Perception of distance education learners towards the quality of learner support services: a case of Bachelor of Education (Arts) by distance mode at the University of Nairobi
Kariuki, Simon K
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Distance learning is becoming an increasingly popular way of studying, and most universities now provide courses using this delivery mode. Distance education has created enormous opportunities for the expansion of educational opportunities, especially at the higher educational level. This should be of great benefit to developed as well as developing countries in their human resource development, and provision of skilled labour force to drive the economic growth of their countries. Today's students, though, are demanding high quality, consumer-focused and flexible courses. In addition, they are demanding learning resources and active learner support. Providing support services to the distance learning population is an important part of creating the feeling of belonging for students who do not have access to traditional clues. There have been a lot of complaints by distance education students on the learner support services provided to them. The purpose of this study was therefore to investigate the perception of distance learners towards the quality of learner support services provided by the University of Nairobi to Bachelor of Education (Arts) degree program in the School of Continuing and Distance Education. Three research questions were formulated to guide the study. Research question one was to establish the perception that distance learners have towards the quality of the academic support services; research question two was to determine the perception of distance learners towards the quality of guidance and counseling support services, while research question three aimed at establishing the perception of Distance learners towards quality of administrative support services. The study was conducted using survey research. The sample consisted of students in Part II to VI in the 2008/2009 academic year. Data was gathered by use of questionnaires. Findings revealed that students had positive perceptions towards the quality of academic support services, showing that they were satisfied with the academic support services. This was shown by the mean scores which showed that 10% were very satisfied, 40.2% were satisfied, 17.4% were dissatisfied, while %.\% were highly dissatisfied. Endings also revealed that students had a positive perception towards quality of administrative support. This was shown by the mean scores which indicated that 12.7% were very satisfied with the quality of administrative support services provided by the university; 50.1 % were satisfied, while 17.7% were dissatisfied and only 7.3% highly dissatisfied. It was also found that responses on students' perception of the quality of other support services indicated that students were satisfied with other support services. Based on the findings it was concluded that students had positive perceptions towards the quality of academic support services. It was also concluded that students had a positive perception and were satisfied with the quality of guidance and counseling and administrative support services provided by the university. Based on the findings, it was recommended although the students had a positive perception towards the quality of academic support services, there were areas that needed to be enhanced. These included the issuance of study units which should be in good time. It was noted that at times the students received the units when they had already done their exam hence rendering the units not helpful. It was also recommended that although the students were satisfied with the administrative support services, it will be important for the university administration to have records kept properly to facilitate clearing for graduation. It was noted that some students faced problems during clearance and some even missed graduating. The university administration should also be on the look for lecturers who are not teaching well. The study also recommended that there should be better provision of services so that the customers should not feel that the university is only interested in their money. Another recommendation was that the social welfare in areas such as accommodation, meals, and medical services should be improved. This is because students felt that they were not getting value for their money in these areas.