Collaboration among ICDE members for the external evaluation of the Unit for Open Distance Learning at North-West University, South Africa


To ensure the quality of its Unit for Open Distance Learning, the North-West University in South Africa, ICDE member, undertook an external evaluation in  2015. The external evaluation panel was composed by international and national experts, among which experts from ICDE members UNISA, Commonwealth of Learning, The Open University, Dublin City University and EATDU.

The Unit for Open Distance Learning situated at the North-West University, South Africa currently delivers open distance learning (ODL) programmes in Education, Nursing Science, Theology and Police Practice. Further ODL programmes in Business Administration and Information Technology will be delivered from 2017. The Unit serves approximately 32 000 students at 64 tuition centres across Southern Africa. Interactive whiteboards are mainly used to broadcast the lectures to the tuition centres. The Unit is a specialist unit and currently has 76 full-time personnel and more than 250 part-time.

To ensure quality as described in above functions effectively is it necessary to have a quality assurance strategy in place. This strategy consists of various quality activities of which internal and external evaluations are important ones. It was then decided to undertake an internal self-evaluation of the Unit’s activities based on the Unit’s quality manual where after an external evaluation will follow. This internal self-evaluation also formed the basis for the self-evaluation report that was part of the documents prepared for the external evaluation.

The external evaluation was planned for August 2015. The external evaluation panel was composed by international and national experts. The team consisted of Drr Piet Henderikx of the European Association for Distance Learning Universities, Steven Hutchinson of the Open University in the United Kingdom, Santiago Acosta-Aide from Ecuador, Mr Seamus Fox of Dublin City University, Drr Jessica Aguti of Commonwealth of Learning, Johan Hendrikz (University of Pretoria), Proff Walter Lumadi (Unisa), Wendy Kilfoil (University of Pretoria) and Daniella Coetzee (University of the Free State). The panel was arranged in collaboration with the quality office of the NWU.

Preparations for the external evaluation already started in 2014. Record management is an important part of such an evaluation and a new record management file plan was constructed and prepared. A portfolio was compiled with all the relevant documents and sent to the panel members prior to their visit so that they could familiarize themselves with the activities of the Unit.

The evaluation took place from the 17 August to the 24 August 2015. The panel interviewed all the important role players of the university and the Unit. They visited two tuition centres where they also interviewed students.

Prof Manie Spamer, executive director of the Unit for Open Distance Learning was satisfied with the findings of the panel and especially with their comment that they were impressed by the functioning and quality of the Unit. The general feeling of the Unit’s management was that the evaluation was a great success and that the recommendations by the panel could help to take the Unit to greater heights.

Below a photo of the evaluation panel and NWU's Executive Director