An evaluation of library support services for Distance education students at University of Zambia

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Kakana, Fabian Kabanda
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Distance education is one of the most popular forms of education offered world wide to those students who have had no opportunity to enroll full time in various educational institutions including universities. Distance education is also seen to be cost effective especially in developing countries such as Zambia which do not have adequate educational infrastructure to support the growing population in need of education. The University of Zambia is one of those educational institutions of higher learning in Zambia that has been offering distance education for more than 40 years. hi recent past, the university has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of people that have enrolled as distance students. The records obtained from the Directorate of Distance Education, shows an increase of distance learners' from 314 during 1996/7 academic year to 1165 during 2003/4 academic year[1]. This upswing in the number of distance learners has necessitated the university management to institute a number of reforms to improve the capacity of Directorate of Distance Education so that it can stand the pressure of serving the increased number of distance education students. However, these reforms have not included library services for distance education programmes at the institution. This survey therefore presents the findings of the research conducted on the existing library services support for distance education students at University of Zambia (UNZA). The main objective of the research was to evaluate the University of Zambia's provision of library and information services to its distance learners and the extent to which these services meet the needs of the learners. The study was done with a view to suggesting ways in which library information provision to distance students at UNZA could be improved. Data collection was done at UNZA in Lusaka-Zambia. A total number of 66 people (respondents) were interviewed in this survey. 46 were members of staff working at UNZA who included lecturers, Directorate of Distance Education staff, Central Administration staff and Library staff. The distance education students interviewed were 20 from Lusaka and the Copper belt. The findings of the study revealed that the University of Zambia Library has problems in meeting the information needs of distance learners. The University Library for instance, does not have regional Libraries to carter for those students living in far places. The study also revealed that very few reforms have taken place in the library to improve distance learners access to information. The Library has almost no cooperation with other Libraries in the country and only coordinates with Directorate of Distance Education (DDE) during residential schools in providing short library orientations to distance education students. In addition, no information literacy courses are offered to distance education at UNZA thus making it difficult for students to search for information independently. As a result, Distance learners largely depend on printed teaching materials and book extracts prepared by their lecturers. Recommendations concerning the need of library cooperation, resource sharing, use of Information Telecommunication Technologies (ICTs) and user education programmes have been highlighted as some of the measures that can improve students' accessibility to library resources at the University of Zambia.
Distance education--Zambia , Library service agencies--Zambia , Library services--Zambia