Supervisory Support for Ethiopian Doctoral Students Enrolled in an Open and Distance Learning Institution

Velisiwe Gasa, Mishack Gumbo
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 16  •  2021  •  pp. 047-069

This article reports on quantitative analysis of students’ perceptions on dimensions of augmented face-to-face support. It is built upon the findings from a larger research project that was undertaken to evaluate postgraduate support offered to Ethiopian doctoral students.

Student support is critical for the delivery of any quality Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system. This is because there are numerous challenges that students enrolled especially in global South ODL institutions are faced with, which can impact negatively on their progress and throughput.

In this article, the data from a quantitative questionnaire that was collected from a larger research project was used. The questionnaire asked students to respond to questions about their perceptions of the inclusion of face-to-face workshops. The responses were analyzed using the Statistical Analysis System (SAS), version 8.4 statistical package.

This research exposes the benefits of supplementing distance postgraduate supervision with face-to-face tutorials.

The results show that the student-respondents, in general, experienced all five dimensions (‘supervision’, ‘student needs’, ‘facilitators’, ‘environment’, and ‘institutional support/access’) of face-to-face student support very positive.

As this inclusion of face-to-face workshops was found beneficial to the students who are geographically distant and at risk of digitally exclusion, the paper concludes by recommending that such approach should not be discarded but strengthened to supplement distance postgraduate supervision.

Replication of this study but focusing on the qualitative aspects of the five dimensions identified.

Although this study is limited in scope to the Ethiopia project, implications for geographically distant education and support are relevant to Unisa and other ODL institutions in the global South. This may ultimately help inform distance learning efforts globally through augmented face-to-face supports.

The study results revealed potential concerns regarding student age and registration timelines. Therefore, more specific research that explores age and registration is required.

postgraduate supervision, face-to-face tutorials, open and distance learning
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