Contact Person : Prof. K. P. Dzvimbo
Fax: 307 140
Postal Address: P O Box MP 167
Telephone : 333 451/8 ext.255
The Centre for Distance Education was established by the University of
Zimbabwe in 1993. In 1996, this centre was converted to the University College of Distance
Education. On 6th March 1999, the college received its university charter,
transforming it into a fully-fledged university known as the Zimbabwe Open University.
Among other things, the universitys mission is to constantly adapt, develop, and
implement new courses and programmes to meet the needs of a changing knowledge base,
employment sector, and socio-economic, political, and international environment.
To this effect, the University offers a number of programmes. These
include:, Bachelor of Education in Educational Administration, Planning and Policy Studies
(B. Ed. (EAPPS); Bachelor of Arts in English and Communication Studies (B.A. ECS);
Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Management) (B.Sc. Agric); and Undergraduate Diploma
in Classroom Text and Discourse (DCTD). A number of additional undergraduate and
postgraduate programmes including a Master in Business Administration and a Ph.D.
in Education Administration, Planning, and Policy Studies have also been
Registration at the University takes place in February, July, and
September. According to statistics dated 6th May 1999, a total number of 9,235
are students are registered for B.Ed (EAPPS), BA (ECS) and Masters in Education
Administration Programmes. With some of the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes due
to be introduced in 1999 and 2000, the administration of the University if confident that
enrolment could reach about 20,000 by February 2000.
Currently the University does not have international students.
Nevertheless, its regional centres in Zimbabwes 10 provinces are in full operation.
Target groups for the university have been out-of-school youth, employed people who want
to further their studies, and women in rural areas. Negotiations are, however, underway
with the University of Botswana for the two universities to share material particularly
for the B. Ed. programme.
Though the University has been relying on government grants and student
fees as the main sources of funding, funding proposal for various projects run by the
university have been sent to potential sponsors. So far, the British Council and the
United States Information Service have been two of the main financial backers of the
Delivery Modes and Use of Technologies
Though this is largely a distance education institution, face-to-face
teaching and learning modes are also used. Face-to-face contact happens by way of tutors
and students meeting in regional centres to discuss various topics.
At this juncture, the institution relies heavily on print media. Radio
is also used, particularly by the B. Ed. programme. During such broadcasts, topics which
students find to be difficult are discussed. Students may also telephone in to ask
questions during the broadcast. At times, tutors also give lectures. Students are given
timetables indicating days and times for discussions or lectures on radio.
Learner Support Strategies
According to the Vice Chancellor, the university has a well-structured
learner support system. It has established a Department of Student Services and Extension.
The department is staffed by a team of counsellors. Its current plan is to distribute
counsellors in all regional centres so that they can: develop guidance and counselling
programmes based on periodic assessment of students needs; establish orientation
programmes for students at transitional stages of their studies (for example, entering
distance education studies, after examinations, or before completion of studies); and
supply information on issues of relevance to students (for example, health, social,
career, employment, and family life). The services will also be extended to staff members,
with the counselling specialist/associate counsellor providing guidance and counselling
supervision to personnel in regional centres.
To make life easier for students, the university operates in a
decentralized manner. Students register in regional centres in the ten provinces (Harare,
Bulawayo, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Matabeleland North,
Matabeleland South, Midlands and Masvingo). Students pay their fees and receive learning
material at the regional centres, which means that they do not have to travel to the main
Tutors who are trained to handle distance education students are always
available to organize tutorial sessions and to offer students support where needed. As
indicated earlier, radio is also used as one of supporting students by either giving a
lecture on difficult topics or discussing topics on radio. Students are also allowed to
telephone tutors at home or at the centre if they need help, or to telephone the registrar
if they have a query relating to administrative issues. As was indicated earlier,
television is also used to offer support by way of motivating students.
Students assessment takes into consideration a students profile,
portfolio, and what is described as a process portfolio. For the process portfolio, a
team, which may be comprised of experienced college or university teachers, school
inspector, principal, or senior teacher, is used to observe a students performance
and evaluate their work. Though there are some features of continuous assessment, there
seems to be significant focus on examinations. Students are required to write semester
examinations plus final examinations. University policy states that examination results
are to count for 60% of a students final mark.
The University has established a committee that oversees and evaluates
programmes to ensure quality at the design stage. The committee oversees the programme
design stage in terms of modules written and how they are edited. External experts, Chairs
of the Departments and students are also used to evaluate modules and tutors.
Professional development has been going on for some time at the
university.. The institution has an agreement with the British Council, which helps to
send people to the United Kingdom for short courses. For long term fellowships, people
have also been sent to the United States of America and to some institutions in the region
to further their skills in areas of administration, management, and teaching.
Enabling and Hindering Factors
The universitys autonomy and the full support it gets from the
government, in its endeavour to expand access to affordable higher education have been
identified as some of the most enabling factors. Funding been identified as the most