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Thesis & Dissertations

A comparative study of distance and conventional education programmes assessed in terms of access, delivery and output at the University of Pretoria

This study is about the comparison of distance and conventional education programs at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. It is assessed in terms of access, delivery modes and output. The purpose is to investigate and to compare the impact of distance and conventional education on the performances of learners in a postgraduate degree program (B.Ed. (Hons) with specialization in Education Management, assessed in terms of access, delivery and output. It explored documents that were both at the macro (Government Policy documents) and macro (University’s / Faculty documents) with the aim of answering the main research question, with other identified sub-research questions that have been raised.: What is the comparison between the impact of distance and conventional education on the performances of learners in a postgraduate BEd (Hons) degree program with specialization in Education Management, when assessed in terms of access, delivery mode and output? A review of relevant literature exposed and compared the essence of both modes of delivery.

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An analysis of electronic learning as a means of tax education in South Africa

The arrival of the Internet and the World Wide Web has had a radical impact on education and in particular the delivery of education (instruction). Through these channels, alternative modes of delivering instruction have been created.

Over the past few years, the use of electronic methods as a means of delivering instruction for academic purposes has increased, not only in Taxation but many other subjects as well. The ability to free itself from time and space, as well as being more convenient and flexible, are but some of the advantages of this type of learning

Even though e-learning in South Africa is in its early stages, it is expected to grow significantly, owing primarily to the elimination of previous inhibiting factors like the non-availability of broadband/ADSL, unsatisfactory internet speeds, the lack of essential hardware, limited network access and poor web technology. It is therefore important for educators and course designers in South Africa to become familiar with the current issues facing e-learning and the possible solutions to these issues.

In this study, a literature review critically analysing electronic methods as a means of delivering instruction on Taxation in South Africa was performed. The major issues currently facing the e-learning environment were identified, along with the possible solutions to these issues.

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An Evaluation of student support services in open and distance learning at the University of Namibia

The focal point of this study was to evaluate student support services, provided at the northern campus of the University of Namibia, from a student perspective. A combination of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies was chosen and data were collected by means of a literature review and a questionnaire, supplemented with open-ended questions. The subjects of the study were second- and third-year B.Ed. students from the northern campus of the University of Namibia. The results of this study have provided evidence that adult distance education students indeed value the provision of student support services. Specifically, students in this study placed the greatest importance on student support services related to getting started with their studies, for example orientation sessions about available student support services and contact and communication with tutors and fellow students by means of vacation schools, face-to-face tutorials on Saturdays at regional centres and support through study groups. One of the conclusions of the study was that the institutional policy and the role of management are crucial in the establishment of an effective student support model to facilitate distance learning. The following recommendations were formulated: The University?s Centre for External Studies (CES) should conduct periodic and regular evaluation studies of its distance education students to design, develop and provide student support services that will be tailored to students? specific needs and expectations. CES should pay attention to support services that help reduce barriers if it is to attain its mission of making quality higher education more accessible. CES should provide adequate training to tutors to prepare them for the special challenges presented by open and distance learning. CES should design and implement an appropriate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) course to empower distance education students adequately for the use of modern ICT.

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Barriers to remote rural students access of distance education support services offered by the Centre for External Studies at the University of Namibia

This research studies and documents the barriers to remote rural students' access of distance education support services offered by the centre for external studies at the University of Namibia The intent of the researcher is to investigate the question: What barriers do remote rural students face when accessing student support services offered by the CES-UNAM The purpose of the study is to promote the growth of open and distance learning in the area of student support for students in the remote areas of Caprivi and Kavango regions in Namibia. The aim of the research is to provide evidence that open and distance learning students in remote rural areas face academic, administrative and logistics, personal and natural disasters as barriers as they study through the Centre for External Studies, University of Namibia. Six students were interviewed and studied over a period of two months. The students were followed to their places where interviews were held. Several written documents from students registering their grievances with CES-UNAM were requested from the office of the Director and were reviewed and analysed. The results thereof were recorded in thick verbatim as students personally engaged themselves in narrating the barriers that they face each day during their study periods. The results showed that Open and Distance Learning institutions in the world should practise and enhance sound academic, administration and logistics management systems to help students in remote rural areas. CES-UNAM has a challenge to ensure that students in remote rural areas are adequately supported. The researcher recommends that studies in the area of student support in should focus on their transactional, interactional and social contexts in order to enhance their opportunities to continue with their studies.

