Open Distance Learning (ODL) institutions have adopted on-line technology to facilitate teaching and learning and to enhance interaction between the students-to-students, students-to educator, students-to-study material and students-to-ODL. Students are encouraged by the university to interact on-line by using the discussion forum and electronic mails. On-line discussion forum are critical in ODL because it allows people who cannot physically attend the educational institution to interact with each other.The purpose of the study was to determine how on-line interactive tools may be used to enhance students-to-students, students-to educator, students-to-study material and students-to-ODL interactions. Probability random sampling was used. Data was collected from 410 registered second and third year Health Services Management students of an ODL institution in South Africa during the second semester in 2012. Only those students who are interacting on-line were requested to participate to the study. Most of the students were from 21 to above 50 years of age. Closed and open questionnaire was posted on-line. Eighty seven students responded to the questionnaire.
Data analysis was done quantitatively and descriptively. The findings indicated that 84.9% of students owned computers, and 100% owned cellular phones, but only 3.8% participated in the on-line discussion forum. Thus the majority of these students do not utilise the prescribed on-line interactive tools effectively nor communicating at all with peers by using emails and the discussion forum. Some of them indicated that they struggled with the utilisation of technology. Educators interacting minimally on-line, they were not supportive. Students do not receive the necessary feedback they require from the educators. Peers supported each other. The university systems were sometimes offline, which becomes worse during registration and assignment submission. Very few students benefitted from on-line interaction. Although students are aware of the benefits of using online technologies, they do not have the support from the institution to enable them to better their skills in using these technologies. The recommendations emanating from the study warrants various interventions of multiple stakeholders to resolve the students’ challenges.
Keywords: On-line, students, ODL.
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