The role of technology in student empowerment through ODL: The challenges experienced by ODL students in Zimbabwe’s remote rural corners of Matabeleland North Province.
There are a number of advantages for student empowerment through ODL. These include flexibility of time, ability to empower large numbers of students at the same time, no space limitations, distance between the tutor and tutee is zero due to ICT, reading material has become abundant among others (see Brown and Brown, 1994). On the other hand, student empowerment through ODL can be challenging. This research paper discusses the experiences of ODL students in Zimbabwe’s remote rural corners of Matabeleland North Province. A qualitative research methodology was used. The aim of the study was to find out the challenges experienced by ODL students in accessing the ODL service in remote rural areas of Matabeleland North Province of Zimbabwe. The purpose of the study was to improve the delivery of the ODL mode of instruction to students in remote rural corners of the country by eliminating the challenges involved. The study set out to answer two questions, that is: What are the challenges experienced by students in accessing ODL in Zimbabwe’s remote rural corners? And what can be done to eliminate these challenges? A purposive sample of 20 students was used. Semi structured open ended interview technique was used to gather the data and interpretive content analysis was employed for data analysis. Some of the challenges surfaced by the study include the following: ICT development in some remote rural corners is poor, hence the ODL mode of delivery is imbedded with a number of challenges, and for example where e- learning was the envisaged mode of lesson delivery, access to computers and internet facilities becomes a must for every student. Access to ICT and internet facilities is a pipe dream for those people in the peripheries of the country. Furthermore, there are challenges of poor financial support from the fiscus, poor infrastructure such as electricity, telephone, printing and typing facilities among others making learning material access difficult. The paper will discuss these and other challenges and ends by making conclusions and recommendations on the way forward.
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