The proportion of students studying in international distance education programmes has risen dramatically in the last decade, particularly in developing countries (UNESCO, 2012). One such example is South Africa, which has become a regional hub for international students with over one-third now studying distantly. Previous research demonstrates that distance students show low degree attainment (Prinsloo et al, 2015) and learning design affects their retention and satisfaction (Rienties and Toetenel, 2016). However, relatively little is known about international distance learners educational transitions, including academic and social integrations. Although there is a wide body of literature on international student adjustment and integration, this research often makes the assumption that students are physically located at the host institution, and there is a scarcity of research on distance education experiences.
The International Distance Education with African Students (IDEAS) project aims to address these gaps in knowledge through a research collaboration between the Open University in the UK and the University of South Africa. The project explores international distance student experiences in Africa, including their educational transitions through HE and the role of learning design or university support systems in academic and social inclusion. At the Promoting Inclusion, Transforming Lives conference, we will describe the academic and social adjustment patterns of international distance students across Africa. Evidence for learning designs and practices that best support international distance learners, effectiveness of support services for promoting successful transitions and wellbeing, and the current barriers to inclusive distance education practices in a developing world context will be discussed.
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Jul 04 2017IDEAS in Kenya
In June 2017 members of the IDEAS team from the Open University and UNISA facilitated a workshop, 'Evaluating Learning Design in Blended and Online Courses', for University colleagues from Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, and South Africa. The purpose was to discuss Learning Design approaches and how, or indeed, whether they should be used in the African context.
May 30 2017Reflections from a distance
A brief view of some the project's progress so far, along with some reflections from Melis Cin and Dianne Long on conducting interviews at a distance, and the challenges this presents, along with some unexpected positives that have resulted from these challenges.