Distance education: A case study of availability of learning resources to students at the Zimbabwe Open University
Gladys Ali Arome, Barry University - Adrian Dominican School of Education, United States
Barry University - Adrian Dominican School of Education . Awarded
Distance learning is an excellent method of reaching adult learners. Because of the competing priorities of work, home, and school, adult learners desire a high degree of flexibility. The structure of distance learning gives adults the greatest possible control over the time, place, and pace of education; however, it is not without problems.
While distance education has been in existence for so many years, the medium has changed and is changing from pencils and paper correspondence courses to include other forms of electronic technology. Regardless of the medium, distance education courses have common characteristics and, likewise, have similar problems with regards to availability of learning resources.
Purpose of the study. The purpose of this study was to explore distance education and availability of learning resources to students at the Zimbabwe Open University. Specifically, the objective of the study was to answer three research questions: (1) What distance learning resources are available to the students at the Zimbabwe Open University, and how does availability of these resources affect students' learning? (2) What are the perceived barriers to the learning process that distance education students encounter? and, (3) what are the coping and adapting strategies that distance education students develop to overcome the perceived barriers?
Research method. This descriptive case study utilized qualitative data collection and data analysis methods. In depth interviews and observations were conducted with seven participants in Harare, Metabeleland North, and Masvingo regional centers.
Major findings. Four major conclusions emerged from this research. Data analysis of research question 1 revealed that print learning resources were available and accessible to all students regardless of their geographic location. Non-print, especially computers were available at the main campus, but not available at the regional canters. Those that were available at the main campus were used mostly for administrative purposes, thereby limiting student access to the resources. Data analysis of research question 2 revealed that participants at the Zimbabwe Open University perceived time and access, institutional barriers, dispositional barriers, and situational barriers to the learning process. Data analysis of research question 3 revealed that coping and adapting strategies used to overcome the perceived barriers included cooperative learning, student networking (camaraderie), and learning by-default.
In conclusion, the study found that background variables such as age, gender, educational level/background and work experience were not barriers to the learning process for the participants in this study.
Arome, G.A. Distance education: A case study of availability of learning resources to students at the Zimbabwe Open University. Ph.D. thesis, Barry University - Adrian Dominican School of Education.
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