Students’ perceptions of the open and distance learning mode for initial primary teacher training in Malawi: A case of Lilongwe Teachers’ College

Elias Kaphesi, Grace Mkandawire Banda

Abstract


The purpose of this study was to assess students’ perceptions of open and distance learning (ODL) as a mode of training primary school teachers at Lilongwe Teachers’ College in Malawi. The ODL program had two components: an on-campus component for face-to-face learning and an off-campus component for distance learning. Both components were assessed in this study. Data were collected using both questionnaires and focus-group interviews. The findings suggest that students perceived ODL as a useful mode for training primary school teachers. Generally, the ODL program was characterized by a number of challenges, such as delays in the payment of student allowances, delays in the distribution of study material, inadequate time for face-to-face learning, inadequate professional support in the field, and high teaching loads owing to a shortage of staffing in schools. Students also complained that food and accommodation were poor in the on-campus component. The study’s findings have practical implications for the successful implementation of ODL. In particular, the findings may address student concerns, which could lead to improved student experiences and improved ODL outcomes for teacher training, as they highlight difficulties that debilitate ODL. Moreover, the study’s findings reveal differences in students’ perceptions of the on-campus and off-campus components of distance learning, each of which poses unique challenges that, if left unaddressed, would compromise the outcomes of the ODL program.

Keywords: perception; open and distance learning; distance learning; open learning; teacher training; self-directed learning; student  teacher

 

Résumé

L’objectif de cette étude était d’évaluer les perceptions des étudiants sur la formation ouverte et à distance (FOAD) en tant que mode de formation des enseignants du primaire au Lilongwe Teachers’ College, au Malawi. Le programme FOAD comprenait deux composantes : une composante « sur le campus », pour la formation en face-à-face et une composante « hors campus » pour la formation à distance. Les deux composantes ont été évaluées dans cette étude. Les données ont été recueillies à l’aide de questionnaires et d’entretiens avec des groupes cibles. Les résultats suggèrent que les élèves ont perçu la FOAD comme un mode utile pour la formation des enseignants du primaire. De manière générale, le programme FOAD s’est caractérisé par un certain nombre de défis tels que les retards dans le paiement des allocations des étudiants, les retards dans la distribution du matériel de formation, le temps insuffisant prévu pour la formation en face à face, l’inadéquation du soutien professionnel sur le terrain et les lourdes charges d’enseignement du fait de la pénurie de personnel dans les écoles. Dans la composante « sur le campus », les étudiants se sont également plaints que la nourriture et l’hébergement étaient médiocres. Les résultats de l’étude ont des implications pratiques sur la mise en œuvre réussie de la FOAD. Les résultats ont, en particulier, porté sur les préoccupations des élèves, ce qui peut permettre l’amélioration des expériences des élèves et des résultats de la FOAD pour la formation des enseignants, car ils mettent en évidence les difficultés qui affaiblissent la FOAD. En outre, les résultats de l’étude ont révélé les différences de perception qu’ont les élèves des composantes « sur le campus » et « hors campus » de la formation à distance, chacune présentant des défis uniques qui compromettraient les résultats du programme FOAD s’ils n’étaient pas relevés.

Mots clés : perception ; formation ouverte et à distance ; formation à distance ; formation ouverte ; formation des enseignants ; formation autodirigée ; enseignant en formation

 

Resumo

O objectivo deste estudo foi de avaliar a percepção dos estudantes sobre a formação aberta e à distância (FOAD) como modo de formação para os professores do ensino primário no Lilongwe Teachers’ College no Malawi. O programa FOAD tem duas componentes : uma componente no campus em modo presencial e uma componente fora do campus para o ensino à distância. Ambas as componentes foram avaliadas neste estudo. Os dados foram recolhidos utilizando questionários e entrevistas entre grupos focais. Os resultados sugerem que os estudantes vêem a FOAD como um modo útil para a formação dos professores do ensino primário. De um modo geral, o programa FOAD, foi caracterizado por vários desafios, como atrasos no pagamento dos subsídios dos alunos e na distribuição dos materiais de estudo, tempo de ensino presencial inadequado, apoio profissional no terreno inadequado e carga de ensino elevada devido à escassez de pessoal docente nas escolas. Os estudantes também se queixaram da fraca qualidade da alimentação e do alojamento durante a componente presencial. Os resultados deste estudo têm implicações de ordem prática para a execução bem sucedida da FOAD. Nomeadamente, os resultados podem contribuir para responder às preocupações dos estudantes e melhorar as experiências dos estudantes e os resultados do FOAD para a formação dos professores, tendo em conta que salientam as dificuldades da FOAD. Além disso, os resultados do estudo revelam diferenças de percepção da parte dos estudantes quanto às diferentes componentes do ensino à distância, no campus e fora do campus. Cada uma destas componentes apresenta desafios diferentes, que, se não forem resolvidos, podem comprometer os resultados do programa FOAD.

Palavras-chave: percepção; formação aberta à distância e eLearning; ensino à distância; ensino aberto; formação de professores; formação autónoma; professor estudante


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