Director of CES Prof JA (Tony) Dodds
Contact Person: Mr Hennie A Beukes
Position: Head, Department of Distance Education
Fax: 09264 61 206 3016
Tel: 09264 61 206 3575
Postal Address Private Bag 13245
Date: 20 June 1999
The Centre for External Studies (CES) was set up as part of the new
University of Namibia (UNAM) in August 1992. It grew out of the Department of Distance
Teaching of the former Academy. It is the outreach wing of UNAM, catering for the
educational needs of people who, for a variety of reasons, cannot come full-time to the
university campus to further their studies.
The mission of the Centre is to make education accessible to all
members of the community through the provision of distance education programmes. This
mission is a sub-statement of the Mission Statement of the University. It can be more
precisely elaborated as:
- to develop and provide extension and distance outreach courses;
- to identify and determine where needs exist for the provision of distance education
- to provide professional distance education advice to all faculties of UNAM and other
educational institutions and providers;
- to develop and administer training programmes for all involved in the development and
production of distance education materials;
- to design and administer programme delivery systems including materials and student
- to recruit, train, and supervise tutorial staff required for programme delivery;
- in collaboration with other faculties to determine course contents, syllabuses,
assessment and validation procedures before the writing stage;
- to develop and administer appropriate assessment systems for programmes in collaboration
with other UNAM faculties;
- to coordinate the writing, editing and production, printing and distribution of
materials required for the delivery of courses or programmes.
How CES Operates
CES operates through two departments, namely: the Department of
Distance Education, which collaborates with internal faculties of the university in
offering formal courses to external students by means of distance and open learning
methods; and the Department of Continuing Education, which offers educational programmes
not necessarily leading to qualifications. The work of this department includes short
courses, public lectures, seminars, workshops, and conferences on issues of public
interest and on topics agreed with or requested by institutions and organizations from the
public. CES runs nine Regional University Centres to support its programmes and students.
The following courses of study are offered using distance education
methods in 1999:
- DegreesBachelor of Nursing Science (Advanced Practice)
Bachelor of Education
- DiplomasDiploma in Education (African Languages)
- CertificateSchool Library Science (One Year)
CES has taken responsibility for the University Access Programme, which
was introduced at the beginning of 1999. The programme, coordinated by the Department of
Continuing Education, offers school leavers who were unable to get enough points
(especially in Mathematics and English), an opportunity to study at UNAM. The Access
Programme is partly funded by the Ford Foundation.
A survey conducted by CES in 1994 revealed the following
characteriztics about external students of UNAM:
- Student Profile in 1994
- More than half of the student population was made up of adults above the age of 22
years, and 40% of the cohort were over 25 years of age. In contrast, the typical full-time
UNAM campus student is between 18 and 22 years of age.
- Most external students were employed, the majority being in the teaching profession.
- Of every three external students, two were females.
- 75% of external students lived in urban areas, while 25% lived in rural areas. This does
not tally with the geographical distribution of the general population of Namibia.
- Performance of Distance Students
In 1994, CES achieved a 57.7% pass rate among external students who sat
for the examinations in the various courses. This pass rate compares fairly favourably
with pass rates in some internal department of the university and in some overseas
distance education institutions. The dropout rate, which normally occurred during the
first quarter of the year of study, was 37.8%. The total number of students who
successfully completed their final year courses was 259, the majority of whom were from
the northern regions.
Statistics for 1998 show that a total of 2264 students enrolled. Of
this number, 1791 or 79% wrote examinations. 86% passed the examinations and 68% passed
overall. With a drop out rate of about 21% and a failure rate of 11%, the total attrition
rate was about 32%. Even though the numbers of students have increased significantly, CES
has been able to retain a bigger percentage of students, and there is a marked improvement
in their overall performance.
Delivery Modes and Technologies
Distance education is a unique method of learning and teaching, in
which the main medium of instruction is the written word, enabling students to study at
home. A further advantage is that students can continually link their theoretical training
with their work situation.
