Student Retention as a Function of the Quality of Learner Support in Open and Distance Learning: Students’ Perceptions at the Zimbabwe Open University

David Chakuchichi

Abstract


Student retention is critically linked to the quality of service in Open and Distance Learning
(ODL). Peterson (1997) points out that students will form favourable perceptions regarding the
quality of their experience and decide to persist. Student retention could therefore be viewed
as a function of the learners’ perception of the quality of service and support. Low student
retention rates have a negative impact on the perception of the institution. It is, therefore,
pertinent to enhance the student retention rate in ODL. The study used Tinto’s model of
student retention as a theoretical base which underpins the need to satisfy students’ social
and educational needs in order to retain them. The study is a descriptive survey utilising
multistage purposive sampling in order to include students across faculties and regions.
The questionnaire and in-depth interviews were the methods of data collection. The results
indicated that, student retention was affected by a fees’ prizing policy that did not take into
consideration the students’ ability to pay and lack of timely supply of learning materials. It
would appear that students’ retention as a function of the affordability factor, was affected by
the negative macro-economic environment existent in Zimbabwe at the time of the study.

Keywords


Quality; student retention; learner support

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