Open University of Tanzania

Mcharazo, Alli A.S. “Public Libraries and Distance Education in Tanzania: Issues and Dilemmas.” Libri 50, no. 4 (December 2000): 295-301.
The separation of student from lecturer in a distance learning program makes the role of the public library in providing relevant reading materials even more important than in a conventional learning environment. However, a study by the author of the public library and service usage behaviors of Open University of Tanzania (OUT) students using the facilities of the Tanzania Library Services (TLS) found that public library usage among OUT students was low, even though OUT advises its students to use the libraries and in many cases stocks separate materials there for them. The overwhelmingly rural OUT students found the public libraries to be too distant, too poorly stocked, staffed with too few professionals, and too expensive to use due to the recent institution of library membership fees and the costs of average traveling times to the nearest library for the typical student. S. Tschabrun.

Mcharazo, Alli A.S. and Anthony Olden. “Fulfilling the Learning Resource Requirements of Students at the Open University of Tanzania.” Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 32, no. 4 (December 2000): 204-214.
Distance students require the same kinds of learning resources as those studying at traditional institutions, but their ability to get those resources is much more difficult in developing countries. The results of an investigation of student users needs, which included a survey of 54 Open University of Tanzania (OUT) students and interviews with staff and librarians, is described. The survey of the OUT student population discovered that mature (average age 41) male students predominated, and that most stated that their prime reason for studying with OUT was their lack of qualifications for getting into the University of Dar es Salaam. Students reported that their most useful learning materials were the study materials supplied by OUT; however, most complained about the lack of supplemental reading and reference materials available from the any source including the OUT library, local libraries, or even bookshops. The investigation also considered the role of study centers and publishers in the provision of learning resources, in addition to its main focus on library services: the Tanzanian Library Service, The OUT Library, and other libraries. A range of recommendations with the goal of improving the ability of OUT students to obtain adequate learning resources is detailed at the end of the article. S. Tschabrun.

Mcharazo, Alli A.S. and Anthony Olden. “Investigating the Learning Resource Requirements of Students at the Open University of Tanzania: Research Methods.” Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 31, no. 2 (June 1999): 101-109.
An ongoing (as of 1999) survey of the resource learning requirements of students at the Open University of Tanzania is described, including the choice of a nonrandom sample of 54 students and an interview-style survey method. The selection of the student sample took into consideration the need to include rural as well as urban students and a representative sample of year of study, study program, and courses or modules. Rather than sending out a questionnaire by the postal service or attempting to reach students by telephone, as might be done in a developed country, the researchers determined that data gathering would require in-person visits by research assistants, who were drawn from Tanzania Library Service staff and given a day’s training in survey methods. The survey data was supplemented by participant observation obtained while the researcher worked behind the restricted access and reference desks in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro. The article includes the survey questionnaire as an appendix. S. Tschabrun.

Mcharazo, Alli Abushiri Shomari. Distance Learning in the African Context: The Learning Resource Requirements of Students at the Open University of Tanzania, and the Extent to Which They Are Met. Ph.D. diss., Thames Valley University, 1999. 320 pp.
The author’s project explored the information needs of distance students enrolled in the Open University of Tanzania (OUT) which was established in 1993. OUT uses face-to-face contact, the postal system, telephone, radio, CD-ROMs, and other formats for delivering course content. However, access to technology of all sorts is uneven. Students face financial hardship when purchasing books or paying the fees charged by public libraries. A history of the OUT and distance learning in Tanzania places these concerns in context. A case study method was used for the project and included administrators, faculty, lecturers, librarians, and staff. A questionnaire was developed and administered in a 45-60 minute interview to 54 students in three degree programs. This was not a strictly scientific random sample since geography, transportation, and an uneven postal service limited access to the students. In terms of information needs, study modules provided by the OUT were seen as the most useful. However, study materials did not always reach students in a timely fashion. The University’s regional centers and public libraries do not provide enough supplementary materials due to inadequate funding. In some cases, the material needs to be produced and publishers may provide some of the solution. Students were not always aware of other libraries that might be available. In spite of these difficulties distance learning holds promise for providing increased educational opportunities. I. Frank.

Msuya, Jangawe and Farijala Maro. “The Provision of Library and Information Services to Distance Learners: The Open University of Tanzania (OUT).” Libri 52, no. 3 (September 2002): 183-191.
The Open University of Tanzania (OUT) enrolled more than 4400 students as distance learners in 1998. A study was conducted concerning library services at the main library and support offered at the regional centers. Questionnaires, interviews, and other means were used to contact students. The study determined that while the structure is in place to provide materials, there was an insufficient amount of material in the main and regional library collections. Also, the collections failed to focus on the current curriculum. Much of the material is out-of-date. In addition, with only two professionals, staffing at the main library is inadequate. Information literacy is not incorporated into the students’ programs. While some students are able access local libraries, some libraries charge fees providing another barrier to accessing information. Indeed 33 out of 36 students who withdrew cited their inability to access adequate information sources as one reason for withdrawing from the program. Students in rural areas are particularly disadvantaged. The study concludes with specific recommendations for improving library support. Suggestions range from diversifying funding sources to stocking textbooks prior to the beginning of a semester so that students can purchase them in a timely manner. I. Frank.

Oladokun, Olugbade S. “The Practice of Distance Librarianship in Africa.” Library Review 51, no. 6 (2002): 293-300.
The paper describes the inadequacy of education inherited in the continent of Africa at independence, and the desire of various governments to improve educationally the lot of people living there. This gave birth to the obvious option of distance learning. Unfortunately, the economic downturn affected appropriate funding of education and the provision of resources, including library resources. The result is that, except for a handful of university libraries, library support service is almost non-existent. The author talks about some of the universities in Africa where a distance learning mode has been adopted and concludes with some suggestions on what could be done to alleviate the problems of distance learners in the continent. F. Devlin.

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