UNIT FOR OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING
Message from the Executive Director
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in South Africa published two important policies in the last few years that will have an impact on distance education. The White Paper for Post School Education and Training (DHET, 2013) was published in November 2013 and the Policy for the Provision of Distance Education in South Africa Universities in the Context of an Integrated Post-school system (DHET, 2014) in July 2014. The White Paper emphasises the fact that by 2030 there should be a total enrolment of approximately 1,6 million students at South African universities. The government realised that it will not be possible for traditional campus-based universities to accommodate such numbers and therefore they envisage distance education to play a bigger role in the future.
The purpose of distance education is to provide greater access to students. Many potential students are working or don’t have the financial means to enrol at a traditional campus and need an alternative to study. Distance education can provide this flexibility of option to potential students.
Since 2001 the NWU has been presenting education programmes via open distance learning. The Unit for Open Distance Learning (UODL) was established in 2012 to fulfil this mammoth administrative and logistical task and present distance education programmes of all faculties. The delivery method focuses primarily on the use of interactive whiteboards, where a lecturer presents a class from the Potchefstroom campus, or any other campus, to students at 65 study centres in Southern Africa. During such a lecture students are able to ask questions to the lecturer, or put their problem on the whiteboard and get answers from the lecturer or from colleagues at other centres. All lectures presented in this manner are captured and saved on the Internet for later use by students.
Currently lectures are broadcast to 65 study centres in South Africa, Namibia and other countries. A large number of students also follow lectures on their personal computers at home or wherever they may be at that stage. Support to students is crucial, and the UODL has a modern call centre where trained staff deal with academic as well as administrative queries. Each study centre is equipped with a mini library and computers with Internet access. Wi-Fi is currently available at the majority of our centres and further Wi-Fi installations are in process. Students can also contact the NWU and UODL via Facebook.
Currently more than 30 000 students are registered as ODL students mainly in Education, but also in Nursing, Theology and Policing Practice. By 2018 new programmes such as a BBA, BSc in IT, Postgraduate Diploma in Management, Labour Law and several Education Programmes will be available.
The UODL is also responsible for the managing of the UnivPrep programme where students can get access to the university. The students who initially do not qualify for a university course, can follow a preparatory programme, and if successful can proceed with a degree programme in BEd Foundation Phase, B.Com, BTh or BA in Public Governance: Policing Practice.
By presenting programmes via open distance learning, the NWU has committed itself to actively address the needs of the country according to the National Development Plan. Well trained and professionally qualified people are essential, and the UODL firmly believes that it can contribute to providing these. This contribution is confirmed by the fact that, during the past ten years, more than 65 000 degrees and diplomas have been awarded to students who enrolled for distance education programmes with the NWU.
Updated 3/15/13 by Jacques Pienaar