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close this bookSouth African College for Open Learning: A Model of an Inservice Distance Education Programme for Initial Teacher Education (CIE, 2002, 37 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMulti-Site Teacher Education Research Project (MUSTER)
View the documentList of Acronyms
View the documentAbstract
View the document1. Introduction
View the document2. Overview of Development of Teacher Education at SACOL
View the document3. Context in which the data was collected
View the document4. Data Collection and Analysis
Open this folder and view contents5. Overview of the College
Open this folder and view contents6. The Initial Teacher Education Curriculum and its Evaluation
View the document7. Students' Aspirations, Expectations and Preparedness
View the document8. Costs of the SACOL Programmes
View the document9. Key Issues from the SACOL Case Study
View the document10. Concluding Remarks
View the documentReferences
View the documentAppendix One: Student registration at SACOL for 1999 and 2000
View the documentAppendix Two: Results for certificate courses
View the documentAppendix Three: Results for diploma courses
View the documentAppendix Four: Higher Diploma in Education
View the documentAppendix Five: Further Diploma In Education
View the documentAppendix Six: Categorisation of academic staff into faculties and departments
View the documentAppendix Seven: Buildings and infrastructure at each campus
View the documentAppendix Eight: Diploma In Education: Structure (10 Cotep Credit - 360 Saqa)

9. Key Issues from the SACOL Case Study

This case study was conducted at a time when SACOL was in a state of transition. Three colleges had just been amalgamated to form SACOL. SACOL was then going to be incorporated by UNISA. While there are issues that are peculiar to this particular point in time, they can be useful in considering initial teacher education programmes that are offered by the distance model. I would like to raise the following issues.

9.1. Incorporation and amalgamation issues: political economy

Amalgamations are very costly because of the trade-offs that are made to suit the people that are involved in each of the separate institutions. Often the over-riding concerns in the amalgamation or incorporation processes are (understandably) issues of job security. Issues of the programme for students are secondary.

SACOL operates from two campuses - Durban and Pietermaritzburg. This means increased cost of maintaining the campuses, administrative functions and costs of communication between the two campuses. There is also a cost linked to loss of co-ordination and coherence in the programmes because they are split between two campuses. Secondly, when institutions move from one function to another they continue to function in old ways. SACOL is a distance education INSET institution but still functions as a Preservice institution. This is shown in the mode of courses it offers, the assumptions about the content and the need for teaching practice. Thirdly in amalgamations, each institution comes with a history and contestations about how the new institution looks. It is not clear how the competing institutions' practices were negotiated. It would be interesting to observe how the practices of SACOL are incorporated into the UNISA institution.

9.2. Who are the students that have registered for these programmes?

It was a surprise to me that many of the students are not old and about to exit the teaching system. There are many teachers who completed their matriculation examination and started teaching between 1992 and 1997. They are categorised as permanent teachers. Because the teachers are young and will probably be teaching for many years it is very important that they have a quality teacher education. They will be impacting on the lives of students for a long time.

9.3. Suitability of distance education as a model of INSET for certificate and diploma teachers

We need to ask the broader question about the suitability of distance education as a mode of initial teacher education training for certificate and diploma students given their background (either standard 8 a long time ago, limited English, no background in mathematics or students who recently completed matriculation) and the type of subjects offered (English oral communication).

9.4. Initial teacher education or an upgrading qualification?

Are the SACOL certificate and diploma courses designed on the assumption that this is initial training or an upgrading of qualification? Discussions with SACOL staff indicate that the course are designed on the assumption that the student would have teaching experience, and may have had a year of full-time teacher training some time ago. The programmes are seen as upgrading qualifications. An analysis of who the students are indicate that many recently went straight from high school to become teachers. Further, about 60% of the students indicated that they learnt more from the training courses than from qualified teachers. This means that the teacher education programme is critical for their development as teachers. A certificate or diploma programme for teachers by distance which is based on the assumption that this is initial teacher education, may look different from one which is based on the assumption of an upgrading qualification.

9.5. Who are the staff?

What are the qualities of academic staff that are required for the organisation to deliver an effective distance education programme? In SACOL many staff had originally been appointed as lecturers to Preservice programmes. As the institutions changed so did their responsibilities. Staff were not appointed because of their knowledge and experience in distance education. At SACOL the academic staff are categorised as 'lecturers'. In a distance education programme are more appropriate titles (and job descriptions) that of curriculum developers and tutors? This would reflect different roles and a different type of organisation.

9.6. Organisation of distance learning institutions

SACOL is a distance education organisation whose client base is primarily school teachers. Yet SACOL operates in the mode of a regular PRESET institution. An evaluation report by Peacock (1995) highlighted this point when he said "The Natal College of Education simply 'disappeared' for a month over Easter...Such a decision is, arguably, deeply insensitive to student needs." The operating hours of SACOL in 2000 do not seem to be for the convenience of its client base.

9.7. Administrative support to offer a distance learning programme

The administrative support services are crucial to the smooth delivery of the programme. There needs to be a very good database programme with all data correctly entered in and proper lists of courses and addresses to which to send information. For a lecturer to be effective in a distance education programme a telephone (for easy access to students) and computer (crucial for materials development) are necessary parts of the job.

9.8. Distance or open learning

A distance education curriculum has two important components: the materials and student support services. Components of an 'open learning' system are the learner centres, materials, contact sessions and student support services. It would seem that the concept of open learning places greater emphasis on the needs of the students than does a distance education programme. The mode of operation at SACOL is somewhere between a distance learning organisation and an open learning organisation. However there is no indication yet as to how UNISA, a distance learning institution, would incorporate the elements of open learning: a system which would be more advantageous to the students.

9.9. Delivery of the distance education programme: materials, contact and student support

When one analyses SACOL client base, it highlights the fact that there needs to far greater consideration about the provision of materials and support for students. The evaluation study of Gultig (1995) highlights the issues that need to be considered for materials which would be suitable for a SACOL client base. The contact sessions and ongoing support offered to the students are an important part of the learning experience. This means a greater responsibility on SACOL to ensure that the contact sessions are well planned and delivered.

9.10. Teaching practice

Given the biography of the SACOL client base, it would seem important to include a formal component of teaching practice and/ or far more modelling of good teaching practices into the curriculum. This would provide a mechanism for lecturers to engage with the students' teaching practice and advise them. In addition the teaching practice will allow teachers to visit classrooms and observe the realities that they are preparing students for.

9.11. Cost effectiveness of the programme

The cost effectiveness of the programme must be examined in terms of the efficiency of the physical arrangement of the colleges, the throughput and performance of students in their examination, and the amount of money it costs to train a student.

It would seem that having two campuses (one is not a satellite of the other) is not the most efficient manner of organising an institution. There is a high attrition rate in the programme and the performance of those who write is also not optimum. While it is acknowledged that there is generally high attrition in distance education programmes, the wastage in the certificate and diploma courses is of concern because these qualifications are compulsory for teachers to continue working in the educational system.

The cost of training a student at SACOL by this mode is around R18 000 per student. This cost seems to be high when compared to costs of university training (R15 000 for a student taking an Arts degree).