Profile of Distance Learners in the Open University of Sri Lanka

Doluweera, D. G. S. K.


Independent Sri Lanka has been making efforts ever since 1948 to expand the provision of educational opportunities to her citizenry. Several committees and commissions were set up for this purpose. There recommendations along with the deliberations at the higher levels of policy planning for the country have led to the introduction of several innovative practices in education. One such innovation is “distance education”. Conventional face-to-face education is teaching or teacher centered, while distance education is learning or learner centered. It is so because if education is to function as a means of social enlistment and democratization, it cannot but be learner centered. And again, if we accept education to be a life long activity, an activity that constantly engages learners in updating their information and skills, it has to be learner centered.

The objectives of the study were: identification of personal characteristics of the distance learners; investigation of the heterogeneity of the students; investigation of the salient trends between the success rates and the student personal and educational characteristics of Sri Lankan distance student population and Identification of the needs and aspirations of distance learners.

Therefore, a draft copy of a questionnaires were distributed to a pilot sample of 100 students selected at random from Degree programmes of 2012/2013 academic year. The responses of the student sample was obtained and served as a data source for the pilot study. The data set obtained from the pilot study was subjected to the Reliability analysis (Cronbach, 1951). The reliability coefficient, i.e., Cronbach’s alpha which indicates the suitability of the questionnaire for the purpose and the higher values (Cronbach’s alpha is more than 0.50) often considered as an acceptability of the questionnaire. The value obtained for the draft questionnaire was 97% (0.9692). The sample population included 1818 completed questionnaires. Most of the students were in the sample population were Buddhists 85%. Age limit of the students were 26-29 78%. Female students exceed the male students 89%. Unmarried students exceeds the married students 76%. Most of the students were employed 86%. Their nature of employment was 56% private companies and 44% work in government departments. Most of the OUSL learners spend their own course fees that is 67%. The results obtained from this study is useful for the course developers and policy makers when developing courses and implementing policy decisions. When interviewing Students they requested to have study area to do group studies. During holidays in many regional and study centers, students do not have sufficient space to peer group interaction. The students have to be provided study areas and self-explanatory course material when the course material is self-explanatory, students can do their studies on their own. If not students have to be provided OER material as supplementary material.

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