Thesis & Dissertations

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A comparative study of distance and conventional education programmes assessed in terms of access, delivery and output at the University of Pretoria

This study is about the comparison of distance and conventional education programs at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. It is assessed in terms of access, delivery modes and output. The purpose is to investigate and to compare the impact of distance and conventional education on the performances of learners in a postgraduate degree program (B.Ed. (Hons) with specialization in Education Management, assessed in terms of access, delivery and output. It explored documents that were both at the macro (Government Policy documents) and macro (University’s / Faculty documents) with the aim of answering the main research question, with other identified sub-research questions that have been raised.: What is the comparison between the impact of distance and conventional education on the performances of learners in a postgraduate BEd (Hons) degree program with specialization in Education Management, when assessed in terms of access, delivery mode and output? A review of relevant literature exposed and compared the essence of both modes of delivery.

An analysis of electronic learning as a means of tax education in South Africa

"The arrival of the Internet and the World Wide Web has had a radical impact on education and in particular the delivery of education (instruction). Through these channels, alternative modes of delivering instruction have been created.

Over the past few years, the use of electronic methods as a means of delivering instruction for academic purposes has increased, not only in Taxation but many other subjects as well. The ability to free itself from time and space, as well as being more convenient and flexible, are but some of the advantages of this type of learning

Even though e-learning in South Africa is in its early stages, it is expected to grow significantly, owing primarily to the elimination of previous inhibiting factors like the non-availability of broadband/ADSL, unsatisfactory internet speeds, the lack of essential hardware, limited network access and poor web technology. It is therefore important for educators and course designers in South Africa to become familiar with the current issues facing e-learning and the possible solutions to these issues.

In this study, a literature review critically analysing electronic methods as a means of delivering instruction on Taxation in South Africa was performed. The major issues currently facing the e-learning environment were identified, along with the possible solutions to these issues."

An Evaluation of student support services in open and distance learning at the University of Namibia

The focal point of this study was to evaluate student support services, provided at the northern campus of the University of Namibia, from a student perspective. A combination of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies was chosen and data were collected by means of a literature review and a questionnaire, supplemented with open-ended questions. The subjects of the study were second- and third-year B.Ed. students from the northern campus of the University of Namibia. The results of this study have provided evidence that adult distance education students indeed value the provision of student support services. Specifically, students in this study placed the greatest importance on student support services related to getting started with their studies, for example orientation sessions about available student support services and contact and communication with tutors and fellow students by means of vacation schools, face-to-face tutorials on Saturdays at regional centres and support through study groups. One of the conclusions of the study was that the institutional policy and the role of management are crucial in the establishment of an effective student support model to facilitate distance learning. The following recommendations were formulated: The University?s Centre for External Studies (CES) should conduct periodic and regular evaluation studies of its distance education students to design, develop and provide student support services that will be tailored to students? specific needs and expectations. CES should pay attention to support services that help reduce barriers if it is to attain its mission of making quality higher education more accessible. CES should provide adequate training to tutors to prepare them for the special challenges presented by open and distance learning. CES should design and implement an appropriate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) course to empower distance education students adequately for the use of modern ICT.

Barriers to remote rural students access of distance education support services offered by the Centre for External Studies at the University of Namibia

This research studies and documents the barriers to remote rural students' access of distance education support services offered by the centre for external studies at the University of Namibia The intent of the researcher is to investigate the question: What barriers do remote rural students face when accessing student support services offered by the CES-UNAM The purpose of the study is to promote the growth of open and distance learning in the area of student support for students in the remote areas of Caprivi and Kavango regions in Namibia. The aim of the research is to provide evidence that open and distance learning students in remote rural areas face academic, administrative and logistics, personal and natural disasters as barriers as they study through the Centre for External Studies, University of Namibia. Six students were interviewed and studied over a period of two months. The students were followed to their places where interviews were held. Several written documents from students registering their grievances with CES-UNAM were requested from the office of the Director and were reviewed and analysed. The results thereof were recorded in thick verbatim as students personally engaged themselves in narrating the barriers that they face each day during their study periods. The results showed that Open and Distance Learning institutions in the world should practise and enhance sound academic, administration and logistics management systems to help students in remote rural areas. CES-UNAM has a challenge to ensure that students in remote rural areas are adequately supported. The researcher recommends that studies in the area of student support in should focus on their transactional, interactional and social contexts in order to enhance their opportunities to continue with their studies.