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Blending the traditional face-to-face learning with instructional technology.

Emerging technologies offer alternative ways to conceptualize and deliver education in pursuit of promoting learning. One of the many ways is Blended Learning (BL). This blend of conventional Face-to-Face (F2F) instruction and Web-based distance learning has a potential to create an improved learning experience for the student. In this thesis work, BL models were studied and the pertinent ones were adopted and modified for application in a case study involving the handling of two courses—Computer Literacy at Sunyani Polytechnic and Computer Networking at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) all in Ghana. In the models, students’ performance in terms of their end-of-semester examination results, were used as the output. The experimental results revealed that employing instructional technology promises great successes when adequate preparation is made. This was evident in the outcome of the application of the BLM at KNUST which showed an average improvement of 61% in the performance of students. The outcome of the case study at Sunyani Polytechnic showed that, the introduction technology in the learning process notwithstanding, if preparations are woefully inadequate, results can be worse than that of the traditional F2F approach. Here, the first semester results showed an average decline of 15% in the performance of students.

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Changing practices and systems: Implementing the online learning community at the University of South Africa

This study reports on the use of action research methodology to generate a critical reflective collaborative setting. The aim was to infuse the institution with the results of this study in order to stimulate debate on the issues regarding change in practice and systems. The suitability of Internet communication technologies, more specifically the online learning community, is evaluated as a delivery mode that would address today’s learning needs. This required the collaborative construction of knowledge in a community setting with the teacher enabling communication and interaction, and facilitating and stimulating the sharing and testing of ideas and constructs. But such a learning scenario was found to be significantly challenging to the current print-based learning experience. It implied a challenge to teaching and support staff as well as the questioning of the efficiency and legitimacy of current instructional design staff and procedures used. The teaching responsibilities and commitment in the online community was outlined as against current print-based teaching practice. The current development and production culture, which restricts innovation and change in practice and systems significantly, came under pressure. The success of the online learning community in the Unisa context was nevertheless significant and it has the potential to serve as an opportunity to re-examine print-based production and delivery and to devise strategies and solutions to increase the quality significantly.

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Collaborative Learning in an ICT text based synchronous and asynchronous learning commities. What impact does it have on learning outcomes?

This dissertation analyses collaborative learning in synchronous and asynchronous learning communities and come up with the best suitable e-learning community for the Zimbabwean distance students. It focuses on the University of Zimbabwe, Masters of Business Administration first year class studying Business Information Systems course as the research group. The research was divided into three sections, The Structure (Prephase), the process (Experience) and the Outcome (Post phase). At the structure stage, students were grouped randomly into three groups, the synchronous, asynchronous and the control group. The asynchronous and synchronous groups were made to registered and familiarize with the e-learning platform and environment. An ASSIST tool was applied to ascertain the dependent and independent variables that would affect collaboration and usage of the e-learning environment at process stage. At the process stage, the synchronous and asynchronous groups were further divided into smaller groups considering the variables analysed at the structure stage. A time period was set to monitor collaboration using the e-learning platform. Various groups were given different discussion topics which contributed to their coursework and collaboration monitored. At the outcome stage, the SATISFACTION model was applied to determine the way students have been collaborating and their experience in using the e-learning platform. The responses of the synchronous and asynchronous groups were analysed with the coursework results as well as the final results and compared with the control group results. E-learning usage depending on the SATISFACTION model was analysed using the one way ANOVA- repeated measure so as to establish the trend. Comparison of the groups was carried out using the T- Test distribution. The results revealed that students in collaborative synchronous communities have a negative impact on the learning outcomes as compared to the asynchronous communities. The asynchronous collaborative e-iii learning in an ICT text based communities is best suited for the Zimbabwean distance students as compared to the synchronous collaborative communities.

