Distance Learning : Same Degree, Less Cost

9 years ago - September 10, 2013
Distance learning was introduced in Mauritius in the 70s. Over the decades, it has gained popularity, with more and more persons opting for distance education. The cost of courses, its flexibility, and ICT have helped in positioning distance learning as an alternative to ‘traditional’ learning.

Distance learning in Mauritius is provided by the Open University of Mauritius (OUM), the third public university of the island. Established in July 2012, it took over the Mauritius College of the Air (MCA). An Open University is based on the philosophy of increasing access to education and training opportunities through alternative routes by being more “open”. The students are not necessarily on the campus as with traditional universities. The focus is more on learning and less on teaching.

The “openness” indicates that learning is not restricted to a place or time. There is some flexibility in terms of admission requirements so as to accommodate recognition prior learning and mature students. Open distance learning is particularly relevant for adult learners who may be in full time employment and who may wish to upgrade the knowledge and skills. There is some flexibility in terms of duration of programmes. There is a minimum and a maximum. 

Learning process and assessment
Students study on their own most of the time through especially designed self- learning materials with in-built learner support mechanisms (print or electronic). They do not attend full time lectures. However, there is provision for tutorials (face-to-face at regular intervals or online tutoring). Students have the opportunities to interact among peers and with the tutor thus sharing ideas, views and experiences. 

Learning progress is monitored continuously through in-built activities and assignments. The continuous assessment is coupled with the end of semester examinations. The students take their examinations at the end of the semester.

“Mauritius has had a long tradition of Distance Education. The establishment of the MCA in 1971 was a step towards building distance education capacity in Mauritius. The MCA has made a significant contribution in the use of mass media for distance education,” says Dr Kaviraj Sukon, Director of OUM. 

Iniitially the MCA had offered courses through radio and television at Primary School Certificate and High School Certificate levels. In 1988, the MCA was designated as a tertiary education institution as per the Tertiary Education Commission Act for the provision of tertiary education through distance mode. Since then MCA is offering the number of tertiary level programmes through distance mode. 

OUM – almost 3 000 students in one year
OUM offers courses in the former MCA building at Réduit and that of MBC at Forest Side. Almost 2 000 students follow courses since July 2012. On August 26, around  750 students joined OUM. The advantages of distance education are that there is no age limit and the courses are more accessible to persons working during odd hours.

Three main factors explain the preference for distance learning, points out Dr Sukon: the need for constant learning, the flexibility of the courses and the cost. “The world of work now demands several skills. Individuals have to constantly be trained to improve and acquire new skills. However, for working people it’s difficult to find time to attend classes at specific hours. Distance learning allows people to follow courses according to theirflexibility. Moreover, there are several facilities which allow students to contact their tutors thanks to ICT. 

Another attracting feature of distance learning is the cost which can be much cheaper than following a course in a ‘traditional’ university. For instance, an MBA course can be 50% less at OUM compared to other institutions.” This is because for a distance learning centre, the initial investment is huge but in the long run, the expenses are less.

OUM offers courses not only to local students but students from African and Asian countries. “Presently, there are around 50 students following courses offered at OUM,” says Dr Sukon.

Moreover, OUM has MoUs with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), the Open University of UK, the African Council for Distance Education, UNISA, and Université de Stockholm. MoUs with French universities are also in the pipeline. “Courses at OUM are approved by the Board and does not require the approval of the Tertiary Educatio Commission (TEC), though representatives of TEC are on OUM’s Board,”remarks the Director of OUM.

ODL in Mauritius: Chronology of Important Events

  • Enrolment for London University External Courses..
  • Establishment of MCA in 1971.
  • Establishment of MIE in 1973 for Teacher
  • Education.
  • Redcliffe, J. (1998), Report on “The potential contribution of distance learning and audio-visual resources to educational development in Mauritius.
  • Report on the Open Learning and its Potential in Mauritius with special reference to upgrading Primary School Teachers and the Mauritius College of the Air by Lord Young of Darlington, International Extension College, London, March 1989.
  • Report on Distance Education for Human Resource Development in Mauritius: The Way Forward, COL to the Ministry of Education, Mauritius by Sir John Daniel, July 1989.
  • Master Plan for the Year 2000, prepared in 1991 by the Ministry of Education, Mauritius.
  • Establishment of Distance Education Unit in 1994 in Mauritius College of the Air.
  • COL Workshop on ODL in 1993 and MCA National Seminar on Distance Education in 1995.
  • Study on Needs and Demands for DE courses in 1992-1993 with financial support from UNESCO.
  • Establishment of Centre for Distance Education in MIE in 1993.
  • Establishment of Distance Education Coordination Committee in TEC in 1995.
  • Working Group on Distance Education in 1997 (WGDE) Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).
  • A National Strategy for Distance Education and Open Learning, A Consultancy Paper, TEC, September 2001
  • Suggestion for establishment of Open Learning Institute, White Paper on Education, 2004.
  • Government of Mauritius sponsored COL Study on OUM in 2007.
  • MOEHR, (2008), Draft Education & Human Resources Strategy Plan 2008-2020.
  • Establishment of Open University Project in January 2009.
  • Introduction of OUM Legislation in November 2009.
  • Establishment of the Open University of Mauritius, July 2012.

 

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