Instructors’ experiences of interaction with students at Distance Learning University in Tanzania

Zamzam I. Nyandara, Lu Lijie

Abstract


This was a qualitative case study which used semi-structured interviews to explore instructors’ experiences of interaction with students at Distance Learning University in Tanzania. Social constructivism theory guided the study. Findings show that instructors used e-mail, face-to-face sessions, written comments on students’ test scripts, regional-center staff/student representatives, e-learning platforms, as well as mobile phones to interact with students. Instructors confirmed that all these means of interaction involved certain challenges or weaknesses. Instructors were positive about the role of interaction in learning. However, they specifically believed that their interaction was more beneficial to the few students who managed to maintain regular interaction as opposed to the majority who did not. This study seeks to contribute to the existing literature on interaction processes, pointing out the major issues that need to be addressed in order to improve student–instructor interaction in distance learning.

Keywords: distance learning; student–instructor interaction; face-to-face interactions; portfolio assessment; mobile phone use in learning; instructors’ role in interaction

 

Résumé

Il s’agit d’une étude de cas qualitative qui s’est servie d’entrevues semi-structurées pour examiner les expériences d’interaction des facilitateurs avec les étudiants de l’université à distance de Tanzanie. L’étude a porté sur un groupe de 13 participants au siège de l’institution située dans la ville de Dar es Salaam. Elle a utilisé la théorie du constructivisme social aux fins de la collecte et de l’analyse des données. Les résultats indiquent une interaction facilitateur-étudiant limitée vu que les facilitateurs n’interagissaient avec les étudiants qu’au fur et à mesure des événements ou des problèmes qui se présentaient. Les facilitateurs avaient recours au courrier électronique, aux séances individualisées, aux commentaires écrits sur les scripts de test des élèves, aux représentants des directeurs régionaux/étudiants, à la plateforme e-learning ainsi qu’aux téléphones mobiles pour interagir avec les étudiants. Ils ont confirmé que tous ces moyens d’interaction présentaient des défis ou des faiblesses dans la façon dont ils étaient utilisés pour permettre des échanges fructueux et faciliter l’apprentissage. Les facilitateurs avaient une perception positive du rôle de l’interaction dans l’apprentissage, même s’ils estimaient précisément que l’interaction était plus profitable aux quelques étudiants qui réussissaient à maintenir des échanges réguliers avec eux, contrairement à la majorité des étudiants qui n’y parvenaient pas. Cette étude contribue à la documentation existante sur les processus d’interaction en mettant en exergue des questions majeures auxquelles les facilitateurs doivent apporter des réponses en vue d’améliorer l’interaction entre étudiants et facilitateurs dans la formation à distance.

Mots clés : apprentissage à distance, interaction étudiant-facilitateur, interaction individualisée dans l’apprentissage, évaluation du portfolio, usage du téléphone mobile dans l’apprentissage, rôle des facilitateurs dans l’interaction

 

Resumo

Este foi um estudo de caso qualitativo que usou entrevistas semi-estruturadas para explorar as experiências dos professores em termos de interacção com os estudantes na universidade de ensino à distância na Tanzânia. O estudo envolveu 13 participantes na sede da instituição situada na cidade de Dar es Salaam. Usou a teoria do Construtivismo Social para orientar a recolha e análise de dados. As conclusões mostram que houve uma interacção limitada estudante-professor pois os professores interagiram com os estudantes com base em eventos ou problemas que surgiram. Os professores utilizaram e-mail, sessões presenciais, comentários por escrito sobre provas, directores regionais/ representantes dos alunos, plataformas de e-learning bem como telemóveis para interagirem com os alunos. Confirmaram que todos estes meios de interacção apresentavam alguns desafios ou fragilidades na forma como estavam a ser utilizados para facilitar interacções e aprendizagem significativas. Os professores mostraram-se positivos quanto ao papel da interacção na aprendizagem embora eles especificamente sentissem que a sua interacção era mais benéfica para os poucos estudantes que conseguiam manter uma interacção regular em comparação com a maioria dos estudantes que não conseguia. Este estudo contribui para a literatura existente sobre processos de interacção destacando as principais questões a serem tratadas pelos professores para melhorarem a interacção entre alunos e professores no ensino à distância.

Palavras-chave: ensino à distância, interacção estudante-professor, interacção presencial na aprendizagem, avaliação de portfólio, uso do telemóvel na aprendizagem, papel do professor na interacção


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