|dc.description.abstract||The problem being investigated in this thesis is to understand and explain why some Setswana speaking students in the ACE-programme for Life Orientation who have voluntarily registered for a decentralised off-campus education programme at the NWU, continue to demand personal, face-to-face communication with their lecturers during the course of their studies.
„Off-campus education‟ (also known as „distance education‟ and / or „decentralised education‟) is usually implemented in an attempt to afford more students the opportunity to improve their qualifications and skills – especially in the case of those students who, for a variety of reasons, may not be in a position to enrol for fulltime contact training. Off-campus education could help to serve the divergent education-related needs of poor, less privileged, geographically isolated, difficult-to-reach and deep rural communities. It could also assist with the teaching and learning of new knowledge and skills as far as its integrated use of contemporary technological developments is concerned. Besides UNISA, the North-West University is at present the biggest supplier of off-campus education programmes to practising teachers in the country.
Despite the exponential increase in educational and technological developments in the late 20th and early 21st century, information and communication technology – within a broader South African context – is still not within reach of all the NWU‟s off-campus education students. Recent attempts to integrate contact education principles in off-campus education, led to the development of the (well-known) hybrid, namely „flexi-education‟. Over the past seven years or so, this state of affairs has slowly developed to the point where the number of registered, off-campus African education students at the NWU who insist (despite paper-based, electronic and mobile learning support) on demanding personal, face-to-face contact with their lecturers, has increased rapidly. It would furthermore seem that the use of, for example, internet and communication technology is increasing the existing gap between the African education student and his / her lecturer. This growing gap has already resulted in some registered African education students feeling increasingly isolated. The problem with the use of ICT in off-campus education is understood by some as leading to a situation where the ICT being implemented may, one day soon, replace the lecturer during scheduled contact facilitation sessions. Should that happen, it could mean that interactive communication and the social presence of the lecturer during scheduled contact facilitation sessions may be compromised and even permanently forfeited.
The available body of scholarship does not adequately address the perceptions of students with regard to the importance of (a) the temporal-spatial, simultaneous presence of their lecturers and (b) social interactions during scheduled contact facilitation sessions. From the available literature, it is also not clear: why some students may want to entertain and maintain such perceptions, what the attitude of students with regard to social interaction and the social presence of their lecturers might be, or what role ICT could be playing in the life-world of off-campus students in South Africa.
In an attempt to solve this intellectual conundrum and with a view to effecting naturalistic generalisation (and not statistical generalisation) I have decided, in light of the above, to implement and follow a multi-analytical research design (mixed methods, multi-analysis design) (Onwuegbuzie et al., 2009: passim; 117). Instead of me seeking to generalise my own research findings, I have decided to leave it to my readers to generalise the findings from their own experiences in the past (Onwuegbuzie et al., 2009: 120). This approach represents a kind of „fuzzy generalisation‟ (Ekiz, 2006:73) in the sense that something that has happened in one place could just as well be demonstrated to have happened somewhere else as well (ibid.). I have, therefore, undertaken both a quantitative as well as qualitative study in order to understand why Setswana speaking education students in the ACE-programme in Life Orientation would continue to demand personal, face-to-face contact with their lecturers, despite all the teaching and learning support that they are offered along the way. I have completed my research on the basis of (and in view of) my research aims. The same applies to the data that I have managed to capture and interpret. On the basis of these data, certain strategic guidelines for effective education in off-campus education programmes for practising teachers have then been drafted.
My most important research findings include: Off-campus education is purposively delivered to the client, e.g. to the Setswana speaking student in his / her natural surroundings. Off-campus education should strive to care for the student and his / her contextualised needs. An authentic encounter between the off-campus lecturer and student should be allowed to take place. These encountering opportunities could assist in liberating the Setswana speaking student from all moral and ethical obligation of having to meet his / her lecturer and talking to him / her personally. No more moral burdening or social indebtedness should be placed on students to attend the scheduled contact facilitation sessions. The Setswana speaking student should be accompanied to feel and experience that s/he is unconditionally accepted and respected in his / her particular situation and locale. The Setswana speaking student should be able to feel and experience on a particularly deep interpersonal level the security that s/he has the right to belong to a particular off-campus education community (that is not only viewed as a communal society, but also managed as one). The University as service provider ought to create intimate, interactive spaces during scheduled contact facilitation sessions for all off-campus lecturers in order to afford their Setswana speaking students the opportunity to realise their ontic, social yearning for belonghesion. The Setswana speaking student experiences off-campus education as a process of social unity, as well as a social, communal learning community, together with his / her lecturers and fellow students. For this reason, scheduled contact facilitation sessions should be focusing (given the transactional nature of off-campus education) on communal, „perfect-fit education for us‟. Within a communal „perfect-fit‟ education community, the Setswana speaking student should be accompanied to adopt his / her reason for existence in the following manner: “We are, therefore I am.” Given the transactional nature of scheduled contact facilitation sessions (that should be focusing on transactional proximity, openness and sincerity within this communal „perfect-fit education for us‟) the Setswana speaking student does not wish the use of computer and internet technology to replace their ontic and socially cohesive, essential yearning for communal humanity and fellowship. It would seem that Setswana speaking students may not, necessarily, be less than ready for the implementation of ICT in their off-campus education programmes because they cannot afford it, but mainly because they do not yet regard computer and internet technology as part of their cultural furniture. Any attempt at implementing ICT in off-campus education should be considered and managed by universities with great circumspect, so that these students‟ social, ontic, and cohesively essential yearning and ever intensifying, deepening, socially-mutual attaching, fixative and reciprocally trusting attraction could be properly accounted for, and so that it may be managed satisfactorily on a curricular level. Off-campus education should, therefore, be based on the realisation of ontic „We-ness‟ where the members of this community continue to depend on each other and where the supply and delivery of off-campus education is constantly reformed and fine-tuned so that it may reflect an authentic collective learning community. Off-campus education should be focusing on a collectivist, communally searching, epistemological approach where human beings are constantly relating to their fellow human beings, playing different social roles and taking full responsibility for whatever may be needed to realise these students‟ off-campus studies successfully.||en_US