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- Volume 27, Issue 6, 2013
South African Journal of Higher Education - Volume 27, Issue 6, 2013
Volumes & issues
Volume 27, Issue 6, 2013
Initiating the debate : perspectives on teaching, learning and assessment in ODL contexts : guest editorialSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1355 –1365 (2013)More Less
There are many changes facing higher education institutions, such as changes in funding regimes, the impact of technologies, changing student profiles and the impact of the economic downturn, to mention but a few. As more and more public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) venture into blended, distance and e-learning, there is an increasing blurring of some of the historical boundaries between traditional face-to-face higher education and distance education. Germane to the current discourses in higher and distance education are references to 'disruptive innovation', 'catalytic change', a 'disaggregation' of higher education, notions of the 'unbundling and unmooring' of higher education; and a need for 'new models of coherence'.
This introductory article provides a rationale for this special issue of the South African Journal of Higher Education (SAJHE) referring to some of the issues necessitating critical reflection and a re-assessment of current practices in open, distance and e-learning practices. Open distance learning (ODL) research includes, but is not limited to research into teaching, learning and assessment praxis in different ODL contexts, the impact and role of technology, student success and retention, issues regarding the design, methodologies and processes in ODL research as well as policy development and implementation.
The thirteen articles selected for this special issue provide glimpses into various issues in the field of ODL in a range of disciplinary, Southern African and international contexts. This issue dedicated to research in ODL should assist academics and educators with important pointers to redefine and re-imagine teaching, learning and assessment in the 21st century.
Author N. BaijnathSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1366 –1383 (2013)More Less
Internationalisation and cross-border provision of higher education have received much attention in recent scholarship on the subject but the perspectives are largely those of the developed world. Internationalisation and cross-border delivery have distinct meanings for and are experienced differently by African scholars and administrators at African universities. The most important of these differences will be addressed in this article through an examination, in particular, of the impetus behind the rapid increase in cross-border delivery on the African continent, a brief indication of how various institutions are faring, and the potential impact of cross-border delivery on higher education on the continent. The focus, however, will be on internationalisation and social justice for it is these latter concepts that are most cogently expressed in South African and African higher education debates at the present time. The University of South Africa (Unisa) is used as a reference point with the focus on the particularities of a university that has taken as its starting point a zealous commitment to service and development in its internationalisation and cross-border education efforts on the African continent.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1384 –1400 (2013)More Less
This article observes that while open distance learning (ODL) has demonstrably created greater opportunities for access to higher education opportunities, access alone is a necessary but insufficient criterion for advancing the twin causes of development and social justice. The article considers social justice and supporting learners in ODL, particularly in terms of what is taught and the ways in which teaching/learning is mediated. It argues that the demographics of ODL learners are changing and these changes should be considered and addressed. The article starts from the assumption that learning is a basic human activity, but observes that what is learned in higher education is both more systematic and more purposeful and therefore requires careful mediation. It considers the University of South Africa (Unisa) case, recognising a shift towards an epistemology of social-constructivism, where progressive scaffolding allows the learner to move to more independent learning. The article then identifies some of the key assumptions that need to inform changed practice in order to produce a deeper sense of connection and relevance with learners: from appreciating that learning resides with the learner, through to redesigning the distance learning approach. The article is basically a position paper for Unisa, but it seeks to manifest many of the root assumptions underlying its interpretation of ODL. As such it is hoped that the article will be of interest to international readers by providing an African perspective on challenges faced by higher education more generally.