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Construction and evaluation of a holistic model for the professional development of Physics teachers via distance education

Student performance in Mathematics and Science education is a source of concern for education authorities in South Africa. This was supported by the latest TIMSS results which were released in December 2004. As in the previous studies, TIMSS and TIMSS-R, South African learners were again outperformed by the learners of all other participating countries (Reddy, 2004). To ensure learner achievement in mathematics and science, we need committed, qualified and experienced teachers in these subjects. In this study a holistic professional development (HPD) model was constructed, tested and evaluated using practicing Grade 10 - 12 teachers. The model developed teachers' content knowledge, teaching approaches and professional attitudes simultaneously. After analysis of the model we found that improving teachers' content knowledge builds their confidence in teaching their subject. This in turn motivates teachers to perform better in their jobs: they come to class better prepared, eager to do a job they know they are good at, no more coming late, no more plodding through uninspiring one-way lessons. They are turned into better professionals with a positive work ethic. Their improved classroom practices lead to higher enrolments of science learners and improved learner achievement, the crown of successful science teaching. The HPD model was developed in three phases. In the first phase baseline information was obtained to determine problems that exist with the teachers' content knowledge, teaching approaches and professional attitudes. After data analysis it was found that all three of these dimensions needed development. In the second phase the initial development of the HPD model took place. An intervention programme was structured and the effect of the programme on the teachers' content knowledge, teaching approaches and professional attitudes were analysed. Successful elements of the initial model were extracted and developed further, in addition new elements were added. In the third phase the HPD model was developed further. Analysis of the data showed the following effect on the teachers: they were extricated from a vicious cycle where poor content knowledge leads to lack of confidence which caused unwillingness to spend time on task (poor professional attitudes, ineffective teaching approaches). Instead they became part of a virtuous circle where improved content knowledge leads to increased confidence, enjoyment and a willingness to spend more time on task (better professional attitudes and effective teaching approaches). The HPD model was evaluated using international benchmarks, such as the Standards for Professional Development of the National Research Council of New York, USA. Recommendations and possibilities for future research are discussed.

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Critical care nursing students' experience of clinical accompaniment in open distance learning (ODL) : a phenomenological perspective

The purpose of the study was firstly, to explore and interpret the meaning of the experiences of critical care nursing students about clinical accompaniment in open distance learning (ODL). This aspect has not been researched before and as such, there is no empirical data about the clinical accompaniment of the critical care-nursing students in ODL. Secondly, to develop guidelines for facilitation of clinical accompaniment in critical care nursing in ODL. A qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological study was conducted. Non-probability purposive sampling was used to select participants to provide information about clinical accompaniment in ODL. Data was obtained through in-depth interviews supplemented by field notes compiled during fieldwork. The study findings revealed that participants regard relationships and communication as important for clinical accompaniment. The distance factor inherent in distance learning was problematic for student’s motivation and support. The presence and visibility of the lecturer was pivotal for the students. Of importance also were the relationships with the managers and colleagues. The perception of participants was that managers of clinical facilities were not as readily accessible as would have been the lecturer. Although negative experiences were described, paradoxically these experiences seemed to have empowered the student to develop survival skills, patience and assertiveness to take action on how to deal with the situation. From the findings the researcher was able to develop guidelines the implementation of which, is hoped to ensure effective clinical accompaniment of critical care nursing students in ODL.

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Dynamic approach in the application of information communication technologies models in the provision of flexible learning for distance education

The main purpose of this research is to establish whether ICT models as implemented in distance education do help to render desirable results (increment in throughput, meeting clientele expectations, and reduction in learner drop-outs). If it is not the case, what could be done to overcome the established hindrance? The researcher employed programme evaluation (PE) which integrates both the positivistic and phenomenological aspects of research. The samples were drawn from the population group through probability and non-probability techniques. Different research strategies within PE such as discovery, inspection and auditing were at first employed to gauge the physical presence of what is being achieved by Unisa through use of myUnisa & DVC; followed by the use of the surveys (personal interviews, administered questionnaires, focus group interviews). The ultimate outcomes of the said research activities are audiovisual recordings, statistically analysed transcripts and questionnaire data. The researcher employed the following key questions in grappling with issues in this area; their findings are also given: i. Does the application of ICTs facilitate and enhance flexible learning at Unisa? With reference to flexible delivery as it relates to aspect of teaching and learning in Engineering, it has been established that minimal use is made of ICTs. Are the technologies correctly applied for teaching and learning? Based on the evidence of research findings it has been established that technology application is mainly used for administrative support rather than for teaching and learning. iii. Do the instructional design and technological applications meet the needs of their users? As matters stand, the study suggests that users' expectations through rating their perceptions and attitudes (academics, tutors, instructional designers, multimedia developers and learners), are far from being met (as all the critical parts of the models are not yet in place regarding the Engineering and other departments). According to the main finding, while there is some evidence of efforts aimed at proper implementation, underutilisation of the ICTs appears to be the main problem, as established at Unisa and elsewhere. The research is concluded through a number of recommendations based on the established findings.

