ODL and access to higher education: the experiences of the University of Botswana

29 November 2012

This interpretive qualitative study investigated why open and distance learning (ODL) within some dual mode universities seemingly failed to achieve high participation rates, compared to the face-to-face mode of delivery in the same institution. Its scope was the Botswana higher education sector. The University of Botswana (UB), the only public dual mode university in Botswana, was closely studied. The main question explored why some dual mode universities in southern Africa enrolled lower figures through ODL than the face-to-face mode of delivery, though ODL had more potential to increase access substantially than the face-to-face mode. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and document analysis. Purposive selection drew participants from UB, the Tertiary Education Council (TEC) and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MOESD), based on their experience in education planning, policy formulation and ODL delivery. Data were analysed through qualitative content analysis. The study confirmed internal and external attitudes that create equivalency challenges and impede ODL growth in dual mode universities, resulting in its limited contribution to participation. It established that dual mode institutions need relevant policies, structures and enhanced resources for ODL, in order to significantly increase participation. The study consequently advocates thorough planning for a dual mode setup, commitment of resources, monitored implementation and appropriately trained staff.