Reworking the quality puzzle in open and distance learning for sustainable development

Chrispen Chiome

Abstract


As the open and distance learning quality debate rages on, this study set to re-work the quality puzzle in this context
for sustainable development. This was a survey of four regional campuses informed by a purposive sample of two
hundered and eighty four (284) students and sixty (60) members of staff. Some very glaring quality puzzles were
unearthed in this study. Suppressed voices of quality working as change inhibitors are in effect, silent assassins of
quality in open and distance learning. There were far more damaging attitudes to quality than those that promote
it. Some manifestations of damaging attitudes were seen through the otherness of open and distance universities
and their students, the low status accorded to distance education and the belief that learning equals face-to-face
teaching. The invisible hand of power from a close knit highly conservative old boys’ clique from conventional
universities became visible in this study. The study concluded that ODL cannot, therefore, fulfil its purpose of
promoting sustainable development without reference to these quality puzzles, some of which are inflicting shock
and injury to the staff and students. The study thus recommended a re-thinking on conditions heightening quality
in an ODL context considering that the quality issue is more than an academic argument about definitions of
meaning. There is the question of who gets what from the paymaster’s limited pot and why (Doherty, 2008).

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