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Quality assurance practice in open and distance learning in Zambian universities

Quality assurance practice in open and distance learning in Zambian universities
Quality assurance practice in open and distance learning in Zambian universities
Quality assurance (QA) has, for many years, been mainstream into the provision of programmes for higher education in developed and developing countries. In response to increased numbers of private and state-owned universities and the massification of students in open and distance learning (ODL), African countries and their universities have realised the need for QA. To ensure that these universities improve their quality provision, some countries such as South Africa and Nigeria have established independent QA agencies to regulate and monitor QA in programmes offered through ODL. The expansion in higher education that has taken place in Zambia has resulted in a need to examine available policy measures for QA and institutional QA practices in universities that offer Bachelor of Education/Science degree programmes.

Using a concurrent mixed-method design the study drew on both qualitative and quantitative policy measures for ODL at national level and QA practices at institutional level for ODL. The study relied on in-depth interviews, survey questionnaires and document review for data. Quantitative data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) while, to analyse qualitative data, thematic analysis was applied using Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis (CAQDAS), by means of NVivo. Interviews were conducted with one participant from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), one participant from the Ministry of Higher Education, seven participants from the three universities, one ODL expert and one QA expert. Twelve and 300 questionnaires were collected from heads of department (HODs) and ODL students respectively at the three participating universities.

The study found that, although the Ministry of Higher Education has increased funding and embarked on infrastructure development and training of academic staff in state-owned universities, these processes take a long time, and the amount has not been enough to implement quality provision of ODL. Further, it was found that the HEA did not have a QA framework (tool) for ODL, and instead relied on a general framework for all modes of education delivery in Zambia. Some universities had established internal QA directorates, but these were not fully functional as they were still in the process of designing the internal QA frameworks and systems. One university did not have either a QA unit or directorate.

The findings of this study extend the theory and practice of QA in a developing country like Zambia, where formal QA practice has not existed for long and the attention has focused on conventional education. Therefore, the study provides a conceptual framework that could be used to significantly improve the quality delivery of ODL and move away from the old, traditional methods that are failing to produce quality ODL graduates. Further, the study has established that there is a need to embrace good practice in the provision of programmes through ODL to contribute significantly to strengthening the capacity of universities to deliver quality services. It recommends a multi-sectoral approach by all those involved in ODL.
University of Southampton
Lifuka, Evans
93e451a7-9535-489b-ad17-8beb0c275d9f
Lifuka, Evans
93e451a7-9535-489b-ad17-8beb0c275d9f
Bokhove, Christian
7fc17e5b-9a94-48f3-a387-2ccf60d2d5d8

Lifuka, Evans (2018) Quality assurance practice in open and distance learning in Zambian universities. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 316pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Quality assurance (QA) has, for many years, been mainstream into the provision of programmes for higher education in developed and developing countries. In response to increased numbers of private and state-owned universities and the massification of students in open and distance learning (ODL), African countries and their universities have realised the need for QA. To ensure that these universities improve their quality provision, some countries such as South Africa and Nigeria have established independent QA agencies to regulate and monitor QA in programmes offered through ODL. The expansion in higher education that has taken place in Zambia has resulted in a need to examine available policy measures for QA and institutional QA practices in universities that offer Bachelor of Education/Science degree programmes.

Using a concurrent mixed-method design the study drew on both qualitative and quantitative policy measures for ODL at national level and QA practices at institutional level for ODL. The study relied on in-depth interviews, survey questionnaires and document review for data. Quantitative data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) while, to analyse qualitative data, thematic analysis was applied using Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis (CAQDAS), by means of NVivo. Interviews were conducted with one participant from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), one participant from the Ministry of Higher Education, seven participants from the three universities, one ODL expert and one QA expert. Twelve and 300 questionnaires were collected from heads of department (HODs) and ODL students respectively at the three participating universities.

The study found that, although the Ministry of Higher Education has increased funding and embarked on infrastructure development and training of academic staff in state-owned universities, these processes take a long time, and the amount has not been enough to implement quality provision of ODL. Further, it was found that the HEA did not have a QA framework (tool) for ODL, and instead relied on a general framework for all modes of education delivery in Zambia. Some universities had established internal QA directorates, but these were not fully functional as they were still in the process of designing the internal QA frameworks and systems. One university did not have either a QA unit or directorate.

The findings of this study extend the theory and practice of QA in a developing country like Zambia, where formal QA practice has not existed for long and the attention has focused on conventional education. Therefore, the study provides a conceptual framework that could be used to significantly improve the quality delivery of ODL and move away from the old, traditional methods that are failing to produce quality ODL graduates. Further, the study has established that there is a need to embrace good practice in the provision of programmes through ODL to contribute significantly to strengthening the capacity of universities to deliver quality services. It recommends a multi-sectoral approach by all those involved in ODL.

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Lifuka final thesis 5b - Version of Record
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Published date: February 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 437661
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/437661
PURE UUID: e4a5f178-8550-447e-8ff3-482eb5e065db
ORCID for Christian Bokhove: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4860-8723

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 10 Feb 2020 17:30
Last modified: 11 Feb 2020 01:33

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Contributors

Author: Evans Lifuka
Thesis advisor: Christian Bokhove ORCID iD

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