oa South African Journal of Information Management - Information needs and barriers to information sources by open and distance learners : a case of Mzuzu University, Malawi : original research
Background: The Centre for Open and Distance Learning at Mzuzu University was established in 2006 with the aim to increase and broaden access to higher education to most Malawians who despite meeting entry requirements into higher education were not selected because of shortage of space on campus and other learning and teaching resources. Although Open and Distance Learning (ODL) is hyped as a practical option for making higher education available to many people as widely reported in the literature, universities need to address several issues for it to hold its ground.
Objectives: The study set out to investigate information needs and barriers to information sources by ODL students by addressing three objectives, namely information needs of ODL students, information sources of ODL students and challenges that ODL students face when seeking information for their courses of study.
Method: A survey questionnaire with a mix of closed-ended and open-ended questions was distributed to 350 students to find out the information sources and challenges that the ODL students face when searching for information to accomplish their academic activities.
Results: According to the findings, all 258 (100%) students who answered the questionnaire need information to prepare for the end-of-semester examinations. Information sources that are used most by students include lecture notes, Internet and library books with scores of 238 (92.6%), 207 (80.5%) and 199 (77.4%), respectively.
Conclusion: ODL students have limited access to information materials for accomplishing their academic activities and Mzuzu University can resolve this challenge by introducing satellite information centres in the three geographical regions of Malawi.
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