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Exploring the extent of use and adoption of free and open source software in a tertiary Institution in Ghana (Case study of KNUST)

The emergence of the information and mass communication age has brought to light the irrevocable important role that information, knowledge as well as technology play in facilitating the socio-economic development of a country. The use of ICT to develop, deploy and delivery services that enable efficiency at the work place is catching on in developing countries such as Ghana yet there is still so much that is needed to encourage the use of such technologies. Most of the software that are used in many educational institutions are proprietary and users need to pay for user licenses from the software owners. This research seeks to explore the potential of the adoption of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) based on a framework developed from FOSS and Diffusion of Innovation theory in one of the leading tertiary educational institution in Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University Science Technology (KNUST). The study examined the extent of adoption and use of Free and open Source software at KNUST, FOSS innovations considered by KNUST, the challenges faced by KNUST in the adoptions and use of FOSS, possible solutions and finally a recommendation on critical issues to be considered for the effective implementation of FOSS innovations. A qualitative study with case study design was done. The study interviewed 12 permanent IT professional employees of the university, 22 national service personnel, 59 students randomly selected from specific colleges and 3 lectures. Also 500 out of the total 3000 plus computers that exist in the study area were randomly inspected to determine the operating environment as well as the type of FOSS user applications that were installed on them. The findings indicated that, although the advantages of FOSS for KNUST far overshadow the disadvantages of migrating from the operating platform, FOSS adoption was very low than what the study expected. Additionally in terms of cost, features specifications and support for the current hardware FOSS provides the alternate solution. However, KNUST's FOSS adoption and use has been a failure due to a wide variety of reasons notably among them are poor student and lecturer educational awareness, the inability of the university to adequately support the ICT staff to implement FOSS innovations, and an ICT policy which is not well elaborate on the use alternate operating environment at the university. Challenges to implementing FOSS initiatives at KNUST ranged from inadequate ICT infrastructure at the study site, poor ICT skills of most lecturers as well as students. There were also inadequate funds for the ICT staff to implement alternate systems such as FOSS initiatives. The results of this research are expected to make a THEORETICAL and/or PRACTICAL contribution to IS knowledge in proposing a Standard Operating Environment model based on FOSS and Dol.

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Fouth-year student social workers" experience relating to their social work practical work at the service learning centre of an open Open Distance Learning University

The University of South Africa (Unisa) as comprehensive open distance learning institution (ODL institution) in South Africa is fulfilling a critical social mandate to serve people who would otherwise not have access to education, either for financial reasons, being employed, living in remote areas, or because they cannot access residential universities owing to disability (Unisa, 2008[a]: 15). In facilitating the entrée of the previously identified groups into tertiary education, Unisa has an open admission policy where students mostly have unlimited access to the system. The policy aims to cross the time, geographical, economic, social, educational, and communication distance between students, academics, courseware, and their peers and to accommodate these prospective students from diverse backgrounds (Unisa, 2008: 2). Unisa’s self-evaluation portfolio for the Commonwealth Audit during 2008 mentioned that this policy leads to the revolving door syndrome where students have unlimited access to the system but then often without success (Unisa, 2008[a]: 27). Open access poses a challenge for the training of student social workers within an ODL context. The Department of Social Work at Unisa, currently trains 70% of all social workers in South Africa (Department of Social Work - Unisa, 2008: 5). Coupled with the former, is the fact that Unisa is regarded in the tertiary landscape of South Africa as the most affordable university with the result that it attracts large number of students who have come straight from school (Kilfoil cited in Schenck, 2009: 299). In coping with the large student numbers the Department of Social Work at Unisa is challenged, apart from addressing the theoretical social work programme, to also meet the practical work requirements as set out by the Standard Generating Body of Social Work, in that it needs to provide practical placements for students to conduct their social work practical work training in completion of their Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) (Lawlor, 2008: 19). The current state of affairs is that the numbers of students requiring practical placements for social work practical work training outnumber the number of practical placements available. In responding to and addressing these challenges, the Bright Site of Sunnyside Service-learning Centre (hereafter called “Bright Site” or the Bright Site”) was established in October 2008 as a strategic project by Unisa’s Department of Social Work. The Bright Site was developed in accordance with the service-learning model proposed by the Council for Higher Education (CHE) with the emphasis on service through learning, and learning through service