Blending the traditional face-to-face learning with instructional technology.

Emerging technologies offer alternative ways to conceptualize and deliver education in pursuit of promoting learning. One of the many ways is Blended Learning (BL). This blend of conventional Face-to-Face (F2F) instruction and Web-based distance learning has a potential to create an improved learning experience for the student. In this thesis work, BL models were studied and the pertinent ones were adopted and modified for application in a case study involving the handling of two courses—Computer Literacy at Sunyani Polytechnic and Computer Networking at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) all in Ghana. In the models, students’ performance in terms of their end-of-semester examination results, were used as the output. The experimental results revealed that employing instructional technology promises great successes when adequate preparation is made. This was evident in the outcome of the application of the BLM at KNUST which showed an average improvement of 61% in the performance of students. The outcome of the case study at Sunyani Polytechnic showed that, the introduction technology in the learning process notwithstanding, if preparations are woefully inadequate, results can be worse than that of the traditional F2F approach. Here, the first semester results showed an average decline of 15% in the performance of students.

Changing practices and systems: Implementing the online learning community at the University of South Africa

This study reports on the use of action research methodology to generate a critical reflective collaborative setting. The aim was to infuse the institution with the results of this study in order to stimulate debate on the issues regarding change in practice and systems. The suitability of Internet communication technologies, more specifically the online learning community, is evaluated as a delivery mode that would address today’s learning needs. This required the collaborative construction of knowledge in a community setting with the teacher enabling communication and interaction, and facilitating and stimulating the sharing and testing of ideas and constructs. But such a learning scenario was found to be significantly challenging to the current print-based learning experience. It implied a challenge to teaching and support staff as well as the questioning of the efficiency and legitimacy of current instructional design staff and procedures used. The teaching responsibilities and commitment in the online community was outlined as against current print-based teaching practice. The current development and production culture, which restricts innovation and change in practice and systems significantly, came under pressure. The success of the online learning community in the Unisa context was nevertheless significant and it has the potential to serve as an opportunity to re-examine print-based production and delivery and to devise strategies and solutions to increase the quality significantly.

Collaborative Learning in an ICT text based synchronous and asynchronous learning commities. What impact does it have on learning outcomes?

This dissertation analyses collaborative learning in synchronous and asynchronous learning communities and come up with the best suitable e-learning community for the Zimbabwean distance students. It focuses on the University of Zimbabwe, Masters of Business Administration first year class studying Business Information Systems course as the research group. The research was divided into three sections, The Structure (Prephase), the process (Experience) and the Outcome (Post phase). At the structure stage, students were grouped randomly into three groups, the synchronous, asynchronous and the control group. The asynchronous and synchronous groups were made to registered and familiarize with the e-learning platform and environment. An ASSIST tool was applied to ascertain the dependent and independent variables that would affect collaboration and usage of the e-learning environment at process stage. At the process stage, the synchronous and asynchronous groups were further divided into smaller groups considering the variables analysed at the structure stage. A time period was set to monitor collaboration using the e-learning platform. Various groups were given different discussion topics which contributed to their coursework and collaboration monitored. At the outcome stage, the SATISFACTION model was applied to determine the way students have been collaborating and their experience in using the e-learning platform. The responses of the synchronous and asynchronous groups were analysed with the coursework results as well as the final results and compared with the control group results. E-learning usage depending on the SATISFACTION model was analysed using the one way ANOVA- repeated measure so as to establish the trend. Comparison of the groups was carried out using the T- Test distribution. The results revealed that students in collaborative synchronous communities have a negative impact on the learning outcomes as compared to the asynchronous communities. The asynchronous collaborative e-iii learning in an ICT text based communities is best suited for the Zimbabwean distance students as compared to the synchronous collaborative communities.

