Learning Statistics at a Distance: Analyzing the Causes of Failure in Statistics Courses in the Zimbabwe Open University

Grace Tabitha Mukeredzi, Chiome Chrispen


Adult  learners  face  limitations,  constraints,  consequences  and  challenges  as  they  study
statistics at a distance. These aspects need to be revealed and debated and, this study
attempts to contribute to that debate. The research analyzes causes of failure in statistics
by ZOU students across different programmes by interrogating effectiveness of procedures,
methods and materials. Questionnaires were administered on a purposeful sample of 167
respondents comprising students and tutors in ZOU centres nationally. A mixed method
approach was adopted for data gathering, analysis and interpretation. Findings highlighted
tutor effectiveness in the delivery of tutorials. Most students passed ‘O’-Level mathematics
creating an impression of reasonable grounding to understand statistics concepts. A general
negative attitude and fear of  figures existed among students and time allocated for the heavy
statistics courses and examinations was  limited. Course modules lacked adequate practice
exercises, worked examples and examination type questions. The study concluded that failure
in these courses was linked to both student and institutional factors. It recommended that
revision of  modules, tutorial and exposure to examination time type question were critical.
Tutors need to build confidence in these adult learners during maiden tutorials to allay fears
of  figures and develop a positive attitude towards statistics.

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