exposure to huge volumes of information and the variety in the sources also means that the learner is likely to get many distractions in the web. This poses a risk of losing track of what they set out to achieve e.g. hitting an entertainment site while still searching for some study information. The course designers and facilitators should therefore carefully plan and structure the instruction such that it makes it explicitly clear what is expected of the learner and can keep them active. The activities ought to be sequenced properly to help students reach the desired goals. In some cases the facilitator may even have to limit the links on the reference documents to keep the learner on track. Learners should be constantly supported to give them a fair chance of success. All these should be incorporated into the program and material design, ensuring that learners are constantly active.

3.0
(a)

Challenges in e-Learning
Unavailability of technology The main challenge to e-learning in our context is the lack of access to the required technology in terms of the actual shortage of the required hardware and associated infrastructure. A number of learners reside in rural areas where development is still lagging behind and learners in those places cannot be reasonably expected to own gadgets like computers or internet linked cell phones.

(b)

Lack of skills to use the technology Sometimes interaction with the learning material gets derailed as one is entangled in the challenges of using the computer e.g. too slow in typing or not sure what button to press for the desired command to be executed.

(c)

Difficulty in controlling large groups Large groups of learners can be challenging, with learners bringing in diverse issues and each one needing a response. This may need a facilitator who is specifically dedicated to responding to specific learner needs.

(d)

Stringent preparations As shown before, due to the availability of so much information on the web, the learners are likely to get lost if not well guided. Preparation of materials and any other form of interaction therefore has to be thorough to avoid sending ambiguous instruction. This requires plenty of skill, resources and time to execute.

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(SADC CDE) Newsletter - July 2011

4.0

Conclusion

I believe the skills I acquired in this workshop are just an eye opener. I also think the workshop has only introduced me to this whole new world of possibilities. There is need to practice the acquired skills to improve on the level of competence. This can be done through actual interaction with learners or colleagues.

5.0

Recommendations

In the case of BOCODOL where there is a commitment to set up at least one program (SSBM) on line, this process should be expedited to make it a full online program and be offered to learners who have access to the technology. In other programs a component should be added that would compel the learners to use the technology at some point to access critical information and thus turn them into web supported programs. Although accessing technology may be a challenge to some learners, this would encourage them to start thinking seriously about it and possibly take it up. The college should further train its staff in the administration of these technologies in order to be able to customize it to its specific programs and needs.

Open and Distance Learning Programmes at the University of Pretoria
The Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria has established itself as a national leader in teaching innovation and education research. Its programmes enjoy international recognition and are aimed at training world-class leaders to develop a generation of innovative thinkers. For a number of years, the University has been offering a variety of distance education programmes, and the Faculty has developed three world-class programmes for this mode. These are: • the Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) programme in Education Management, which seeks to empower students to develop competence in all areas of their profession; • the Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) programme in Special Needs Education which prepares educators to assist students with special needs; and • BEd (Honours) degree in Education, Management and Policy, a postgraduate qualification, which aims at equipping teaching staff and education managers at all levels with skills in the field of educational management and policy Students for these programmes are drawn both locally and internationally, and contact sessions have been arranged at one time or the other in countries outside South Africa depending on the number of students available in such areas. The University is well aware of the fact that studying at a distance is quite challenging for students working full-time, therefore, give much attention to student support mechanisms, which include quality learning material, contact sessions, tutorials, administration booklet, tutorial letters, CD-Rom and communication by SMS. Presently, the Unit for Distance Education engages in operational research, the findings of which are geared toward improving the programmes in order to provide quality service to our students. For example, already the Mobile Technology is being used more extensively to communicate administrative information to students, while there is on-going research on how better to use same technology to support students academically. This is in view of the fact that majority of our students are drawn from deep rural areas of the country. (SADC CDE) Newsletter - July 2011 Page 7

NADEOSA Experience
The SADC-CDE Centre Coordinator – Administration participated at the National Association Distance Education of South Africa (NADEOSA) conference which was hosted by the North-West University – Potchefstroom Campus in South Africa, from 06-09 September 2010. This was quite an enriching experience for the Centre’s Coordinator-Administration as he had just joined the Centre beginning of the same month. The NADEOSA conference attracted international Speakers and presenters from as far as the United States of America, India and Finland. Various speakers opined on the need to ensure that quality is not compromised in Open and Distance Learning. Speakers also addressed the issue of adequate funding for ODL institutions by governments as ODL caters for the majority of learners as opposed to the conventional education system. The need not to forget the marginalized and vulnerable people in ODL was also emphasized.

Malawi DEASA 2010 Conference
During the month of September 17- 19, 2010, the SADC-CDE participated at the 45th Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA) conference at Lilongwe, Malawi. The theme for the conference was; Propelling Strategic Novelty for Open and Distance Learning in SADC. The sub-themes were: • • • • • Capacity Building and Development Capacity Building and Partnerships Policy Development and Facilitation Quality Promotion Research and Analysis

Various experts in Open and Distance Learning from the SADC region shared their knowledge, wisdom and experiences by presenting research papers which addressed the specific sub-themes.

Botswana National ODL Policy Development Meeting
The SADC-CDE facilitated a reference committee meeting which critiqued the First Draft of the National ODL Policy document for Botswana. The reference committee met in Gaborone, Botswana on the 21st October 2010 for this task. The First Botswana National Draft ODL Policy was compiled by two consultants who were engaged by the SADC-CDE. At the end of the meeting, the two consultants were mandated to incorporate the suggestions agreed upon into the Draft ODL Policy document.

Southern African Development Community
Centre for Distance Education (SADC - CDE)
Page 8 (SADC CDE) Newsletter - July 2011
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