Towards enhancing research productivity and collaboration in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institutions: The Case of the Zimbabwe Open University.
The purpose of the study was to explore the relevance of research collaboration and support in enhancing research productivity in the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) which is the only open and distance learning university in Zimbabwe. Two similar studies were carried out. The first study was carried out in 2011 and a follow up study in 2015. The first study was conducted with 28 full-time and part-time lecturers of ZOU in the faculties of Arts and Education, Social Sciences, and Commerce and Law. The data gathering instruments were self-administered questionnaires with both open and closed items and an interview schedule. The first study revealed that there was limited induction of lecturers into a research culture in the three faculties, research productivity of the lecturers was adversely affected by large amounts of time taken in tutoring, university and community service, the research base of faculties was very low, little support was given to lecturers to publish in refereed journals, little emphasis was given to the value of collaboration and no incentives were given to motivate those who would have produced articles that are published though lecturers had confidence to carry out research. In a follow up study that was later carried out in one regional campus of ZOU with a study population of 16 full time and 2 Part-time tutors, there was a marked increase in the number of published papers by lecturers. The main reason was that they were forced to research and publish because they were due for tenure and if not tenured one’s job was not secured. There was however, still little research collaboration among staff and little or no support given by faculties. Some of the recommendations advanced by this study are that ZOU should adequately induct all lecturers into a research culture and continuously do so, senior lecturers and professors in ZOU should carry out research with junior lecturers, ZOU should facilitate review of papers and presentations of published papers at regional level and that ZOU should avail human, time and financial resources earmarked at promoting research productivity.
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