ANDRAGOGY: The Philosophy underpinning Learner Support (LS) provision in Open and Distance Education (ODE). The case for the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU).
The context of ODE is such that the students and institution are separated in time or space or both (Bates,1995; COL,2000) hence, the provision of learner support services (LSS) is required in order to help students meet their learning objectives and gain the knowledge requisite to academic and career success (Tait,2000; Simpson,2002; Thorpe,2003). However, despite efforts made by the ODE institutions, ZOU included, to provide LSS to distance learners, the institutions have experienced problems related to low student motivation, low retention, and decreasing enrolments (Ali and Leeds, 2009; Burholder, 2012; Berger and Lyons, 2005), which are symptoms indicating negative growth and downward development of the institutions. According to Malcom Knowles (1980), these symptoms persist because adult education practitioners are failing to understand and to effectively apply the philosophy and principles of andragogy’ which means “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, 1980:43). To this end, the study employed a qualitative research paradigm to generate data from a purposive sample of students and staff at Masvingo Regional Campus about how best the ZOU can use the knowledge of andragogy to enhance the design of appropriate learner support strategies for its students. A triangulation of qualitative methods were used to generate data that were coded, analysed and categorised into themes from which conclusions were drawn. Results revealed that the current provision of LSS at ZOU is deficient due to adult education practitioners not sufficiently considering students’ needs and characteristics as vital in influencing the design and provision of appropriate learner support strategies. The study concluded that it is only after education practitioners understand the philosophy of andragogy that they are in a position to design and provide Effective LSS for adult students in ODL.
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