Influence of learner support services on students retention in distance education programmes in institution of higher learning: a case of Kenya Methodist university, Kenya.
This study explores the relationship between learner support services and retention of students in distance education programmes. The objectives of the study was to find out the extent to which guidance and counseling, administrative support, tutorial support and mentoring influenced students’ retention in distance education programmes in institutions of higher learning in Kenya. The study would be of paramount significance to administrators and students in distance education programmes in that it would assist them in identifying support services that are most important for students’ satisfaction so as to increase retention in their programmes. Relevant literature was reviewed on various learner support services that could be offered in distance education programmes. The study used descriptive research design. The target population for the study was the 360 accessible ODL students of KEMU, Meru Campus. The study used a sample size of 20%, which interpreted to 72 respondents. Stratified simple random sampling technique was used to select respondents depending on the course level. Data was collected using structured questionnaires, administered to the respondents to collect information using drop and pick method. The data obtained was analyzed and summarized using descriptive statistics. The study found that although there was high students’ retention at the current course, characterized by students being determined to continue pursing until completion of the academic degree within the set period. The study established that guidance and counseling highly influenced students retention, administrative support moderately affected the students’ retention, tutorial support highly influenced the students’ retention and mentoring highly influenced the students retention. The study recommends that the higher institutions of learning in Kenya should implement various policies and procedures for distance learning and guidance and counseling programs, which are run by professionals in guidance and counseling, feedback and involves all the stakeholders. The study also recommends that mentoring programmes be institutionalized. Institutions of higher learning should put in place mentoring programmes that are highly participative for learners, collaborative and that enhance team work among learners and mentors. Mentors should be trained to equip them with skills, knowledge and professionalism. The study also recommends that institutions of higher learning should ensure that there are effective face to face tutorials to supplement the instructional materials provided to distance learners. On suggestions for further study, the study found out that provision of learner support in distance learning, encouraged the students to continue pursuing ODL until completion of the academic degree course within the set period. So, another study should be conducted to establish what encourages students to continue to the next academic level. The study found out that learner support services such as guidance and counseling, administrative support, tutorial support and mentoring influence students’ retention in distance education programmes. Nevertheless, there could be other factors that influence students retention in distance education programmes, so other studies should be done to determine other factors and how they influence retention in distance education programmes. The study also recommends a repetition of the study after a period of time to determine whether the same results would be obtained