UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AFRICA (UNISA)
ARA SCIENCE WEEK 15th July 2013, ACCRA, GHANA
BSc Hons Bath, MSc West Virginia, PhD Nottingham
Director: School of Agriculture & Life Sciences
Teaching of Agriculture by ODeL
• Enrolments: Head-counts
• Mode of delivery: Open Distance e- Learning
• UNISA Vision and Mission
• UNISA model of teaching agriculture
• South Africa, main campus in Pretoria CBD and Science Campus in
Florida (RSA), and Regional Learning Centres: Ethiopia, Major
Cities/Towns in SA.
• Gauteng Province : Major industrial and political centre in SA with
Johannesburg proximal and forms conurbation. Therefore accessible
through well developed road, & telecom infrastructure (freeways,
international airports) and vibrant corporate climate. Sister
universities in proximity are University of Pretoria, WITS, Tshwane
University of Technology and National Research institutes.
UNISA Vision and Mission
The University of South Africa (UNISA)’s Strategic Plan For 2015
geared to establishing itself as a world class higher education
institution through Open Distance Learning (ODL).
The Mission is aligned with national development imperatives
and Vision encompasses the African continent as well as
international arena– thus the significant enrolments from
other African countries
UNISA is a comprehensive university as by offerings: Doctoral,
Masters, PG, UG degree, UG certificate and diploma
Mode of Delivery
• Comprehensive University: Vocational & Academic programmes
• Open Distance Learning (ODL)/ODeL
• - Accessible, Relatively affordable, distance is bridged by
technology [videoconferencing, sms, ICT portal (myUNISA), study
guides, contact (blended approach), e-mail, digital satellite etc.]
• - History of success with many current respect political leaders e.g.
Nelson Mandela and many prominent activists
Background to distance education
• Distance education began only through print material as
correspondence over 100 years ago (Moore & Kearnsley 1996).
• Presently a wide range of different technologies exist including
• Choice of which media platform to adopt due to increasing
technological advances is of great importance
• The ODL/ODEL model’s basic principles are:
- Bridge the geographical distance between teacher & learner,
learner & learner, learner & study material and learner & institution.
- Study material is prepared in a manner that allows self study
- Barriers to learning removed (economical, discrimination,
flexiblity of learning provision, student support)
- Quality education provided in a cost effective way
(Daniel & Mallet
• Distance learning offers a wide choice of learning models for both
formal and informal teaching & learning
• Demand particularly for Agriculture is likely to increase as it is a cost
effective method of studying (alternative to full time)
• Eliminates need to travel to institution
• Can take place while people are on full-time employment
• Allows and enables creativity in teaching and learning
• Many universities in the world and some in Africa have already
adopted distance learning for particular programes especially
• Stimulates higher thinking through social constructivists paradigm
(collaboration in learning – learners & peers etc.
Examples of distance learning institutes
• Faculty of Agric. Bindure Univ. of Science, Zimbabwe
• Tamil Nadu Agric. Univ. India, (Undergraduate)
• Bangladesh Open University (Training 20 000 teachers)
• College of Agric & Life Sciences, Florida Univ. (USA).
• Virginia Tech University, Virginia, USA –Masters degree
• Distance Learning Centre, Univ. of Ibadan. Nigeria. Undergrad.
• University of Pretoria, South Africa. MSc Vet Science
• California Virtual Campus, USA. Undergrad
• Faculty of Agriculture, Univ. of Nairobi, Kenya. Undergrad.
• Open Polytechnic, New Zealand. Vocational qualifications.
• Institute of ODeL, Kenyatta University, Under & postgrad
• Many other universities in Africa and abroad
Teaching & Learning
• Student support :
- Tutors (20 students per tutor/module) in the field provided to support
- Learning material accessible through the ICT platforms
(MyUnisa), regional centres (electronic toasters), postal. This is a
- Technologies (DVD, audio and CD, satellite
broadcasting, podcasting, radio, television, on-line. Asynchronous
methods e.g. Blogs, wikis, social media, e-portfolios
Interactive technology – Telephony, sms, e-mail, discussion/chat
forums e.g. Myunisa, videoconferencing (e.g. Ethiopia learning
centre), face to face sessions, simulations and advanced
combinations of synchronous technologies
- Access to the library & to books : E-books and on-line access
provided, mobile library facility. Also access to internet facilities
Practicals & work experience
• Provide Practicals through collaboration with other
institutions e.g. Vet practicals with University of
• Utilise facilities of research institutes e.g. the
Agricultural Research Council
• Assist with provision of Work Integrated Learning
(WIL) opportunities in the industry – finding
• Seek innovative ways of exposing learners to
various alternative ways e.g. simulations, virtual lab
• Collaboration with partners/stakeholders/industry is
a win-win situation for all (local and internationally).
- Supervision of Postgrad. Students with externals as either
supervisor/co-supervisor has been successful
- Collaboration on joint equipment grant application & use of
- External examiners
- Encourage academic discourse by inviting scholars
- Use of research fellows and academic associates to enrich
the research and scholarly environment
- Develop own research facilities e.g. new science hub
The 600 MHZ NMR placed at CSIR
Used for structural analysis of compounds; bioprospecting in
medicinal plants – research in metabolomics
General challenges to teaching agriculture by
ODeL in most African countries
• Unstable electricity supply
• Lack of modern electronic access e.g. emails
• Access to electronic gadgets such as computers,
• Dropouts due to inability to maintain self study
discipline, feeling of loneliness (Faruque, 1998)
• Access to facilities to conduct practicals
Reflections on teaching & learning models
• There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution but rather a
careful choice should be adopted of what
technology to use.
• Considerations to be based on prevailing factors
(media, learners, subject matter, interactions etc)
• A media mix (blended approach) is often
recommended as more effective and efficient than
a single medium of teaching & learning
• A synchronous method is quite often suitable as a
model where access is not a problem
• The teaching methodology should enable an
interaction between learner & lecturer, learner &
material to encourage student to engage with
teaching material (FAO, 1989).
• Infrastructure is a major consideration e.g. internet
access, electricity etc. as it affects both learner &
• The medium should compliment the learners
experience e.g. familiarity with content, literacy
• The cost is also thus a factor. It may be cheaper to
produce a CD than a manual book (Truelove, 1998).
• Support available to learners e.g. counselling
FAO. 1989. Guidelines on communication for rural development: a brief for
development planners and project formulators.
Farauque AM. 1998. Agricultural education in distant mode in Bangladesh Open
University – A new approach to transfer of technology. Col.org
Mbati LA. 2012. Online learning for social constructivism: Creating a conducive
environment. Progressio 34: 99-119.
Moore MG & Kearnsley G. 1996. Distance education: As systems view. Belmont.
Truelove W. 1998. The selection of media for distance education in agriculture. FAO.
A word of thanks
• To FARA for affording space to make presentation
• Attention from participants
• Grateful to UNISA for enabling environment for this
opportunity to make this presentation in Ghana
An acacia tree spp.
silhouette under the