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Improving the academic literacy levels of first-year Natural Sciences students by means of an academic literacy intervention

Over the past years, there has been a consistent call from Government and industry for South African tertiary institutions to deliver more graduates in the fields of science and technology. This, however, is no mean feat for universities, as the pool of prospective candidates delivers very few students with the necessary academic literacy abilities, and very few students who passed mathematics and science at the right levels to succeed in science higher education. This puts tertiary institutions under mounting pressure to accept students who are under-prepared and to support these students appropriately.

The plight of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institutions like the University of South Africa (UNISA) is even more desperate, as they are often left with those students who are either unable to gain entrance into, or to afford the study fees of, residential universities. These students are often in greater need for face-to-face interaction than are their counterparts at residential universities, yet they generally receive very little of this.

The plight of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institutions like the University of South Africa (UNISA) is even more desperate, as they are often left with those students who are either unable to gain entrance into, or to afford the study fees of, residential universities. These students are often in greater need for face-to-face interaction than are their counterparts at residential universities, yet they generally receive very little of this.

The intervention examined and critiqued in this study is an attempt at raising the academic literacy levels of first-year students at UNISA in the fields of science and technology by means of a 60-hour face-to-face workshop programme. As its foundation, it uses the principles of collaborative learning and authentic material design. It also treats academic literacy abilities as interdependent and holistic.

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Learning support : perceptions and experiences of remote distance learners from marginalised communities in Botswana

This study pertains to the provision of learning support to remote distance learners from the Basarwa and Bakgalagadi communities in Botswana who enrolled for a secondary school-leaving certificate. The purpose of this case study was to document these learners’ perceptions and experiences of learning at a distance and to improve service delivery. The literature on distance learning support emphasises the importance of making learners’ voices audible as these help gauge the efficacy of learning support. The study was informed by an interpretive paradigm using a mixed-methods approach and is underpinned by Holmberg’ theory of conversational learning (2003). Qualitative data methods collection involved semi-structured interviews, journals, document analysis and observations while a questionnaire provided nested quantitative data. Data sets were triangulated and trustworthiness was enhanced by using Atlas.ti® for qualitative analysis and SAS version 8 software to generate percentages. The key findings showed that distance learners exhibited high intrinsic motivation and 72.1% of them were satisfied with the learning support provided. This substantiates that learner motivation remains a key attribute for successful distance learning in any context. However, policy and managerial flaws did frustrate and unintentionally disadvantage these remote distance learners. Despite their adverse circumstances positive perceptions and experiences were exhibited where learners had access to personalised academic and affective support from empathetic tutors. Implications for practice include policy reviews, ODL staff training and adoption of best practice. A needs assessment to establish learner needs, expectations and aspirations is critical for the design and development of relevant learning materials, and for the delivery of quality learning support to enhance the academic experience of remote learners from marginalised communities. Recommendations may be applicable in other underdeveloped distance learning contexts. Topics for further research exploration in learning support, policy and curriculum issues have been suggested.

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Management of distance teacher education in Zambia

