Challenges of Course
Development and Implementation in a Dual Mode Institution
The main challenges to be addressed during course development and
implementation of distance education programmes in dual mode institutions include policy
interpretation, budgetary constraints, full time and part time staff development
modalities, materials development procedures and processes, acquisition of requisite
equipment, conventional staff workloads against their desire to participate in the
creation of study materials, location of programmes not offered by conventional
departments and faculties, and administrative and organisational structures. A brief
comparison of single and dual mode provisions is given to contextualise the discussion.
This paper analyses the advantages and limitations of dual mode provisions drawing
examples from the University of Botswana and other tertiary institutions in the region and
advances some suggestions which would improve the organisation, management and
administration of distance education programmes in dual mode institutions.
Distance education has gained currency as an alternative mode of
delivery because of its ability to address issues of equity in the provision of
educational opportunity to people who did not go on with their education for one reason or
other. It enables institutions, governments and countries to train staff, upgrade
peoples academic and professional qualifications and impart new skills without
withdrawing them from their duties in nation building. Its flexibility has made --. a
viable alternative since it utilises available physical, human and material resources. It
is able to draw from high calibre academicians and other professionals thus maintaining
the required standards and parity, across similar Programmes of study and by so doing
dispelled perennial, negative attitudes and prejudices that this mode of delivery is
SINGLE MODE INSTITUTIONS
Open Universities such as the University of South Africa (UNISA), the
Open University of Tanzania, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and the mega
UK Open University characterise single mode outfits. Proponents of single mode
institutions argue that the administrative structures of conventional systems do not
facilitate the growth of distance education, that often, they regard distance education
programmes as second place; that requirements of distance education students are better
served when an institution is dedicated wholly to the needs of distant learners. To
support this observation, Croft (1992:49), says:
"Single mode institutions are the top-of-the-line in distance
education. Since they are established to teach solely at a distance, they are unencumbered
by conventional classroom teaching allowing them to focus on developing and managing
distance education. Academics are involved in all production and teaching processes. The
processes are flexible and may be changed to meet the changing needs. Since autonomy and
programme control rest with the institution as a whole and not with faculties and other
administrators, all systems are focused on the distance education student."
Croft's words echo the need for autonomy prevalent in single mode but
which is curtailed in dual mode institutions where all the structures are set up to
service a different clientele. Marshalling these to the needs of distant learners pauses a
big problem for distance educators whose mission is often not understood.
DUAL MODE INSTITUTIONS
These exist mainly within conventional institutions as subject-oriented
and/or distance education departments, within a college or university; consortia or a
co-operative between several institutions and high brids. In most cases the magnitude of
operation determines whether or not they will operate either as a unit or section within
an existing conventional department or as semi-autonomous distance education departments.
The University of Botswana is a dual mode institution which runs conventional, distance
education, and other part-time (evening/weekend) programmes concurrently. The part-time
offerings are administered by the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE), witch has the
mandate to extend university education to the people. The Distance Education Unit (DEU),
within the CCE is mandated to:
Select existing conventional programme(s) and introduce new courses
via distance mode.
Facilitate the recruitment and training of part-time staff required
for course development, production and implementation.
Develop regional study centres and set up learner support services.
Facilitate distribution of study materials and administer marking of
assignments to ensure two-way communication between students and their tutors.
Maintain an accurate and comprehensive record system of students,
materials production and records of regional study centres.
Administer examinations and process students' final results in
liaison with relevant departments.
Write handbooks for students, course writers, tutors, and study
Liaise with University library in the provision of library services
at the regional study centres.
The above provision enables the CCE to externalise existing programmes.
The CCE is established as a non-credit awarding department which services existing
academic programmes of other departments. Currently the CCE can however initiate new
programmes in consultation with other departments of the university. While this
arrangement has worked well new demands for education are beginning to emerge whereby
clientele require the CCE to offer credit, non-credit and modular programmes which are not
necessarily offered by conventional departments. To facilitate the implementation of such
continuing education either by distance or any other mode, the CCE requires some degree of
autonomy. According to the revised University statutes (1998), the CCE is mandated to:
Promote, plan, direct and co-ordinate the provision of University
education, continuous learning, and academic and intellectual resources of the University
through alternative means to the public including policy formulation, administration of
the centralised support for continuing and distance education to all academic units of the
University and its affiliated and associated institutions in a technology oriented
Empowering the CCE to initiate educational programmes without relying
on another department for admission and awards would enable it to respond to peoples
demands more efficiently. A case in point has been CCE's efforts to offer the Diploma in
Primary Education by distance mode which is meant to upgrade academic and professional
qualifications of some 10,000 plus Primary Teacher Certificate holders to the diploma
level. After consultations, it has not been possible for conventional departments to
collaborate with CCE in this venture due to their heavy workloads. This and many requests
will come to the University and enabling the CCE to address them directly looks like the
best way forward. According to Akinpelu (1997), this autonomous status would later elevate
the CCE to a Constituent College of the University of Botswana which would offer its own
certificates, diplomas and degrees "with distance education as its centre
piece". This autonomy would enable it to develop its own programmes and by so doing
shed some of its "attachment syndrome", and as a spin-off, enhance its
credibility as an academic departments of the University.
