NOTE FOR EDITOR: Provision Of Research Support Services To Odl Learners By Tutors:
A Focus On The Zimbabwe Open University’s Bachelor Of Education (Educational Management) Research Students’ Supervision Experiences


Tichaona MAPOLISA


ABSTRACT
The study examined the ODL learners’ perceptions of the quality of provision of research support services to the ODL learners by tutors. It focused on the Zimbabwe Open University’s (ZOU) Bachelor of Education (Educational Management) research students’ experiences. It was a qualitative multiple case study of four of the 10 Regional Centres of the ZOU. It purposively sampled 40 out of 160 research participants because they possessed desirable research characteristics for this study. The study was deemed significant in influencing tutors and policy makers to consider their research students’ supervision experiences as a basis for improving the quality of services for future research supervision practices and research projects. The study was guided by a two fold theory namely, thee Facilitation Theory (Nyawaranda, 2005) and the Nurturing Theory (Anderson, Pay and Mac Laughlin, 2006). Both theories advocate for the need of the supervisors to give their students a big heart. In terms of research supervision services offered by tutors the study indicated the time students were offered to meet research supervisors, prompt returns of marked work, and tutor student motivation and counselling as key services. In connection with the joys about research supervision, the students highly regarded: the manner in which tutors motivated them, tutors guidance in choosing research topic, tutor mentorship during research supervision and provision of workshops to polish up their research skills. In line with the challenges to the provision of research support services, three categories of challenges emerged. First, student-related challenges included lack of time, lack of money, lack of library facilities, lack of motivation and commitment to do research, lack of adequate theory in the area being researched on and family problems. Second, supervisor-related challenges included: too little direction, too little practical help given, too few meeting with students, no interest in topics and with students, lack of research skills and experience. Third institution-related challenges included: lack of adequate statistics and research course sat undergraduate levels, lack of adequate courses in research methods and paradigms, exposure to research skills and experiences to name a few. In a bid to revamp the provision of research services, students suggested the need to improved library facilities, install computers in the library, hire internet services and photocopy relevant research material to name a few. The study concluded that tutors provided average research support services to ODL learners. Students tended to enjoy research supervision if they are exposed to academically nourishing experiences. Research support services were undermined by student related, supervisor related and institution related challenges. Students failed to visit their supervisors, libraries and purchase research materials due to lack of money. Students in rural areas do not have access to library facilities in their localities. The study recommended that tutors need to be trained, indicated and staff developed in the research support services area. ZOU needs to set up mobile libraries and internet facilities to service students in remote areas. ZOU needs to move its research support services a gear up by exposing students to time management skills.


KEYWORDS: Research support Services; Tutors Refer to Research Supervisors; Research Students’ Supervision.

[PDF]