Experiences of student support in the distance mode bachelor of nursing science degree at the University of Namibia
Du Plessis, Carol Denise
MetadataShow full item record
An urgent need to rapidly increase the size and capacity of the health workforce to manage the health system in Namibia motivated the development of a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree which has been offered at a distance since 1997 at the University of Namibia. The programme is delivered from the University’s Central and Northern Campuses, enabling qualified nurses to develop management and educator capacity while continuing to work;throughput has however been low and slow. Since student support is posited as a vital ingredient of distance education success, this study sought to understand how students experienced the support services offered by the University of Namibia’s distance education unit – the Centre for External Studies. The study explored students’ experiences and perceptions of administrative, social and academic support services provided by the University. The research design was qualitative, and exploratory, using focus groups and interviews for data collection. The sample comprised of forty Bachelor of Nursing Science students enrolled on both campuses between 2005 –2011 as well as seven staff involved in student support services. Documents and interviews of envisioned support services from the Centre for External Studies served as the basis for the evaluation of services. Data was analysed using thematic content analysis. A comparison was made of the findings from the two campuses.The findings reflected positive experiences of support from family and lecturers as well as institutional offerings such as video conferences. There were, however, some institutional weaknesses in the programme delivery such as the late delivery of study materials which impacted on students’ submission of assignments, and weak communication systems which affected delivery of support workshops. The libraries on both campuses were not adequately resourced and prescribed books were not always available at the local bookshops. Lecturer presence was missed by many students who were not used to distance learning, although the intensity of this experience differed between the students on the different Campuses.Personal challenges were sometimes responsible for student discontinuation of the programme, and work-related challenges affected attendance of vacation schools. These problems were experienced more by the students on the Northern Campus.Out of this study, recommendations were made on how to improve support services for advanced nursing students studying at a distance at the University of Namibia. Ethical clearance for the study was obtained from both the University of Namibia and the University of the Western Cape.