Teaching Mathematics in Open Distance Learning (ODL): Does it make a Difference with Teaching in the Traditional Approach?
Teaching mathematics through open distance learning (ODL) has been a challenge to mathematics educators due to the nature of communication with learners and material delivery during instruction. Traditionally, mathematics was taught mainly through face-to-face interaction and the learners were able to interact with materials provided and also interact among themselves in the classroom. Some critics of ODL doubt whether ODL modes can impart adequate mathematical critical thinking and solving problem skills to learners as has been considered in the traditional approach. In this paper, as a case study, we look at the performance of one mathematics module offered through ODL and determine whether the module offered was to the expected quality. A sample of 50 student-teachers’ examination results in the module written in year 2010 was analyzed on the six levels of the Bloom’s taxonomy in the cognitive domain and the set exam evaluated in the same levels of the taxonomy. The findings showed that while the general performance was averagely good, most students performed well in lower levels of cognitive domain while performing poorly in the higher levels. These findings indicated that while students had a general good average score in the module, they had not achieved adequate knowledge in higher levels important for critical thinking and problem solving required for a mathematics student-teacher in a teacher training programme. It was believed by the researcher that current modes of module delivery were not adequate enough to prepare mathematics student-teachers become competent in higher levels in cognitive achievement. It was concluded that current ODL modes of delivery in mathematics did not make any significant difference with the traditional approach of face-to-face mode of instruction to improve performance in the subject. It was recommended that current ODL modes of the module delivery at UNISA and also other maths modules be improved and renovated by involving current technologies, to conduct research on effective online programmes, and to equip regional centers with enough learning resources for easy access to learners.
Key words: mathematics, ODL, teaching, quality, technology, online programmes.