Learner Support in the Open Distance Learning and E-Learning Context Using the Community of Inquiry Model
The recent global growth and popularity of Open Distance Learning (ODL) have been attributed to its advantages, such as flexibility for students who wish to study while working. Moreover, ODL is an effective tool in extending participation to students from less privileged social groups who are unreachable due to geographic location or who cannot access higher education due to diverse factors, such as financial constraints or domestic arrangements. In the light of this, this study investigated learner support in the Department of Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) at the University of South Africa (Unisa), the largest, dedicated ODL institution in South Africa. A literature study identified the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model proposed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) as useful in this context, and the model will be used as a conceptual framework for the empirical inquiry. The researcher drew a random sample of 400 students (n = 400) from a total number of 1 808 students enrolled for the Higher Diploma in Adult Basic Education and Training. A quantitative research approach was employed to investigate the research questions. The CoI framework proposes that successful learning takes place when there are three presences in a class, namely social, teaching and cognitive presences (Garrison et al. 2000). The study will focus on the social presence aspect of the model. The CoI theoretical framework represents a process of creating a deep and meaningful (collaborative–constructivist) learning experience. According to Engelbrecht (2003:39), e-learning models provide valuable frameworks for understanding the integration of technology and pedagogy, and may help to identify key disparities between the current and desired situation. Given the access and communication facilities of the Internet, an e-learning environment has distinct advantages as a means of providing support for communities of inquiry in order to promote higher-order learning. The majority of the students (66, 1%) feel comfortable talking to one another during teaching and learning. The students use myUnisa to talk about the teaching and learning activities. The findings here are that students use myUnisa to communicate comfortably among themselves. There is student-to-student interaction and this promotes learner-centredness.
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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)
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