This study is a collective case study. It assesses the various aspects of distance teacher education in the five institutions. These are the University of Zambia, the Zambian Open University, the National In-Service Teachers College, the Nkrumah College of Education and the Copperbelt Secondary Teachers College. Distance education practitioners and distance students views on the management of distance teacher education in Zambia were elicited. The researcher collected data using semi-structured individual and focused group interviews, and observations. In addition, relevant documents such as reports, policy documents and statistics were used. Also, the researcher analysed instructional study materials (modules) to establish whether they were suitable for distance students. The researcher employed qualitative methods in the collection and analysis of data. Triangulation was used in order to verify the information given during this study. In terms of theory, a comprehensive literature review was carried out to determine the works other researchers had done in the area of open and distance education, especially in the field of the management of distance teacher education. The Literature review revealed that good management of distance teacher education depends on how the various aspects of distance education are managed. Furthermore, the evidence from the literature review indicates that good management of distance teacher education improves the quality of distance teacher education. Apart from ZAOU, the other four institutions are dual-mode institutions. They offer distance education programmes and full-time programmes. The same lecturers teach both distance and full-time students. The findings concerning the strengths of the management of distance teacher education in Zambia were: a recognition by providers and clients of the importance of distance teacher vi education, an awareness of the challenges of distance teacher education as displayed in their guidelines and a positive attitude towards distance teacher education. The findings concerning the weaknesses were: inadequate student support services, inadequate channels of communication, inadequate training and professional development, problems relating to integrating Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in distance education delivery, problems concerning assignments and examinations, inadequate records management, inadequacy regarding interactive instructional materials, problems relating to staffing, and a lack of national policy on distance education in Zambia. The overall conclusion is that the management of distance teacher education in Zambia is reasonably effective. However, the areas of concern highlighted above should be given attention if institutions that offer distance teacher education programmes are to provide quality distance teacher education.

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Motivational factors affecting a student's choice between print and on-line modes of delivery in distance education

This study argues in favour of the distance education student as being a decision-maker and scrutinised his choice criteria against the `open' education background. In particular, the study investigated the relative contribution of influential decision factors, as identified by previous research, in the choice students made when they chose between print-based and on-line modalities. A quantitative study, drawing data from 233 participants in two modules at the University of South Africa, was employed. The study showed that influential decision factors were transferable to a choice between printed or on-line instructional content, but their effects were less significant. Differences pertaining to previous experience with their delivery mode were apparent between students who selected the print-based option and students who selected the on-line option. The results also confirmed that of other research that a significant relationship exists between self-concept and optimal decision-making and self-concept and social environment

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Open and distance learning and access to higher education in Southern Africa : the Botswana experience

This qualitative study based on the interpretive/constructivist perspective, investigates the environment in which ODL addresses high and diversified demands for participation in higher education in Botswana. The driving concern for the study is the apparent low enrolments through the ODL mode of delivery in some dual mode institutions in Southern Africa. The scope of the study is the Botswana higher education sector, with UB, which is the only public dual mode higher education institution in Botswana, being the case studied. The main investigation question is “why do some dual mode higher education institutions in Southern Africa continue to enroll lower figures through their ODL than their face-to-face mode of delivery, though ODL is purported to have the potential to increase access more substantially than face-to-face”. Data collection methods are semi-structured interviews and document review. Participants are purposively selected from UB, TEC and MOESD, based on their experience in planning, policy and implementation of the ODL mode of delivery. Qualitative content analysis is the method of analysis.

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Planning and implementing distance learning in Rwanda

The aim of this study was to analyze the process of planning and implementing DL in tertiary health professional education in the Kigali Health Institute and in tertiary teacher education in the Kigali Institute of Education, in order to understand the dynamics of planning and implementing DL, and to suggest the way forward for the success of those two programs. Concepts taken from innovation Havelock"s problem solving strategy (1982) and social system theories in particular Owens"s open sociotechnical systems for schools (1998) were combined to form the framework which guided this study. A qualitative case study, using a comparative descriptive approach, was the research design. The participants were drawn from (a) policy makers in the ministry of education, ministry of health, ministry of public services and the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA); (b) management in the participating institutions; (c) the teaching staff, especially those who were involved and/or are still involved in the process; (d) students; (e) and members of professional regulatory bodies. Purposive and theoretical sampling was used to select the participants. Twenty one informants were interviewed. Three focus group discussions of six, four and eight participants respectively were conducted. In addition document review and analysis, and physical artefacts served also as means of data collection. The results showed that systematic planning with a comprehensive document and strategic plan as outcome of the planning process are essential for the successful implementation of distance learning in Rwanda. Supportive and responsive institutions and suprasystems are indispensable to a conducive environment for planning and implementing DL in Rwanda. From the results, recommendations for the progress of the two programs that were part of this study were put forward. A framework of planning and implementing DL in Rwanda was developed based on these results. This framework may be used by policy makers, educators and other parties interested in the development of DL in Rwanda.