Having some degree of autonomy has enabled centres of continuing
education elsewhere to function independently and maintain high academic standards. The
Centre for Off-Campus Studies, in the dual mode Universiti Sains, Malaysia for example has
similar powers to those of any faculty of the University (Dhanarajan 1992). It formulates
its own academic policies on course offerings, teaching and delivery, and examination
systems. It is managed by a Director assisted by three deputy directors who are
responsible for course design, creation and tutorial support systems. The centre has an
assistant registrar and two assistant registrars who deal with course registration,
students records, assignments, and despatch, production schedules and warehousing. There
is a student counsellor who deals with students problems. It caters for about 3000 off-
campus students. For ease of operation, the CCE would require a similar outfit.
STUDENT REGISTRATION AND ORIENTATION
Due to shortage of classroom and accommodation space, distance
education students report to the University for orientation and introduction to study
materials a week or so before the full time students. The CCE liaises with the registrar's
department, students welfare , the bookstore and the library to make sure that distant
learners are registered and issued with textbooks and library books. This mainstreaming of
orientation to all the sections of the university enables distant learners to identify
themselves with the institution. They also get to know where to go for help particularly
after the residential session without having to rely to heavily on the Distance Education
COURSE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION
In order to sustain quality, parity and equivalencies in standards and
status between regular on-campus and off campus programmes, academic staff who teach
courses to on-campus students are invited to write study materials and conduct tutorials
in distance education programmes. Where these part-time involvements are not part of their
normal workload, the staff concerned are remunerated for their services at rates approved
by the University. While procuring staff for course creation and tutoring is not a problem
since personnel is readily available from the University and other institutions, task
completion has been a nightmare particularly among writers and editors. Majority of the
writers and editors are unable to meet agreed deadlines citing workloads in their parent
departments as a major constraint. This delay throws course implementation schedules
off-course and challenges the myth that course creation in dual mode institutions is well
catered for by a qualified and captive personnel. Although dual mode institutions reduce
the duplication of originating, designing and developing new syllabuses, (Akinpelu 1995)
course development for distance education is delayed by duality of assignments. Another
area of constraint is in materials production where the seasonality of assignments
requires the distance education department to hire secretarial service for example on a
part-time basis. This arrangement is right because no institution wants to retrench staff
after course development is completed. However, co-ordination of materials developing
relying on part-time typing pauses problems of delay since typists are stationed elsewhere
and their first loyalty is to their parent departments. They also take time to adapt to
the house style format and most of the work typed outside the distance education
department has to be reformatted.
Staff development is done through short courses, attachments to
distance education institutions in country and in the region. In-house course writers,
editors and tutors workshops have been useful since they enable staff coming from
conventional institutions to acquire some skills in distance education. However organised
training which would lead to certification for purposes of credibility is necessary. The
certificate course offered by UNISA for example has been very useful to support staff.
Efforts are being made to seek training opportunities for academic staff either at the
diploma and/or masters level. The Masters programme at the University of London is too
expensive, while the four year duration for the UNISA Post Graduate Diploma in Distance
Education makes it daunting to many would be aspirants.
STUDENT SUPPORT STRUCTURE
Students coming to distance education for the first time find this mode
novel and baffling. They lack psychological security which is prevalent to students in
conventional institutions since they do not, have opportunity to consult with their tutors
and colleagues as often as is required. Therefore, they need an elaborate learner support
structure to cater for their academic and personal problems. According to Guri Rosenblit
as cited by Akinpelu (1 995 p. 1 0) the needs of distant students include:
receiving accurate, consistent and timely information on their
programme from one source; setting timely academic counselling on their programme in form
of assistance over course registration, programme regulations and examination schedules;
access to supplementary instructional materials through the
bookstore, the library, electronic media and other resources;
tutorial assistance, as and when needed;
counselling services over financial. social and psychological
Distance education students at the CCE get support during residential
sessions and study weekends which are conducted in between the residential sessions. These
face to face contact sessions are highly valued because they give students the opportunity
to interact with their tutors and among themselves. Telephone tutorials are not frequent
due to financial constraints and given that some students do not have access to telephone
facilities. The CCE needs to install a toll free hotline for students use. Computer
mediated support is planned in the near future but this presupposes computer literacy
which many students do not currently have. Also in the pipeline is audio cassette and
video tapes support to be introduced at study centres. The CCE also collaborates with
other institutions for the provision of student support. This necessary because some
subjects such as science, home economics and art and craft require laboratories and
equipment which are available elsewhere in the regions.
