Learning at a distance

Unisa did not originally provide tuition, but oversaw examinations for several constituent university colleges. Over the decades, these colleges became independent, and Unisa’s survival came to depend on establishing itself as a teaching university.

The closing years of the Second World War saw the rise of correspondence education, particularly among returning servicemen interested in ‘learning while earning’. Professor A.J.H. van der Walt established Unisa’s Division of External Studies despite strong internal resistance, and Unisa mailed its first batch of ‘postal lectures’ in 1947. The Division went from strength to strength and ultimately saved Unisa from redundancy.

With the emergence of new technologies, ranging from compact cassettes to the Internet, Unisa has been able to reach its students more intimately. It has transformed itself from a correspondence university into a world-leading model of open distance learning (ODL) and open distance e-learning (ODeL), all the while endeavouring to overcome enduring obstacles to education in South Africa, including the challenge of Internet access among students.

As Africa’s largest distance learning institution, Unisa will continue to refine its distance learning methods and technologies to better serve its students across the globe.