Greener Journal of Educational Research Vol. 5(1), pp. 009-016, January 2015
Manuscript Number: 012315019
Making it happen with distance education: Critical concerns for student support services in Open and Distance Learning
Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, The Zimbabwe Open University, (ZOU), Box MP 1119 Mount Pleasant, Harare.
E-mail: miriamchitura @yahoo. com
All correspondence to: Miriam Chitura
22 Houghton Park Road, Waterfalls Harare. Cell: 0772 383 402
The journey through ODL is not an easy task. Dropout rate continues to escalate in most ODL programmes, with only the determined students making it to the end. It is imperative that ODL institutions put in place effective support systems for students to fall back on. ODL students are faced with a lot of emotional and psychological obstacles as they navigate through their educational journey.
For e-learning, transactional distance is ‘the distance between teachers and learners’. Both tutors and students experience a sense of separation that is caused by more than simple physical distance. This distance is psychological. There is also a communication gap, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of instructor and those of the learner. This is created, in part, by the physical distance. Students may feel isolated or disconnected. This results in reduced motivation, reduced engagement that may result in high attrition. When offering Mathematics and Statistics programme by distance, one needs to consider factors that affect the transactional distance. i.e. structure and dialogue.
In this regard, students need the right tools, guidance and support. The authors here make an analysis of the registration process onto the Mathematics and Statistics program by DE, look at the professional and technical support the students receive as they navigate through their journey. Other variables such as the factors contributing to high dropout rates, various delivery modes and impact on the pass rates are also presented. The paper aims to develop a student support package for those undertaking BSc Mathematics and Statistics programs.
It is hoped that the study will be extended to other programmes in the faculty and maybe to all universities that conduct Mathematics and Statistics programmes by ODL.
Keywords: dropout rate, support systems for students, psychological obstacles, reduced motivation.
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