Should We Be Teaching or Diagnosing? An E-Learning Paradox

9 Pages Posted: 11 May 2018

Date Written: June 3, 2017


Graduation rates in a South African Open Distance Learning (ODL) institution have been as low as about 15% overall and attrition around 70%. Various attempts have been made to improve these rates from re-designing curricular, to having courses fully online, academic assistance in form of etutors and recently introduction of the extended programme for students who have not the necessary M-Score (low academic grades). The factors of attrition have been well researched for the last four decades and are grouped into institutional, personal and environmental. Among the institutional factors is also the educator who is more of a facilitator, a course and (should be) instructional designer. This paper expands on work done by Prinsloo (2009), ‘the student walk’, one of the most comprehensive studies done for an ODL institution. Many authors have emphasised the fact that an ODL institution although might offer the same content and courses as a face-to-face institution and in the two modes of delivery of education some personal and institutional factors could be common, the differences require an approach that demands better knowledge of the student and of what he/she brings with (e.g. learning styles and knowledge). The various advantages of an ODL mode of delivery should be maximised and although the educator plays the central role in creating a conducive to ODL education environment, the institution must also on the one hand give full support to the educator on the other hand to ensure it removes all barriers to the progression of the student. The paper argues that the role of the educator has not be fully defined and this could be one of the ‘missing links’ in minimising attrition. The educator ‘should be more than a ‘teacher’ in this fast technological changing world. The educator should become more of an action diagnostic researcher spending his/her time predominantly in diagnosing, conducting action research and applying the findings to the next cohort. Such findings can also be used in form of articles/papers to be published or presented in conferences thus contributing to the research output of the institution.

Keywords: Diagnosing, action research, open distance learning, attrition

Suggested Citation

Giannakopoulos, Apostolos, Should We Be Teaching or Diagnosing? An E-Learning Paradox (June 3, 2017). Proceedings Journal of Education, Psychology and Social Science Research, Vol. 4, Issue 1, 2017. Available at SSRN: or

Apostolos Giannakopoulos (Contact Author)

University of South Africa ( email )

P.O. Box 392
Pretoria, Gauteng 0003
South Africa

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