Construction and evaluation of a holistic model for the professional development of Physics teachers via distance education

Student performance in Mathematics and Science education is a source of concern for education authorities in South Africa. This was supported by the latest TIMSS results which were released in December 2004. As in the previous studies, TIMSS and TIMSS-R, South African learners were again outperformed by the learners of all other participating countries (Reddy, 2004). To ensure learner achievement in mathematics and science, we need committed, qualified and experienced teachers in these subjects. In this study a holistic professional development (HPD) model was constructed, tested and evaluated using practicing Grade 10 - 12 teachers. The model developed teachers' content knowledge, teaching approaches and professional attitudes simultaneously. After analysis of the model we found that improving teachers' content knowledge builds their confidence in teaching their subject. This in turn motivates teachers to perform better in their jobs: they come to class better prepared, eager to do a job they know they are good at, no more coming late, no more plodding through uninspiring one-way lessons. They are turned into better professionals with a positive work ethic. Their improved classroom practices lead to higher enrolments of science learners and improved learner achievement, the crown of successful science teaching. The HPD model was developed in three phases. In the first phase baseline information was obtained to determine problems that exist with the teachers' content knowledge, teaching approaches and professional attitudes. After data analysis it was found that all three of these dimensions needed development. In the second phase the initial development of the HPD model took place. An intervention programme was structured and the effect of the programme on the teachers' content knowledge, teaching approaches and professional attitudes were analysed. Successful elements of the initial model were extracted and developed further, in addition new elements were added. In the third phase the HPD model was developed further. Analysis of the data showed the following effect on the teachers: they were extricated from a vicious cycle where poor content knowledge leads to lack of confidence which caused unwillingness to spend time on task (poor professional attitudes, ineffective teaching approaches). Instead they became part of a virtuous circle where improved content knowledge leads to increased confidence, enjoyment and a willingness to spend more time on task (better professional attitudes and effective teaching approaches). The HPD model was evaluated using international benchmarks, such as the Standards for Professional Development of the National Research Council of New York, USA. Recommendations and possibilities for future research are discussed.

Critical care nursing students' experience of clinical accompaniment in open distance learning (ODL) : a phenomenological perspective

The purpose of the study was firstly, to explore and interpret the meaning of the experiences of critical care nursing students about clinical accompaniment in open distance learning (ODL). This aspect has not been researched before and as such, there is no empirical data about the clinical accompaniment of the critical care-nursing students in ODL. Secondly, to develop guidelines for facilitation of clinical accompaniment in critical care nursing in ODL. A qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological study was conducted. Non-probability purposive sampling was used to select participants to provide information about clinical accompaniment in ODL. Data was obtained through in-depth interviews supplemented by field notes compiled during fieldwork. The study findings revealed that participants regard relationships and communication as important for clinical accompaniment. The distance factor inherent in distance learning was problematic for student’s motivation and support. The presence and visibility of the lecturer was pivotal for the students. Of importance also were the relationships with the managers and colleagues. The perception of participants was that managers of clinical facilities were not as readily accessible as would have been the lecturer. Although negative experiences were described, paradoxically these experiences seemed to have empowered the student to develop survival skills, patience and assertiveness to take action on how to deal with the situation. From the findings the researcher was able to develop guidelines the implementation of which, is hoped to ensure effective clinical accompaniment of critical care nursing students in ODL.

Dynamic approach in the application of information communication technologies models in the provision of flexible learning for distance education

The main purpose of this research is to establish whether ICT models as implemented in distance education do help to render desirable results (increment in throughput, meeting clientele expectations, and reduction in learner drop-outs). If it is not the case, what could be done to overcome the established hindrance? The researcher employed programme evaluation (PE) which integrates both the positivistic and phenomenological aspects of research. The samples were drawn from the population group through probability and non-probability techniques. Different research strategies within PE such as discovery, inspection and auditing were at first employed to gauge the physical presence of what is being achieved by Unisa through use of myUnisa & DVC; followed by the use of the surveys (personal interviews, administered questionnaires, focus group interviews). The ultimate outcomes of the said research activities are audiovisual recordings, statistically analysed transcripts and questionnaire data. The researcher employed the following key questions in grappling with issues in this area; their findings are also given: i. Does the application of ICTs facilitate and enhance flexible learning at Unisa? With reference to flexible delivery as it relates to aspect of teaching and learning in Engineering, it has been established that minimal use is made of ICTs. Are the technologies correctly applied for teaching and learning? Based on the evidence of research findings it has been established that technology application is mainly used for administrative support rather than for teaching and learning. iii. Do the instructional design and technological applications meet the needs of their users? As matters stand, the study suggests that users' expectations through rating their perceptions and attitudes (academics, tutors, instructional designers, multimedia developers and learners), are far from being met (as all the critical parts of the models are not yet in place regarding the Engineering and other departments). According to the main finding, while there is some evidence of efforts aimed at proper implementation, underutilisation of the ICTs appears to be the main problem, as established at Unisa and elsewhere. The research is concluded through a number of recommendations based on the established findings.