Assesing the role of distant learning in promoting access to professional development in bussiness courses: A case study of Strathmore college in Kenya
Murage, Michael Njagi
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The term "distance learning" is used in referring to teaching and learning which largely but not exclusively takes place, utilizing all forms of media i.e. printed materials and tapes broadcasts. It may include "virtual" and "e-learning" including video conferencing technology in education context. This case study was an attempt to unravel the feasibility of distance learning in promoting access to professional development in business courses. It was designed ' to investigate how the various determinants of enrolment which through the influence of conventional learning create barriers to accessibility to training. The study was thus geared towards investigating how these determinants of enrolment are influenced by distance learning in an attempt to promote access to further education or training by elimination of the impediments posed by conventional learning The determinants of enrolment, which were investigated, were income levels, direct costs, expected monetary rates of return, students' personal characteristics and time span in the completion of a course. The review of related literature was done to support the research objectives and the research questions and identify gaps related to the research topic. Studies carried in Africa and also outside Africa have been reviewed. The research instrument that was used to collect the required data is a questionnaire. Two sets of questionnaires were distributed. The questionnaires were designed for the administrators and for distance learning students. The collected data was subjected to both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The analysed data is presented in a manner, which is easy to comprehend, by way of use of tables, percentages, mode, median, mean and frequencies. The major findings of the study are that distance learning has a high potential in terms of promoting access to training. It has proved to overcome the barriers posed by the conventional learning thus favorably offering equal treatment of access to training of the unequals (Ansari, 1992). These barriers as investigated by the researcher are the direct costs of training, an estimate of the family disposable income, expected direct rates of return and the students' individual characteristics. The study concludes that distance learning is a way of promoting training to the marginalized groups in the society through overcoming impediments posed by conventional learning. The frequency of occurrence of the different values of a variable among different groups in a population reveals distance learning as an option in terms of promoting access to training. Distance learning extends access to more students than can be internally accommodated and thus the mode can promote access to training opportunities for financially privileged and financially underprivileged students, urban, rural and remote population, students in jobs and those without jobs, students within the country and outside the borders of a country. In this study, Strathmore college students' ages ranged from 19 to 50 years and above for those enrolled in the distance-learning center. It is recommended that distance learning centers should be expanded and marketed in order: 1. To cater for the marginalized groups in the society (Individuals may be marginalized in terms of finances (income), age, geographical location, marital status). 2. Educational planners should develop and establish means of promoting distance learning for training since it is a viable means in promoting training at a lower cost 3. To overcome the impediments posed by conventional learning. 4. Since higher training is mostly achieved through private financing distance learning would concur with the middle-income earners and also lower income earners in respect to the demand for training.