A Management Model in Open and Distance Learning at the Polytechnic of Namibia to Ensure Competitive Advantage and Optimum Benefits
Even before independence in 1990, it was recognised that Open and Distance Learning (ODL) has the potential to address Namibia’s educational and training needs in a cost-effective manner. ODL has the flexibility to accommodate varying levels of enrolment and the capacity to reach out to all corners of the country. It has come to be accepted as a well-recognised mode of education and training relevant to, and necessary for meeting the emerging demands of the Namibian society. For a small country like Namibia, in terms of population, and with limited resources, the Polytechnic of Namibia opted to strengthen its ODL activities. As a result, areas until now unreached by the conventional education system are gradually being taken care of by the Polytechnic’s open learning system. // This paper reports on the changed nature of the role of universities in developing countries. Specifically, the author argues that the Polytechnic of Namibia, while remaining a university of academic excellence and creative thought, was prepared to transform its conventional role of transferring knowledge to the number of students it could accommodate in classrooms. The Polytechnic of Namibia, through its Centre for Open and Lifelong Learning (COLL), has become within the short period of fifteen years an institution that seeks to provide knowledge and academic expertise to a much wider community than could be reached through on-campus teaching. The Polytechnic of Namibia can now, through distance learning techniques and open learning philosophies, reach out to the whole community in which it serves. This required not only new initiatives and approaches to teaching and delivering methods, but also an acceptance that the most sophisticated concepts can be taught in formats that off-campus students can understand. The Polytechnic of Namibia transformed into a truly dual-mode university, recognising the equal importance of open and lifelong learning programmes to the more conventional programmes of full-time on-campus studies and research. // Through its Centre for Open and Lifelong Learning the Polytechnic of Namibia indicates that open and distance learning has the ability to provide a rich learning environment in a flexible, effective and interactive manner, provided careful design and implementation approaches are adopted, including flexible management systems to develop skills for managing people and creating an enabling environment for effective and efficient performance of staff and students. This paper specifically examines the management model, initiatives and the major design and implementation strategies at the Centre for Open and Lifelong Learning to ensure needed competitiveness and optimum benefits. The author concludes that the Centre’s initiatives have clearly proven that there can be little doubt that a flexible management style, efficient administration, instructional design and the provision of sound tutor and learner support can effectively meet the training needs of off-campus students and is at the centre of quality distance education.