n Learning and Teaching Mathematics - Mathematics at a distance : experiences at UNISA

Volume 01, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1990-6811


The University of South Africa (UNISA), as South Africa's only dedicated distance education institution, provides a chance for improving the mathematical skills and qualifications for many teachers who could not otherwise attend universities due to financial, personal or geographical circumstances. Characteristics of learning in the distance education setting are : large numbers of students; widely dispersed student population - rural and urban, in South Africa, Southern Africa, rest of the continent, overseas; and very limited contact with lecturers or fellow students.The distance and isolation makes studying mathematics difficult, the only feedback often being the marked assignments. And with a turnaround time often of more than a month, misunderstandings can lead to serious problems in understanding the course material, and the loneliness is likely to contribute to a lack of motivation and increased dropout rates. To mitigate these difficult circumstances, the Department of Mathematical Sciences is attempting to make the most of ICT possibilities to enhance students' chances of passing.Fully ICT-enabled systems are of course a must for a mega-university such as UNISA. Projects are underway to digitise all assignments for electronic routing and on-screen marking to reduce the turnaround time of the millions of assignments that UNISA handles every year. Currently, UNISA uses a learning management system myUnisa based on the Sakai system, which makes all study material available for students in PDF format, and provides tools such as discussion forums, automated assessment and other usual options for utilisation by lecturers. All students are also provided with a free e-mail address. In the following I wish to look at initiatives utilising these and other tools specifically in Mathematics.

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