Embedding a Student-Centric e-Academic Peer Learning Support Programme in a Distance Learning Ecosystem at the North-West University (75807)

Session Information: Adult, Lifelong & Distance Learning
Session Chair: Marie Martin

Friday, 24 November 2023 10:55
Session: Session 2
Room: Room 703
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

Government initiatives aim to expand access to education in South Africa through Open Distance Education, addressing historical inequalities. Yet, high dropout rates among distance learning (DL) students persist. North-West University (NWU), a medium sized, traditional higher education institution in South Africa, recognizes that simply providing e-learning access isn't enough for success. Beyond academics, factors like belonging and social integration impact student achievement, aligned with Tinto's Model of Student Integration. Research underscores the significance of online support services for DL students, who require equitable access to all on-campus services. Paradoxically, lack of institutional support contributes to DL student dropout, revealing a gap in online services.

While DL courses expanded access, support services didn't fully adapt, leaving unprepared students with minimal resources. To bridge this gap, NWU's Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) promotes a student-centric approach to distance learning student support.

This paper addresses DL students' concerns regarding NWU's support services, identified in a 2021 study. It:
a.) outlines DL students' concerns—lack of respect, recognition, support, and opportunities for peer interaction,
b.) defines CTL's student-centric principles, and
c.) proposes a three-year plan for a student-centric e-academic peer learning peer support programme at NWU.

The paper concludes that prioritizing DL students' needs and aspirations is key. By implementing evidence-based strategies, NWU can cultivate a supportive learning environment that enhances retention, academic achievement, engagement, well-being, and a sense of belonging among DL students.

Nomasomi Morule, North-West University, South Africa
Sonja Van der Westhuizen, North-West University, South Africa

About the Presenter(s)
Dr Sonja van der Westhuizen is an academic adviser at the CTL, North-West University, SA. Research interests: e-Mentor support for distance learners, data-driven student support to enhance the FYE, AI use and academic literacy, academic integrity.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00