DRAFT POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR THEPROVISION OF DISTANCEEDUCATIONIN SOUTH AFRICAN UNIVERSITIESMay 2012
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African UniversitiesMay 2012All interested persons and organizations are invited to comment on the Draft Policy Framework forthe Provision of Distance Education in South African Universities. Comments should reach theDepartment not later than 2 July 2012.Comments should be directed to the Dr E L Van Staden (email: email@example.com).The name, address, telephone number and fax number of the person, governing body ororganization responsible for submitting comments must also be provided.Published by the Department of Higher Education & Training123 Schoeman StreetPretoriaPrivate Bag X 174Pretoria0001Tel: 27 (12) 312 5889Fax: 27 (12) 321 1788Web site: http://www.dhet.gov.zaCopyright Department of Higher Education and Training, South Africa, 2012Page 2 of 33
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African UniversitiesMay 2012Contents1Scope and purpose of this policy statement. 72The policy context . 82.1 Growth of the system . 92.2 Need for further expansion . 112.3 Technological opportunities . 122.4 Quality matters . 143The distinctiveness and purpose of distance higher education . 144Steering mechanisms . 164.1 Planning. 174.2 Funding arrangements . 204.2.1 Critical areas for the funding review. 214.2.2 Further issues that need to be considered . 224.3 Quality assurance . 245Creating an enabling environment for distance education . 265.1 Collaborative development of high quality learning resources . 275.2 Improved access to and use of appropriate technology . 285.3 Supporting a wider range of post schooling study options . 295.4 Technological infrastructure for post schooling . 295.5 Shared learning and support centres. 296Cross-border distance higher education. 306.1 The need for regulation . 306.2 Code of conduct . 317Conclusion . 32Page 3 of 33
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African UniversitiesMay 2012List of tswana College of Distance and Open LearningCouncil on Higher EducationDepartment of Higher Education and TrainingDepartment of Basic EducationFurther Education and TrainingFull-Time EquivalentHigher EducationHigher Education InstitutionHigher Education Management Information SystemHigher Education Quality CommitteeHigher Education South AfricaInformation and Communication TechnologyIndira Gandhi National Open UniversityInternational Education Association of South AfricaMinistry of Higher Education and TrainingNational Association for Distance Education and Open Learning in South AfricaNamibian College of Open LearningNational Indian Open SchoolNamibian Open Learning Network TrustNational Student Financial Aid SchemeOpen and Distance LearningOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentOpen Educational Resource/sProgramme and Qualification MixResearch and DevelopmentSouthern African Development CommunitySouth African Institute for Distance EducationSouth African Universities’ Vice-Chancellors’ Association (superseded by HESA)Sector Education and Training AuthoritiesUnited Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural OrganisationUniversity of South AfricaUnit StandardWhole QualificationWorld Trade OrganizationPage 4 of 33
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African UniversitiesMay 2012GlossaryDistance education is a set of teaching and learning strategies (or educational methods) that can beused to overcome spatial and/or temporal separation between educators and students. However, itis not a single mode of delivery. It is a collection of methods for the provision of structured learning.It avoids the need for students to discover the curriculum by attending classes frequently and forlong periods. Rather, it aims to create a quality learning environment using an appropriatecombination of different media, tutorial support, peer group discussion, and practical sessions. Forfunding purposes only, it may become necessary to develop a more quantifiable definition.Blended learning refers to structured learning opportunities provided using a combination ofcontact, distance, and/or e-learning opportunities to suit different purposes, audiences, andcontexts.E-learning refers to structured learning opportunities mediated through the use of digital resources(usually combinations of text, audio and visual/video files) and software applications. E-learning maybe offered on-line and synchronously (e.g. real-time conference), on-line and asynchronously (e.g.text-based discussion forum) or off-line (e.g. interactive CD/DVD/flash drive). E-learning can beemployed in both contact and distance programmes.M-learning or mobile-learning refers to e-learning opportunities formatted for access via mobiledevices such as netbooks, tablets, smartphones, MP3/4 players etc.Open Educational Resources (OER) are educational resources (including curriculum maps, coursematerials, textbooks, streaming videos, multimedia applications, podcasts, and any other materialsthat have been designed for use in teaching and learning) that are freely available for use byeducators and learners, without an accompanying need to pay royalties or licence fees. OER is notsynonymous with online learning or e-learning. Openly licensed content can be produced in anymedium: text, video, audio, or computer-based multimedia.Open learning is an approach which combines the principles of learner centredness, lifelonglearning, flexibility of learning provision, the removal of barriers to access learning, the recognitionfor credit of prior learning experience, the provision of learner support, the construction of learningprogrammes in the expectation that learners can succeed, and the maintenance of rigorous qualityassurance over the design of learning materials and support systems.Provider means a registered institution which offers learning programmes that culminate inspecified National Qualifications Framework standards and/or qualifications and manages theassessment thereof.Post-schooling, in the South African context, refers to provision of educational opportunities to allpeople who have left school as well as for those who have never been to school. It includeseducation and training for out of school youth and includes institutions offering second chancelearning, FET Colleges, education and training offered by the SETAs, Universities of Technology andUniversities, as well as other training colleges and institutes.Page 5 of 33
