Research

Unisa R&I Week 2019 is the place to be

One of the most daunting challenges facing South African scholars venturing into open distance learning research is: "Where do I begin?" After all, researchers around the world have spent over 40 years painstakingly amassing facts, figures and findings on ODL in all its many facets. Sifting through all this for highlights and trends most relevant to Africa is easier said than done.

The good news is that crisp, concise and comprehensive views of key ODL research trends and highlights are on offer at Unisa’s Research & Innovation Week 2019 - along with some educated speculation about what the future might hold. Most importantly, the 2019 R&I event, which runs from 4 to 8 March 2019, will focus firmly on the relevance of ODL research in the South African context.

Three top ODL scholars from Nigeria, Germany and Canada will be joining an impressive local line-up of speakers to share their ODL research expertise as it relates to South Africa in particular and Africa more broadly.

The three international speakers will be sharing their insights during the opening day of R&I Week on Monday 4 March 2019, under the theme "ODeL in the Global South: Documenting the African Experience".

International speakers, from left: Prof Olaf Zawacki-Richter, Director of the Centre for Open Education Research at Germany’s Oldenburg University; Prof Terry Anderson, Athabasca University Professor & Canada Research Chair in Distance Education; & Prof Christine Ofulue, Associate Professor of Linguistics at the National Open University Nigeria

The opening address will home in on major research themes, under the title of "Major Topics of Research in Open and Distance Education – Past and Future". The two keynote speakers are Prof Terry Anderson, Athabasca University Professor and Canada Research Chair in Distance Education, and Prof Olaf Zawacki-Richter, Director of the Centre for Open Education Research at Germany’s Oldenburg University.

In this two-part, joint presentation, they will draw on the highlights of their book Online Distance Education - Towards a Research Agenda, published in 2015. Zawacki-Richter will start by describing some of the most significant thematic trends over 40 years, based on a content analysis of leading distance education and educational technology journals. He will also speculate about the future of ODE research, with particular regard to the South African context.

In the second part of the presentation, Anderson will reflect on the process of developing a research agenda and briefly highlight the 15 issues that were the major topic of published research in 2015.

An African view of ODL research is very much on the agenda. Prof Christine Ofulue, Associate Professor of Linguistics at the National Open University Nigeria is the third international speaker, setting the scene for an open session debate on the scholarship of teaching ODeL. The participants are Zawacki-Richter and Anderson, along with Unisa’s Prof Moeketsi Letseka, holder of the UNESCO Chair of ODL, and Prof Mpine Makoe, Head of Unisa’s Institute for Open and Distance Learning.

That is by no means the last that will be heard of ODL research during R&I Week as the colleges will continue the theme. On 7 March 2019 at the Science Campus, for example, researchers from the Open University United Kingdom, Leicester University and Unisa’s Department of Geography will officially release the findings of a major collaborative study on Unisa’s international students in Africa.

For a clear, comprehensive view of ODL research trends and how these relate to South Africa, R&I Week 2019 is the place to be.

* Submitted by Virginia McManus

Publish date: 2019-02-05 00:00:00.0