Examination Management As A Way Of Achieving Quality Assurance In Odl Institutions: The Case Of Zimbabwe Open University

Onias MAFA
Enna Sukutai GUDHLANGA

An examination is an important component of any institution that educates people. It is a form of assessment used to measure the students’ understanding of the concepts and principles they would have learnt. Zimbabwe Open University, an Open and Distance Learning institution has been setting its own examinations for the academic programmes offered. Through examinations, ZOU students are encouraged to take an active role in analysing and questioning the things they would have learnt. This paper discusses the examinations management at ZOU with a special focus on the setting, administering, marking right up to the publication of results. It will also discuss the challenges that ZOU is facing in conducting examinations. It will finally emerge with some valuable practical suggestions on how ZOU can improve on its examination management and thereby achieve quality assurance in all its programmes. The investigation adopted the qualitative methodology and a case study design to generate data to address the questions which guided the study. The purposively sampled sample was drawn from ZOU’s National Centre, Bulawayo and Matabeleland North Regions. The sample consisted of manager -examinations, manager- quality control, chairpersons of departments from different faculties, programme leaders, programme coordinators, regional quality coordinators, regional administrators, and students who were in their second year of study. Face-to-face interviews were used to generate data from manager -examinations, manager- quality control, regional quality coordinators and regional administrators. Data from chairpersons of departments from different faculties, programme leaders, programme coordinators, second year students were generated through focus group discussions. Major findings were the management of examinations at ZOU enhances quality assurance, cited activities which contributed to quality assurance included setting of examination items for the item banks, tight security in the transporting of examination items to and from the regions, residential marking, active invigilation. Participants were aware of activities that compromised quality assurance such as uncommitted invigilators, incomplete examination, lack of clarity on instructions, lack of security and non-confidentiality of examination items, timetable alterations. Some of the challenges that were mentioned by participants were unrealistic deadlines set by academic registry regarding marking, delays in dispatching of Personal Identification Numbers to newly admitted students, welfare of invigilators during invigilation, and the need for communication between invigilators and other relevant authorities if the need arise when the examination is in progress. Some of the recommendations arrived at were that faculties should hold periodic workshops on examination management, induction of new staff members who deal with examination management, adopting ICT in the dispatch of examinations to regional centres and networking of the National Centre and the regional centres to facilitate communication and generation of student Personal Identification Numbers.

KEYWORDS: Zimbabwe Open University, an Open and Distance Learning