Information seeking patterns of distance learners registered with the Zimbabwe Open University.
The study ofinformation seeking patterns ofdistance learners registered with the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) was undertaken with a view to understand the paths taken by the distance learners to identifY, locate and make use ofinformation resources to solve their problems, answer questions or to accomplish given tasks. This study was carried out after the realisation by the Library and Information Service Management that the distance learners were making very little use ofthe library and information resources that were put in place to expressly serve their needs. It was critical for the study to establish the possible causes for this under-utilisation. The study investigated the socio-demographic and academic characteristics ofthe distance learners to verifY the assumption that these characteristics affected the use ofthe LIS. The socio-economic commitments ofthe distance learners were investigated to determine how they impacted on the use ofthe LIS. Factors that possibly prevented the distance learners from using the ZOU LIS were investigated. The CCAUSAL factors included the cost in terms ofboth time and money to get to the LIS due to distance, currency or recency ofthe information, accessibility in terms ofhow easy it was to get to the LIS, usability as it implies the ease ofconsulting the LIS and locatibility ofthe LIS. The study investigated the use ofother information sources and libraries and the CCAUSAL factors that possibly affected the use of them. The results ofthe study revealed that the distance learners registered with the ZOU did follow specific information seeking patterns as a result ofwhat the study's acronym CCAUSASL suggested as factors. For instance, it was shown that on one hand, the distance factor affected 32.4% of the respondents who lived more than 51 kilometres from the LIS and on the other hand it was not much ofa factor for the 34.1% and 32.4% who lived within the 0-10 and 11-20 kilometre ranges respectively. The study sought recommendations from the respondents as the main users ofthe LIS on what Management should do in order to put in place effective and efficient 'open' library systems that meets their requirements as distance learners. Their suggestions together with guidelines from the literature on library service provision in distance learning environments form the recommendations ofthe study.
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