Assessing Students’ Competency And Practical Learning Ability In A Distance Learning Environment

August 8, 2013

The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) operates an exclusively open and distance learning (ODL) mode of education whereby students study mostly by reading printed course materials. Practical activities including tasks, exercises, experiments and other activities that involve doing things practically are integrated in the course materials to support student learning. Because distance learners are physically separated from their tutors, we do not know whether or not they actually carry out these practical activities they are expected to complete. This study was conducted to ascertain the competency level of NOUN students in terms of the extent to which they have attained mastery of practical activities embedded in their course modules. We adopted descriptive survey design and employed multi-stage stratified sampling technique to select 283 third-year undergraduate students to perform practical tasks. In addition, 43 copies of printed course materials in which the practical tasks were extracted, together with 43 subject specialists who assessed students’ performance, formed sample for the study. Students’ performance was assessed against a set of 9 pre-determined criteria all of which were rated on a 4-point scale (1=poor to 4= excellent). Data collected were analyzed using basic descriptive statistics. Findings revealed that students generally demonstrated low level of competency in the performance of their tasks. However, of the 9 criteria, students demonstrated highest mastery in accuracy and logical reasoning followed by clarity, application and sequence of ideas in that order. The least attained competency was self-learning followed by coverage and problem solving. Further findings revealed that 84 (29.7%) of sampled students appeared not to have mastered the practical skills prescribed in their course modules as opposed to 199 (70.3%) who appeared to have acquired some level of practical skills. The findings of the study suggest the need to focus support services aimed at helping learners to engage actively in the learning process.

Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration

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