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Students' experiences of WebCT

The purpose of the study is to explore students’ experiences of WebCT at the University of Pretoria. In order to find out about these experiences, the Department of Telematic Learning and Education Innovation administered a web-based survey to students at the University of Pretoria. At the end of each semester students are requested to complete WebCT Experience Survey voluntarily. The WebCT Experience Survey includes both qualitative and quantitative data for research (TLEI Annual Report, 2003). The focus of this research is more on qualitative data which includes the open-ended questions.

The researcher used conceptual analysis to evaluate the open-ended questions in the survey (Busch et al., 2005). The challenges and benefits were coded for their frequency and relevance. The researcher then identified codes to identify the benefits and challenges of students using WebCT. The findings of the research were grouped in terms of technical, facilitation and content issues. The study indicates that students benefited from using WebCT.

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Teacher education within the context of open and distance learning in Zimbabwe: a case study

The purpose of the study is to explore students’ experiences of WebCT at the University of Pretoria. In order to find out about these experiences, the Department of Telematic Learning and Education Innovation administered a web-based survey to students at the University of Pretoria. At the end of each semester students are requested to complete WebCT Experience Survey voluntarily. The WebCT Experience Survey includes both qualitative and quantitative data for research (TLEI Annual Report, 2003). The focus of this research is more on qualitative data which includes the open-ended questions.

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The development and implementation of an institutional tuition policy for an open and distance learning institution : a case study of the University of South Africa

This study explores the development and implementation of a tuition policy at the ‘single dedicated distance education institution in South Africa,’ which is the University of South Africa. The discussion focuses specifically on ‘how different stakeholders participated in the development and implementation of the Unisa tuition policy’. In this context, the author contends that the development and implementation of an institutional tuition policy is influenced by various factors relating to the determination of the roles to be played by various stakeholders in the process. A broader consideration is whether or not and how tuition policy development and implementation influence teaching and learning in distance education.

The perspective taken in this study necessarily includes the different acts and policy documents that focus on the development of the higher education sector in South Africa, which consequently influence the practice and experience of distance education. The main findings of the study concur with the notion that there is contention in terms of Unisa tuition policy development and implementation, which leads to a measure of reluctance to implement the policy. Furthermore, the implementation has not been as effective as it might have been, and this defeats the purpose of the policy, which is to promote effective teaching and learning in distance education. The data derived from the investigation partly support this study’s concern that the development and implementation of this policy depend on participants’ and stakeholders’ mental models. The findings also show that the contention regarding the determination of roles in the development and implementation has negative impacts on the effectiveness of teaching and learning at Unisa, which may not be very obvious to the stakeholders involved. Crucially, it was also found that the stakeholders could not separate their institutional roles and positions from their roles in policy development and implementation. It is in the context of these findings that the author recommends that policy development and implementation for effective teaching and learning should critically define the institutional roles of those engaged in policy development and implementation in a distance education institution such as Unisa.

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The experiences of adult learners in distance education of SMS technology as a learning support tool

The purpose of the study was to explain how adult learners in distance education experienced short message service (SMS) technology as a learning support tool. The study focused on a single unit of analysis, namely a SMS for academic purposes that was implemented in the final module, Practical Experience, of the Advanced Certificate in Education: Special Needs Education. This course is one of three in-service teacher training programmes offered by the Unit for Distance Education at the University of Pretoria (UP). The theoretical framework and literature review were operationalised by the development of a questionnaire. A record of the text message response schedules, and telephonic interviews comprised the other two data collection instruments. These data were integrated to provide an explanation of how learners experienced SMS technology as a learning support tool. Participants who were able to utilise and access the SMS said that it seemed to: motivate them, help them focus on their work and set goals. They could check on their progress and found the creation of flexible learning environments an additional benefit. Interactive learning environments that enabled them to construct new knowledge by actively engaging in the learning process benefited the participants. Constructivist principles of teaching and learning are inherent in this. The SMS did not seem to facilitate the development of interactive learning environments characterised by two-way communication channels for all the participants, as it also establishes one-way communication channels focused on delivering course content. Although participants indicated that this was helpful in giving them more information, they also expressed a need for more contact with their lecturers and with other learners for learning support purposes. Barriers to communication included faulty cellular phones, the cost of the SMS, and the lateness of text messages in relation to the due dates for assignments and projects. An overriding barrier was the difficulty participants seemed to have in understanding the instructions in the text messages. Recommendations are therefore made to improve future short message services in order to overcome this.