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African UniversitiesMay 2012Qualification means a planned combination of learning outcomes which has a defined purpose orpurposes, and which is intended to provide qualifying learners with specified applied competenceand a basis for further learning; it also means the formal recognition of the achievement of therequired number and type of credits and such other requirements as may be determined by theSouth African Qualifications Authority.Standard means registered statements of desired education and training outcomes and theirassociated assessment criteria.Page 6 of 33
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African UniversitiesMay 20121 Scope and purpose of this policy statementKey policy provisions that flow from the discussion of the issues affecting distance higher educationare highlighted in each section and are collated in a Summary Draft Policy Framework which is foundin an accompanying document.This is the Ministry of Higher Education and Training’s (MHET) first policy document devoted entirelyto the use of distance education in higher education programmes. Until now, distance education hasfeatured in general higher education policies, plans, legislation, and executive decisions, but itsimportance and complexity warrants an additional separate policy statement.The MHET sees distance provisioning as an integral part of the post-school system in general, andmore specifically in higher education, therefore this policy should be read in conjunction with otherpolicy documents affecting higher education generally. This policy statement is part of a broaderfocus on building the capacity of the education system but focuses primarily on higher educationbecause of its unique features.Through this policy framework, the MHET seeks to resolve many areas of uncertainty and providestrong support for the progressive development of South African distance higher education as anindispensable and integral component of our national higher education system.From 1994, the former combined Ministry of Education encouraged the development of distanceeducation and related approaches to teaching and learning at all levels, envisaging the role it couldplay at the heart of the transformation process. For decades, the provision of distance highereducation programmes has afforded access to education to students in South Africa and the widerAfrican region for whom full-time contact education has been either inappropriate, unaffordable, orinaccessible. It has therefore served the invaluable role of bringing higher education within the reachof students who would not otherwise have been able to study at this level. In the past, it hastypically done so at a significantly reduced cost both to the state and to the student. In addition,niche programmes that serve a defined national need but have limited local appeal for contactstudents at any one institution have been offered effectively as distance programmes.Distance education globally has also been an arena of innovation in higher education, an incubatorfor conceptual and technological advances that have been capable of strengthening teaching andlearning in South African higher education across the board. For at least a decade, South Africandistance education practitioners have joined their international colleagues in pioneering educationtechnologies for higher education as for other spheres of education and training. They are providingleadership in the research and development, design, and advocacy of curricula and materials thatare especially tailored to the needs of independent students and sensitive to South African students’circumstances.Although our country is an acknowledged pioneer in its initial deployment of correspondenceeducation, much improvement is needed to ensure that all of our distance higher educationprogrammes fully exploit the advantages of the mode and deliver learning opportunities with therequired rigour, coherence, and effective student support. Moreover, considerable improvement isPage 7 of 33
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African UniversitiesMay 2012required in success and throughput rates in distance programmes if the potential cost-benefits ofdistance education are to be realized. In common with higher education generally, distance highereducation programmes also need to ensure that they equip students with the kinds of graduatecompetences needed for success after graduation. This requires attention to and investment in thequality of appropriate inputs and processes but also ongoing monitoring of outputs and impact.Distance education provision thus needs to rise to the double of challenge of providing greateraccess but doing so in ways that offer a reasonable expectation of turning access into success.From 2004, a new University of South Africa became the sole dedicated distance higher educationinstitution in democratic South Africa, combining the programmes, staff, and facilities of the formerUniversity of South Africa and Technikon Southern Africa and incorporating the Vista UniversityDistance Education Campus in a single, merged, comprehensive open and distance learninguniversity. With an audited active enrolment of just under 300,000 in 2010 and a new mission andvision that reflect its national and continental role, Unisa is recognised as one of the world’s mostimportant mega-universities. However, Unisa is not the sole public provider of distance highereducation. In recent years many predominantly contact institutions have developed and launcheddistance education programmes, often in niche