Postgraduate supervision at an open distance e-learning institution in South Africa
Effective postgraduate supervision is a concern at universities worldwide, even under optimal conditions where post-graduate students are studying full-time. Universities are being pressured by their governments to increase the throughput of postgraduates where there is a need for supervisory guidance in order to produce quality graduates within a shorter period of time than was previously thought possible. In an Open Distance E-learning (ODeL) context in South Africa, postgraduate supervision presents an even more formidable task as face-to-face communication between supervisor and student is restricted or totally non-existent. Informed by a review of the Community of Practice Theory, the researcher undertook a qualitative study to investigate the challenges of supervisors by means of a purposeful sample of postgraduate supervisors at a major ODeL institution in South Africa. Open-ended questionnaires were the means of collecting the data. The results indicated weaknesses in respect of the following: the selection and allocation of postgraduate students to supervisors without consultation; the requirements for intensive guidance during the process of writing the thesis to meet the needs of under-prepared students; and the difficulties inherent in the ODeL model, which depended primarily on written communication, especially for academically weak students. The recommendation is that experienced supervisors should conduct workshops and mentor novice academics on effective ODeL supervision procedures.
Keywords: higher education institutions; open distance e-learning; postgraduate studies; postgraduate supervision; South Africa; supervisee; supervisors
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