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Learner support in open distance learning at Unisa, KwaZulu-Natal : a developmental state perspective.

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When the African National Congress (ANC) came into power in 1994, it was important to relook at the operations of the Public Administration and governance domain in South Africa. Many sectors in all spheres of government have changed significantly since then, and it was thus equally important that the educational system receives a critical examination to improve education in South Africa. The linkage between Public Administration and the higher education landscape should also be seen within the context of the developmental state perspective of the government-of-the-day to develop important skills and invest in human capital in the country. Efficient public administration policies and effective management principles should be in place to implement government policies to achieve the desired outcomes of sustainable development. This study took place mainly within the higher education field as part of the Public Administration paradigm, with particular reference to distance education and open distance education at the University of South Africa (Unisa). It also explained the role higher education has to play in the acquisition of basic knowledge and intellectual skills and its effect on the development policy of the state. Distance education came a long way since 1994. The South African White Paper on Education and Training of 1995 gave direction to change in the higher education system and an Open Distance Learning (ODL) approach was adopted, which brought advantages for students registering at the University of South Africa (Unisa). Unisa became the largest distance education provider in South Africa and, it was important that new policies be developed within the university to guide the development of ODL. Learner support in an ODL university is one of the key elements in an ODL system. The study aimed to provide an investigation into the learner support initiatives in the Unisa region of KwaZulu-Natal through the use of empirical methodology. One of the key questions in this study is to determine whether the students entering the open distance learning system at Unisa KwaZulu-Natal are ready for this new environment. It was depicted from the data obtained, that students are uncertain, not well prepared for this new environment and that improved learner support services are needed to improve on the learning of students and also on the poor throughput rate in the region. Students and staff were part of the research. Questionnaires, interviews and observation informed the relevant information on the readiness of the students coming into the ODL university system, and their experience of the learner support initiatives provided to them in the region.


Doctor of Philosophy in Administration. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2015.


Theses - Public Administration.