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The role of higher education policy in distance education provision in South Africa

Notwithstanding challenges facing systems of higher education world-wide, higher education in South Africa has been fundamentally re-engineered since the achievement of democracy in 1994. The University of South Africa (Unisa) emerged as the only dedicated distance education institution and the biggest provider of higher education. Against the background of transformation in higher education policy and practice in South Africa, this study aimed to address the implementation of higher education policy in relation to the provision of distance education in South Africa, with special reference to Unisa. To address the research problem, a literature study investigated theoretical perspectives, recent policy trends in higher education globally and their influence on distance education and the impact of higher education policy development and implementation in South Africa on Open Distance Learning (ODL) provision. A mixed method empirical research design was used to explore how the academic and administrative cohort of top and middle and extended management at Unisa perceive the implementation of higher education policy at their institution in relation to distance education provision. The inquiry comprised two phases: Phase 1, a quantitative component entailed a survey using a self-designed questionnaire. A non-probability purposive sampling strategy was used to select respondents for the survey, and the entire target population (Unisa employees at middle to executive management level) participated. Phase 2, a qualitative component, entailed semi-structured interviews with a purposeful sample: members of top management and two council members. The survey results indicated strong agreement on the need for strategy and planning, more funding and improved levels of service. There was disagreement or ambivalence around sufficient human and infrastructural capacity, the cost of ODL, quality and the efficiency of ICT systems and processes. Four major areas of concern emerged from the interviews: Transformation (the national transformation agenda and mindset change); funding (enrolment planning and capping, the unfunded student issue and salaries); institutional efficiency (strategy, planning, capacity and quality); and the cost of ODL and the need for a dedicated ODL Policy. The study concluded with recommendations to facilitate the enhanced practice and delivery of ODL in South Africa.

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Towards supporting tutoring in a semi-distance environmental education course: a Namibian case study

Tutors are key supporters within semi-distance education and as such comprehensive support of tutoring is necessary to provide the best possible support to learners. This case study investigates how tutoring can be better supported within a semi-distance part-time professional development course in environmental education. The course, aimed at adults working in environmental education fields, is seen as an important strategy for helping participants become critical, reflexive and active environmental education practitioners who can start working on solutions to environmental issues. This study found that most challenges to successful tutoring lay in the availability and competence of human resources within Namibia. Additionally improvement in the management of tutor and learner support systems, information, guidance and enrolment and finally of learning resources is seen as essential to better support a successful tutoring process. An alternative model of tutoring is offered as a way of overcoming the major tutoring challenges outlined in this study.

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Views of distance education science students on the social responsibility of scientists

Science and technology increasingly impact on society and the environment, making it imperative for scientists to accept their social responsibility and for young scientists to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to respond to the needs of society. Relevant education must be based on information about students' conceptions and attitudes and the identification of areas of intervention. The aim of this thesis is to obtain base line data on the views of distance education science students on issues surrounding the social responsibility of scientists. A research instrument based on the Views on Science-Technology-Society methodology was developed in three phases, employing interviews and free and fixed response questionnaires. Taking the views of students as point of departure, qualitative data analysis at each stage provided the input for the following stage. Participants were drawn over a two year period from science students at various levels of academic study at the University of South Africa. Results reflect the spectrum of factors determining the practice of socially responsible science as well as respondents' associated reasoning. The application of scientific knowledge was seen to be determined by scientific freedom and the ethos of science, with the main focus on the advancement and protection of society. Scientific development in Africa and the role of women in science received special attention. At the science-technology-society interface the key areas which were identified were public communication, decision making and responsibility for the consequences of scientific and technological innovations. Education should provide relevant applied scientific knowledge and social skills, as well as an understanding of philosophical and ethical foundations of science and society. Personal and societal values also determine scientific practice, and there is a need for role models and professional codes of conduct. Science students' voluntary commitment to service in their communities was an unexpected outcome of this research.

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