Author T. NyabanyabaSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1401 –1413 (2013)More Less
This article presents the findings of a study on the capacity of open, distance and flexible learning (ODFL) in Lesotho. With an aim of increased and more strategic deployment of distance learning within and across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, the study undertook an evaluation of the growth of ODFL provision in Lesotho with a view to assessing its potential for increasing access to education for many members of marginalised communities. Through a documentary review of the programmes on offer and a survey of perceptions regarding ODFL programmes in Lesotho, the study revealed the potentials for this mode of delivery in providing a second chance for the many marginalised youth in the country to improve their socioeconomic standing. A number of challenges for the current ODFL provisioning were also highlighted. These included lack of investment in human and material resources for ODFL in Lesotho.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1414 –1428 (2013)More Less
Many people believe that the teaching and learning of science are only achievable in the classroom and, in some cases, the laboratory. This notion has forced many school learners and educators to abandon the teaching and learning of science or to do it haphazardly, while complaining that they lack the materials and human resources. This article examines the teaching of saponification reactions in organic chemistry to undergraduates using special open distance learning (ODL) strategies outside the normal classroom and organised laboratory situation. The strategies used were Skype (a special form of video-conferencing technology) and animation. The teaching involved both theory and practice and on evaluation, the learners proved to be as competent as if they had been taught in contact sessions. The study showed that sciences, such as life science, physical science and related disciplines, can be effectively taught and learnt through the ODL approach in schools, and particularly at university level.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1429 –1442 (2013)More Less
This article introduces project-based learning and assessment in an information technology (IT) module offered in an open distance learning (ODL) context. The literature review explains the main arguments relating to project-based learning and assessment in terms of the module researched. The methodology used (an e-mail survey) to investigate the influence of an intervention to enhance student success is described. The findings presented show that the majority of respondents experienced an increase in the effectiveness of teaching for successful learning in an ODL context. Most students believed that sufficient information had been provided to complete their projects successfully, which also helped improve their self-confidence. The article also includes recommendations and implications for the possible future use of project-based learning and assessment in similar modules. In conclusion, the way in which project-based learning and assessment assists in solving problems experienced in a vocational IT module offered in an ODL context is summarised.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1443 –1463 (2013)More Less
Supervision is a vital aspect in the success of postgraduate students and even more so in open distance learning (ODL). Various factors influence supervision success, some relating to the student, some to the supervisor and others to the institution. This article addresses an over-arching factor, namely the number of stakeholders involved in a supervision relationship, that is termed multiplicity. The allocation of more than one supervisor has capacity implications which have to be traded against improvements in quantitative success measures and quality factors such as richer pools of knowledge and complementary expertise. The study reported on investigated the perceptions of 22 supervisors on multiplicity. All the supervisors had undertaken supervision in ODL contexts. The research strategy was qualitative, based on an open-ended questionnaire survey and interviews. The main contribution was a set of dimensions, comprising factors that influence postgraduate supervision relationships, and the identification of conditions for considering more than one supervisor.
Author D. Starr-GlassSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1464 –1476 (2013)More Less
This article reflects on experiences gained in designing what was intended to be a blended course. In the event, a blended option was not possible and the article explores how variation theory was then used to transition international learners, sceptical about distance learning, from in-person to distance learning modalities. The role of variation, in approaching both the content and process of the learning experience, was presented during the two in-person lectures at the outset of the course. While the results are preliminary and tentative, the use of variation seems to have positively impacted learner understanding of subject matter and the online learning experience.
Strategies for bridging cross-cultural barriers for international students' success in American asynchronous on-line degree programmesSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1477 –1489 (2013)More Less
The increasing popularity and acceptance of asynchronous on-line programmes has led to an increase in cross-border international collaboration and partnerships between American and international institutions of higher learning to offer on-line dual degree programmes for international students. However, the success of these partnerships depends on the ability of the international students to understand and navigate the many cultural differences between the two systems, and for American institutions to provide assistance. As an institution initiating and participating in such international programmes, the Center for Distance Learning (CDL) at State University of New York (SUNY) Empire State College, New York, United States (US), has sought to accommodate and assist international students studying at remote US universities from their home countries. To this end, the CDL formed an international distance learning group charged with fostering inter-institutional collaboration. One effort of this group was the development of Bridging, Bilingual, Bicultural ('3B') courses that use Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis, blogs, videoconferencing, lecture capture, asynchronous discussions, and virtual worlds. This article presents three retrospective case studies and discusses how the '3B' model has been used successfully to assist international students to acculturate to distance learning.