Teaching takes the form of reciprocal communication between the student
and lecturer. This is made possible through the students interaction with learning
materials (printed study material and assignment letters) that are prescribed and/or
supplied to the student. The student responds periodically by means of assignments, which
are based on the materials and submitted for evaluation by the lecturer. For some study
units, supplementary study material is supplied in the form of audiocassettes. Vacation
schools and weekend courses are also organized in the various centres from time to time.
Through its Department of Continuing Education, CES has been involved
since 1997 in the radio education programme, UNAM On Air. This programme is
broadcast twice a week, and consists of a series of short seminars and workshops on a
range of topics of national concern.
Learner Support Strategies
The Centre is aware of the difficult circumstances in which many of its
students have to study, and is therefore eager to provide assistance to enable students to
derive full benefit from their studies. CES offers the following support services to
Assignments coming from students are used as a teaching tool and
marker-tutors, who are well trained, do not just mark in a conventional sense, but also
give the necessary guidance and encouragement on how students may improve and make
progress toward being successful.
Marker-tutors are available for telephone tutoring and students are
provided with a list of their tutors telephone numbers as well as the times/hours
that they will be available for this service.
These tutorials are organized in the nine Regional University Centres
from time to time, where the number of students registered for a particular course of
study justifies this. Attendance at tutorials is optional. The Student Support Officer at
the regional centres provides notice of such tutorials to students.
Vacation schools are offered twice a year, in May and August, at
Oshakati and Windhoek. Attendance at vacation schools is optional, but students are
strongly advised to make use of this service because it is a valuable opportunity for
students to meet their tutors and fellow students and to make use of library facilities.
Small group tutorials are provided during vacation schools to allow for individual
attention and discussion of problems.
Flexible Payment of Tuition Fees
An important service offered to external students is the flexible
payment system of tuition fees. Students can pay the prescribed fees for each module or
course for which they enrol. These fees and registration will stay valid for the period
they take to complete the course or module, provided it is within the maximum period
Assessment in all courses is based on a satisfactory continuous
assessment mark and the results of a written examination. In each course, students are
required to submit a specified number of assignments, which are marked by tutors. If the
average assignment mark is satisfactory, the student can progress to write the
examination. A flexible examination system has been implemented for all external students,
who can write examinations in January and July each year. This allows students to pace
themselves according to their own circumstances. It also gives unsuccessful students the
option to retry within a shorter time period.
CES is in the process of planning to establish quality assurance
mechanisms. A good start was made in 1999 to improve the quality of marking assignments
and provide useful feedback to students. Under the supervision of the Tutorial and Student
Support Unit, full-time staff at CES are involved in the monitoring of assignments which
are marked by part-tutors.
Regular consultation seminars and short training events are organized
for part-time tutors. These events give the tutors an opportunity of interacting directly
with CES staff.
Two academic staff are continuing their M.A. in Distance Education with
the University of London. One academic staff member is concluding his Doctorate in
Distance Education with a South African university, while two others have started their
Some nine staff members, among them five part-time tutors, have
completed their Certificate Course for Distance Education Practitioners with UNISA
(University of South Africa). CES is planning to ask the newly qualified tutors to serve
as senior tutors who can assist with tutor training and monitoring of assignments.
Enabling and Hindering Factors
Two key challenges facing CES are the need to establish and maintain
good working relationships with the different faculties at the university and the need for
recruiting and training writers of good distance education materials and tutor markers.
Collaboration with a number of people in organizations and centres is
enabling CES to operate more effectively. The following are examples of such collaborative
- CES shares outreach regional centres and examination centres with the Centre for
Distance Education of the Polytechnic of Namibia. The two organizations have jointly
carried out tutorial and student support activities, including tutor briefing and
- In collaboration with the Faculty of Economics and Management Science at UNAM, CES has
organized tutorials and handled assignments for Transnamib staff studying for a Bachelor
of Business Administration Degree with UNISA.
- CES has signed an agreement to organize tutorials and handle assignments for Namibian
students of Technikon SA and Vista University.