areas aimed at specific clienteles both locally and inthe SADC region or beyond. This is another reason for making a policy statement at this time. Thereis need to ensure that growth in the system based on public funding is targeted towards the nationalgood and aligned with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.The MHET acknowledges the Council on Higher Education (CHE)’s excellent research reports andpolicy advice on distance higher education which have strongly influenced this policy. Both HigherEducation South Africa (HESA) and individual HEIs have made insightful statements on the subject,while the former South African University Vice Chancellors’ Association (SAUVCA)’s earlierinvestigation of distance higher education sharpened focus on many of the important issues. Asalways, the MHET has tried to maximise the common ground between its own position and theadvice it has received from the higher education sector, while forming its own judgement in the lightof its own and the government’s broader policy perspectives and resources.2 The policy contextThe need for a specific policy on distance education at this time is indicated by three contextualfactors: The distance education component of higher education has grown considerably in absolutenumbersThe higher education system generally needs to grow further if we are to meet the targets set inpolicyIncreasing ubiquity and flexibility of ICTs has opened up new opportunities for quality expansionof teaching and learning.Page 8 of 33
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African UniversitiesMay 20122.1 Growth of the systemSouth Africa’s higher education system has transformed dramatically since 1994, providingconsiderably increased access to larger numbers of previously marginalised groupings. From 2000 to2009, enrolments in public higher education rose from 578,134 to 837,779 students – an increase of45%. By 2009, the proportion of black South African students in the overall higher education systemhad grown to 65% and the proportion of women had risen to 57%. 1Growth in student numbers has not been matched by growth in the number of academics, leading toa greater preponderance of large classes. However, Morrow 2has argued that this does not meanthat the quality of teaching necessarily needs to decline, provided that academics learn from thedistance education experience and place greater emphasis on the development and use of welldesigned learning resources and integrated, structured learning support.Distance education proceeds from the belief that learning can be nurtured without necessarilyrequiring teachers and learners to be in the same place at the same time, and that the resourcebased nature of distance education allows for the possibility to achieve economies of scale.However, the challenge to turn access into success requires substantial up-front investment incurriculum design and materials development, including attention to issues of structure, pacing andmeaningful formative assessment, as well as considerable investment in decentralised studentsupport.Distance education has made a significant contribution to the overall growth in student enrolment –accounting for just below 40% of all headcount enrolments and 30% of full-time-equivalentenrolments (FTEs) over the last decade.In South Africa, distance education programmes enrolled 316,349 students in 2009, which was37,8% of all higher education students. Unisa’s headcount enrolment in that year was 279,744amounting to 88% of all distance education enrolments: 10 out of a total of 22 predominantlycontact institutions enrolled the balance.It is recognised that distance education students typically have competing demands for their timeand progress more slowly through their studies because they do not usually carry full course loads.Since most distance education students study part-time and do not carry a full course load,enrolment in distance programmes accounted for 28% of the total number of full-time-equivalentstudents (FTEs) in 2009, whereas headcount distance enrolments were 37% of the total. The newUnisa’s contribution was 81% of the total distance education FTEs (compared to 88% of headcountenrolments mentioned above). The relative contributions of the predominantly contact institutionsin 2009 varied considerably. In one contact institution distance, FTEs accounted for nearly half of allFTEs (North West University), in others the proportions were significant at 10-20% (Nelson MandelaMetropolitan University, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Pretoria) and in others less thanone percent.Unless otherwise stated, figures cited in this document are derived from the Higher Education ManagementInformation System (HEMIS)2Morrow, W. 2007. Learning to teach in South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC Press.1Page 9 of 33
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African UniversitiesMay 2012In 2009, the distribution of distance versus contact FTE enrolments by field of study was as follows: Science, engineering and technology 14%:86%Business/management 46%:54%Education 63%:37%Other humanities 39%:61%.Overall enrolment in Science and Technology programmes was in line with the MHET’s target ratio(30%) for higher education institutions but as noted skewed towards the contact institutions.A high proportion of all Education FTE students were in contact institutions’ distance programmes
Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African Universities May 2012 Page 5 of 33 Glossary Distance education is a set of teaching and learning strategies (or educational methods) that can be use
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Le genou de Lucy. Odile Jacob. 1999. Coppens Y. Pré-textes. L’homme préhistorique en morceaux. Eds Odile Jacob. 2011. Costentin J., Delaveau P. Café, thé, chocolat, les bons effets sur le cerveau et pour le corps. Editions Odile Jacob. 2010. 3 Crawford M., Marsh D. The driving force : food in human evolution and the future.
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