Author B. LeedsSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1490 –1507 (2013)More Less
This article provides a critical assessment of the potential of open educational resources (OERs) for open distance learning (ODL). After providing a definition of OERs it discusses the nature of OERs and explores the growth of the OER community. It also examines the different meanings that 'open' has when dealing with OERs and ODL before exploring the opportunities and possibilities that OERs afford. The article examines whether OERs can assist in the higher education (HE) crisis in terms of available places and whether they can also contribute to sustainable global economic growth. It also draws attention to the dark side of OER adoption, such as information imperialism and the danger that developing nations may only be consumers rather than producers of OERs. It concludes by highlighting the potential of OERs in ODL and draws attention to the need for specific educational practices and actions to facilitate the use of OERs in ODL.
Perceptions of management accounting students about employability skills acquired at an ODL institutionSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1508 –1528 (2013)More Less
Rapid changes in the global business environment and the changing role of management accountants are placing increasing pressure on higher education institutions (HEIs) to enhance the employability skills and attributes of future management accountants. This article reflects critically on the level to which students are satisfied that an open distance learning (ODL) institution, with specific reference to the University of South Africa (Unisa), can adequately impart the necessary skills to management accounting graduates to enable them to enter the workplace confidently and to become productive rapidly. In the study reported on in the article, web-based surveys were sent to 3 222 third-year management accounting students studying at Unisa. The findings revealed that in general ODL as provided by Unisa meets and exceeds the responding students' expectations regarding the enhancement of their employability skills. However, some of the responses indicated that ODL students want the best of both worlds - not only the flexibility, open access and opportunity to work and study according to what the ODL system has to offer, but also the social interaction, face-to-face contact with lecturers and network opportunities offered by residential universities. The results of the study offer suggestions to prepare ODL students for the workplace.
The importance of the changing demographic profile on the success of postgraduate accounting studentsSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1529 –1550 (2013)More Less
This article reports on a study that was undertaken to determine which variables in the demographic profile of students at the University of South Africa (Unisa), influence these student's academic performance in their first attempt at obtaining the Certificate in the Theory of Accountancy. An inferential research study was performed on secondary data to determine which of certain predictor variables of the demographic profile, namely 'age group', 'assessment language', 'previous institution', 'race', 'gender' and 'occupation', can influence academic performance. 'Gender' and 'occupation', which did not have a statistically significant relationship with the outcome variable, were excluded from the multivariable analysis performed. The findings revealed that students younger than 25 years of age, who are assessed in their home language and complete their undergraduate studies at an institution other than Unisa, have a greater chance of success. The odds of African, coloured and Indian students being successful, however, were lower than those of white students. The research indicated a decline of 8 per cent in the number of successful students from 2007 to 2009, which poses a tough challenge for the institution. This decline could possibly be addressed by offering support programmes and providing financial support for students who are not at risk as indicated in the study.
Author M. VergieSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1551 –1563 (2013)More Less
This article is a critical reflection on the role of the study guide in bridging the gap between the academic culture represented by lecturers and the non-academic culture represented by students at an open distance learning (ODL) institution. The study guide has to facilitate the student in the world of a new and sometimes intimidating culture, namely the (tertiary) academic culture. When lecturers write study guides for students, they must have an understanding of the challenges facing ODL students and write the material in clear, accessible language.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 27, pp 1564 –1580 (2013)More Less
In the open distance learning (ODL) sphere there are invariably incremental student support costs that remain largely unaccounted for and might not be readily apparent. From an educational perspective this raises serious concerns given that effective on- and off-line student support could potentially reduce the intrinsic cost of studying at ODL institutions. Typical hidden student support service costs in ODL are rooted in areas such as information technology, registration, contact centre, lecturing and tutoring and human resources/administration support. The relevance of these hidden costs becomes pertinent when comparing the contribution of student support from a geographic perspective. Students from remote areas seemingly seek higher levels of support and assumingly cause higher hidden student support costs to higher education institutions (HEIs). Against this background, this article does not intend to provide actual costing, but rather provides an early exposition of relevant cost drivers that impact on student retention, throughput and success in ODL.