Student satisfaction in open distance learning in a BEd Hons programme
Many students in South Africa are unable to cope with the academic demands of tertiary education as they are not fully prepared for Higher Education (HE). Various inefficiencies in the South African HE system have been identified, including low throughput rates, student dissatisfaction, unsatisfying graduation rates, learner dropouts, learner repetition, motivation, self–efficacy, attitude, personality differences, maturation, the retention of failing learners and unit costs. Student performance and satisfaction cause concern for the government and the HE sector. The purpose of this study is to understand student satisfaction amongst Open Distance Learning BEd Hons students. It further aims to improve student satisfaction and quality in the programme by recognising the context sensitive needs, expectations and experiences of students from different cultural–language groups, as well as constructing guidelines to improve satisfaction. The purposeful sampling consisted of Second year BEd Hons teacherstudents enrolled for open distance learning at the School for continuing teacher education (SCTE). A total of 34 students participated in the study. This number comprised of fifteen students from the focus–group interviews and nineteen students who completed open–ended questionnaires. Students were chosen according to three criteria dimensions: major language groups, gender and number of years teaching experience. This study followed a qualitative investigation of two semi–structured, open–ended focus–group interviews in the format of conversations, as well as documentary analysis of the teaching and learning policy of the North West University (NWU), and an open–ended questionnaire. The data were taperecorded for accurate transcription and analysed by using Atlas.ti. Through the use of Atlas.ti, I constructed categories of recurring patterns in the dataset, and explored the relationships of these categories. Different strategies were used to enhance validity and reliability respectively. The findings indicated that students’ satisfaction with HE environment is influenced by the quality of the programmes offered to them, communication between lecturers/facilitators and students, environment at the learning centres and the support that students received from HEI. The students in their capacity as clients with Higher education institutions (HEIs) are influenced by the support they receive from their work environment, as well as the level of appreciation they receive from HEI regarding their own culture and values. They also value iii the environment they experience during course facilitations at the HEIs. The various student attributes also play a significant part in their satisfaction levels towards the HEIs. Findings also highlighted that students were not satisfied with the support they received from the Open distance learning (ODL) unit. It is clear that the students’ perception of the quality of the programme influences their level of satisfaction. Students are mostly satisfied with the quality of the programme but they feel the communication as well the support from HEI and ODL is not adequate. The students indicated that HEI and ODL do not display sufficient understanding and concern for students. They feel there should be a greater commitment from HEI and ODL to understand and consider the profiles of the students. HEI and ODL should actively consider the background, culture, values, attributes, and personal, as well as domestic circumstances of their students. The BEd Hons programme is a valuable and popular programme, but the responsibility rests with both HEI and ODL to ensure that both the quality and delivery of this programme are enhanced and improved so as to guarantee higher levels of satisfaction amongst students.
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