Academic Counselling in ODL: Experiences of the Zambian Open University
The Zambian Open University (ZAOU) aims to produce graduates who are equipped with critical innovative thinking, knowledge and skills to become the leaders that bring a prosperous and positive future. With the addition of face-to-face residential schools, ZAOU students have the opportunity to access expert academic staff, quality learning resources and support services, plus meet and collaborate with other students. But how much do these professionals know about academic counselling? What are the students’ views of the academic counselling provided at ZAOU? Unquestionable, the ODL model provides students with personal control allowing them to study anywhere, anytime and at their own pace. But the question is to what extent? Is it embracive? The University has regional offices in all the ten provinces in the country manned by competent officers; one wonders whether they are well ground in academic counselling. The study adopted a qualitative research design, employing a case study approach. The study targeted a population of all students at Zambian Open University (ZAOU), the directorate of quality assurance and extension studies (DQAES) and academics at ZAOU. 40 undergraduate students and 15 academics were sampled using the simple random sampling method. Focus group discussions (FGDs) and interviews were the main tools used to collect data for the study. Findings were analysed thematically. Findings of the study reveal that academic counselling is not systematically executed at ZAOU, seven academics have no training in academic counselling and said were incapable of helping students in an ODL institution, while eight academics rated themselves averagely. The study recommends that ZAOU strengthens existing academic counselling initiatives.
Open and Distance Learning (ODL); Zambian Open University; academic counselling; counsellor.
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