Performance Determinants in Physical Sciences for ODL Undergraduate Students: The Case of The Open University of Tanzania
Identifying performance determinants in physical science subjects for students studying through open and distance learning modes in higher learning institutions requires wider range of intuition than it is for conventional institutions. Using data from The Open University of Tanzania, this paper has unearthed some of the core indicators that may explain sufficiently the undergraduate students’ performance in physical sciences. The paper has shown that proxy indicators in the past 15 years for both the admission trends and completion rates for students undertaking first degree in mathematics, physics and chemistry are on the decline more than it is for other disciplines in the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environmental Studies. The paper argues that this dismal academic performance is partly aggravated to by the reforms in 2000s to restructure the teaching and assessment systems. The course clusterisation seems to have reduced number of contact hours students had with the study materials and also with other peer groups. The paper also noted relatively higher performance for female students and for relatively older (>30 year old) students. It was also found out that irrespective of lack of necessary education infrastructure in upcountry, students from regions other than Dar es Salaam were performing relatively better than their counterparts from Dar es Salaam. The paper has recommended that the current teaching and assessment systems will only be beneficial to students in physical sciences if they are complemented with occasional face-to-face sessions with subject specialists, with improved study centres and groups based on specialty. Finally frequent on-line dialogue between tutors and students through Moodle platforms or teleconferencing should be the third set of structural reforms that should be undertaken by OUT to revitalize both admission and academic performance of the undergraduate students studying physical sciences at The Open University of Tanzania.
Key Words: ODL, physical sciences, course clusterisation, assessment system, academic performance