Students’ Perception on the Quality of Open and Distance Learning Programmes in Tanzania
A controversial topic in higher education today revolves around the enormous growth of distance education. The issues surrounding quality of distance education have been discussed and debated by many different parties. Regardless of who is interested in this unique educational environment that distance education establishes, “all stress the need to have a better understanding of what contributes to quality” in distance education programmes. This study aimed at assessing the quality of open and distance learning programmes from students‟ point of view. The sample was drawn from the Open University of Tanzania‟s students in nine University regional centres from Tanzania mainland and it constituted 305 students. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were employed, since there is no single technique which is necessarily superior over the others. The factors assessed ranged from registration procedures, accesses to course instructors, administrative processes, course materials, instructional methods, clarity of syllabus, exam processes and the like. The findings showed that about 71.5% students have a positive perception on the overall quality of distance education in Tanzania. About 63.6% of participants were very likely to recommend open and distance learning to others, while 34.8% were somewhat likely to do so. The major weaknesses found were insufficiency of study material, internet services and academic staff in regional centres. The study therefore concludes that quality of higher education via open and distance learning is achieved by demonstrating that the quality of content, delivery, assessment and outcomes in ODL institutions is equal to, or better than, the traditional forms of education.
Key words: open, distance, learning, quality, programme, perception, learners