COMPARISONS WITH DUAL MODE INSTITUTIONS OUTSIDE BOTSWANA
Distance education departments in dual mode institutions work within
similar constraints. According to Siaciwena (1997), the Directorate of Distance education,
University of Zambia which was created in 1994 had operated as a Correspondence Unit in a
conventional University since 1966. Prior to 1994, distance education programmes had
suffered, due to lack of clear and comprehensive policy, inadequate funding and long
bureaucratic decision-making processes. Since then, the Director has authority similar to
that of a Dean of Faculty or School, and the decision-making process has improved because
the Director can now take matters pertaining to distance education all way to Senate,
unhindered. But, even with these changes, the Directorate lacks trained staff (in distance
education). Training and sustaining part-time personnel is difficult due to their other
responsibilities. According , (Kapaale 1993) the teaching function for internal lecturers
was part of the terms and conditions of service before 1992 a measure which was not
popular with the academicians as they felt overburdened with internal and external
teaching assignments. But now, lecturers are paid allowances separately for services
rendered to the Directorate. Giving the Directorate administrative and financial autonomy
to recruit and remunerate staff accordingly has motivated academic staff to work with the
The University of Zambia model was model was borrowed from the of the
University of New England, Australia where academic staff from internal departments are
required under terms and conditions of their employment to teach in both internal and
external programmes( Chick, 1992).
It is important to note that the New England model worked in Australia
but was a source of frustration in Zambia's Distance Education outfit which is operating
in a different political and socio- economic context.
Other distance education programmes in dual mode institutions,
(Makerere University, Uganda, Faculty of External Studies, University of Nairobi Kenya)
and the University of Zimbabwe just to name a few, have experienced similar constraints at
one time or other. For example, the University of Nairobi's residential sessions for
External B.Ed students would be cancelled if there was no accommodation in the halls
of residence. The university would be reluctant to have them run in Teacher Training
Colleges or elsewhere arguing that university programmes could not be conducted outside
its premises (Kamau 1997). Perhaps it is to avoid similar experiences that the former
Directorate of Distance Education, University of Zimbabwe sought autonomy to become a
Constituent College with a hope to becoming an Open University.
This comparison demonstrates distance education programmes' inability
to function independently in dual mode institution because they do not make their own
decisions. They operate under rigid internal structures which are not flexible to the
peculiar needs of distant learners. Because many of them are housed within a continuing
education centre which deals with extension work, the feeling of attachment is for ever
present and can easily relegate them to a peripheral position if they are not part of the
university mission. Renwick (1992) makes the following suggestions towards developing
viable distance education programmes in dual mode institutions.
Distance education programmes should be developed as an integral part
of a University's teaching mission and not as a separate division devoted to the teaching
of external students only.
Academic staff should form the primary resource of writing, content
editing and revising course materials.
Distance education activities should be autonomous and contained in
the University policies.
Once course development, production and distribution is finalised,
various duties could be devolved to other departments or faculties.
Contribution to distance education by academic staff should be
adequately remunerated and considered during staff development and promotion.
In order to function normally, distance education programmes in dual
mode institutions need some form of autonomy. According to Akinpelu (1997) this autonomous
status should elevate departments such as the Centre for Continuing Education to a
Constituent College of the University of Botswana which offers its own certificates,
diplomas and degrees "with distance education as its centre piece". This
autonomous status should enable the distance education unit/department to develop its own
programmes and by so doing shed some of its "attachment syndrome", and as a
spin-off, enhance its credibility as a bonafide academic department of the university.
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Chick, J. (1992). 'The New England Model in Theory and
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Croft, C. (1 992). 'Single or Dual Mode: Challenges and Choices for
Future of Education', in Mugridge 1. (ed), Distance Education in Single and Dual Mode
Institutions, Vancouver, Commonwealth of Learning.
Dhanarajan, G. (1992). 'Dual Mode Institutions: The Off-Campus Centre
of Universiti Sains Malaysia'. In Mudridge I. (ed), Distance Education in Single and Dual
Mode Institutions, Vancouver, Commonwealth of Learning.
Dodds T. (1 997). 'Technology and Pragmatism: Appropriate Media Mix
for Student Support in Distance Education in Rural Namibia', in Education Technology 2000:
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Nairobi: Case Study, Vancouver, The Commonwealth of Learning, Quality Assurance Training
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BIODATA: JUDITH W. KAMAU
Mrs Kamau is a Senior Lecturer and Head, Distance Education Unit,
Centre for Continuing Education, University of Botswana. Prior to taking this assignment
in 1995, Mrs Kamau was Chairman, Department of Educational Studies, University of Nairobi
where she managed and administered the B.Ed External degree programme. Mrs Kamau has been
involved in course planning, design and development for distance education programmes for
nearly two decades. She was instrumental in the setting up of the Open University of
Tanzania. She has also consulted for distance education institutions in Uganda (Makerere
University) and Jamaica where she participated in planning for the implementation of
teacher upgrading through distance education.