|dc.description.abstract||The research problem is built around gaps in the literature and my experiences in dealing with distance students at the University of Zambia. There is dearth of literature exploring the lived experiences of rural students enrolled under the distance mode of study at the University of Zambia. To address the void in scholarly literature, this study explored how students experience the distance education space and what strategies, if any, they generate to cope with the challenges associated with this mode of study. The investigation utilized phenomenological methodology to contribute to expanded understandings of the lived experiences of the students. The researcher interviewed 10 students enrolled at UNZA from rural areas. Participants were purposively selected from three randomly identified towns that are regarded as ‘rural’. The researcher then conducted in-depth face-to-face interviews with students provided rich data.
While the distance learners experienced many challenges such as situational challenges, dispositional challenges, institutional challenges and epistemological challenges, this study has revealed that students cope by employing the following behaviours: a) taking direct action b) seeking social support c) denial, and, d) disengagement and acceptance.
These findings contribute to an expanded understanding of the challenges encountered by rural distance students enrolled at UNZA. The study also provides a framework of how to address the challenges through the understanding of Learners’ experiences. Studies such as this one would enable distance teaching programme designers to identify and understand the needs and characteristics of learners in specific social contexts. To address all the challenges experienced by the distance students, the study recommends, among other things, that researchers should investigate how universities can better support the faculty in acquiring the knowledge, skills, pedagogical strategies, and dispositions that are needed for building more effective, interactive learning communities through the distance mode. Studies such as this would enable distance teaching programme designers to identify and understand the needs and characteristics of learners in specific social contexts.
Key words: Challenges, coping strategies, distance students, rural areas||en