Institute for Open and Distance Learning (IODL)

About us

The Institute for Open and Distance Learning (IODL) was established to produce research and to help UNISA strategize on moving from correspondence based distance education to an open education system that harnesses technological affordances for teaching and learning. Therefore, the Institute’s role is to conduct research in ODeL related fields; promote collaborative research initiatives and facilitate capacity development programmes in ODeL research. The IODL, as a driver of ODL related research, seeks to advance research that is responsive to the development agenda of the country and globally relevant.

IODL is housed in the Research, Innovation and Commercialisation Portfolio that requires it to produce ODeL research; and the College of Graduate Studies (CGS) that expects the Institute to provide support and equip UNISA staff members with the appropriate knowledge and skills to carry out ODeL research. The Institute is part of the School of Transdisciplinary Institutes (STDRI) whose main function is to produce and develop research capacity.

IODL also provide a range of intervention programmes that are meant to support and equip Unisa staff with the appropriate knowledge and skills to carry out ODeL research. This is done through the Searchlight Project which offers individualised and community of practice based support to Unisa staff members through a series of research training workshops in ODL. The purpose of the Searchlight Project is to be a light in the darkness and loneliness of academic research and writing. It also offers ODeL postgraduate students a platform to present their proposals and theses' chapters for the purposes of quality improvement and standardization. This initiative adds to cross-disciplinary debate and discussions, which prepare staff and students for academic debate, rigourous ODeL research practice and scholarly presentations. Besides research and training, IODL researchers provides advisory, facilitation and evaluation services. They are also active in the facilitation and formulation of ODeL policies in different countries in the continent.

To be the leading institute in Open Distance and eLearning scholarship 


  • To advance ODeL research that is relevant and responsive to the development agenda of the country and globally.
  • To lead and influence strategies and practice through ODeL research, leadership and engagement with institutions, nationally and globally.
  • To provide and support continuous ODeL research capacity development.

We commit ourselves to value, support and celebrate:

  • creativity, excellence and innovation in ODL research
  • teamwork, collaboration and collegiality
  • professional integrity, dedication and hard work
  • curiosity and willingness to learn and unlearn
  • selfless sharing of expertise and knowledge
  • respect for diversity of opinion.

Last modified: 2019/06/26