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Working conditions, work life and quality of life of the temporary support staff involved with telematic learning

A Marx
M Greeff
M P Koen


Transformation in the South African higher educational system compelled residential universities to introduce alternative education such as distance education (Department of Education, 1997:66-67). The university in this study also took this route and started offering Telematic Learning through a programme known as Telematic Learning
Systems (TLS). Telematic learning refers to education offered through contact sessions presented over distance. It thus provides more intense contact than the traditional distance educational model. A consequence was that the university's academic administrative system and workload expanded, and mainly temporary support staff was employed
to carry this burden. The workload for the telematic nursing programme was extensive, the remuneration package was poor with little benefits and working conditions were not pleasant, which caused frustrations and which affected the quality of life of the temporary support staff. The goal of this research was to explore and describe the experiences and expectations of the temporary support staff with regard to their working conditions, work life and quality of life by means of a qualitative, descriptive research design. A purposive sample according to set criteria was used for the selection of participants as identified by mediators. Data collection was done through a phenomenological method of unstructured in-depth interviews. Content descriptive analysis, as described by Tesch (in Creswell, 1994:153-159) was used to analyse data through open coding. Five major categories resulted: experiences of the organisational structure; work life; interpersonal relationships; occupational development and quality of life while working at TLS. Conclusions were that staff experienced working conditions mainly as unpleasant, but that they adapted because of the team spirit. Relationships are good amongst staff, but strained with management and
training is needed. These factors resulted in frustration, in a feeling that life is without real meaning and in problems with a future vision. Guidelines were formulated for the facilitation of quality working conditions, work life and quality of life of the temporary support staff, as well as for encouraging management to take note of certain focus points.

Keywords: telematic learning; quality of work life; quality of life; temporary support staff; conditions of work

Health SA Gesondheid Vol. 11 (1) 2006: pp. 67-78

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eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848