Pakistan Journal of Distance & Online Learning
Volume: III, Issue: I, 2017
Launch of Distance Education in University of Haripur:
Its Rationale, Significance and Challenges
Asaf Niwaz
This study was initiated to conceptualize the concept of distance mode of
learning and its possible initiative at university of Haripur with special
reference to its rationale, significance and challenges. 23 Tutors and 57
students of Teachers’ training programs offered by Allama Iqbal Open
University (AIOU), Islamabad, Sarhad University of Science and
Technology (SUIT) Peshawar and University of Peshawar were
consulted. Respondents of the study were interviewed and asked about
the students support services of universities regarding workshops,
provision of course text books, assessment of their assignments and
papers, professionalism of their respective tutors, and the way university
deal with their issues about rechecking of papers, fee submission,
issuance of their detail mark sheets and degrees. At the end they were
asked what their views are if university of Haripur takes this initiative of
launching programs through distance mode of learning. Study revealed
that most of the students were not satisfied with students support services
of universities; they had very serious concerns about tutors, resource
persons of the workshops, rude behavior of staff etc. It was concluded
that these universities had not responsible focal persons and professional
tutors in the district to facilitate their students. It was recommended on
the basis of results that universities must standardize their students
support services and university of Haripur must start distance learning
programs for the students of district.
Assistant Professor, Department of Education, University of Haripur, KPK, Pakistan.
Asaf Niwaz
Distance Education
According to Monolescu, Schifter and Greenwood (2004) distance
education programs were started 200 years ago in late 1800s and Illinois
Wesleyan was offering bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. Similarly
in 1878, John Vincent established a home reading circle of adults and
with the passage of time it turned into a Chautauqua Movement a famous
education society for expanding educational access for all Americans.
After five years, this movement was replaced into Chautauqua College of
Liberal Arts which was the first distance learning center in America.
(Moore & Kearsley, 1996). According to Harroff (2002), university of
Wisconsin was the leading institute of correspondence study. History of
distance education is very old and slowly but steadily it got its
momentum. Now many of Open universities round the globe are
regarded as mega universities like AIOU in Pakistan. Before moving
forward it seems important to conceptualize the term distance education.
Distance learning is any type of learning where there is physical
space between learners and the instructor (Wahlstrom, Williams & Shea,
2003). The distance learning, synchronous learning, distributed learning,
mobile learning, tele learning, distance teaching, distance learning and
flexible learning are the terms which are used as distance education
because all these terms are characterize with distance between teachers
and students (Picciano, 2001). An early definition of distance education
was an instructional method in which teaching and learning behaviours
are separated and communication take place through print, electronics,
mechanics and other devices (Moor, 1973). Later on distance education
was also defined as formal instructions where teaching occurs when there
is distance between tutors and learners (Verduin & Clark, 1991).
Zalenski (2000) defined distance education as quality of instruction
should occur even there is distance between educators and students.
Allen and Seaman (2004), defines distance education as a course in
which students and teachers remain at distance and teachers take more
than two classes at the same time and remain in contact with students
with the help of multimedia and hypermedia technology. According to
Keegan (1996) distance education has the following five requirements:
quasi-separation of tutors and students; influence of organization in
planning of courses, preparation of study materials, academic and
students services; use of different technological tools for interaction;
Launch of Distance Education in University of Haripur… 77
ensure two way interaction and communication and; quasi-permanent
absence of a learning group. Distance education is defined as institution
based formal education where students and teachers remain at distance
from on another while interactive telecommunication system are used to
build connection among students, learners, educators and resources
(Simonson, 2006). Teaching and learning at a distance is increasingly
popular in press and described in educational literature. Most of the
definitions of distance education do not use the word virtual but in reality
it is virtual education where process of education carried out with the
help of technology with necessary for teachers and the learners to be at
the same place (Simonson, 2007b).
Distance education has many benefits to democratize education
(Carr, 2005). Furst (2001) women deliberately selecting academic
programs offered through distance learning strategies because of they
feel comfortable in nearby institutes which offer these programs and they
get their academic degrees and balance the family demands. Distance
education programs are gaining more acceptances due to use of
technological means, its cost effectiveness as compared to other modes
of education, and greater opportunities at all levels of education (Allen,
2004). Another study by Saud et al., (2011) highlighted the fact that
technology can not only be use for technical education it can be
successfully used in all form of educational programs. Similarly Tas
(2010) discussed use of information and communication technologies in
all forms of education in order to cope the demands of growing and
changing global economy.
According to UNESCO (2002) distance and open learning create
opportunities for all to avail the services of education at their doorstep by
providing them up to date study material without any attending any
institute regularly to get required degrees. Open and distance learning
have organized teaching and learning material for their students and they
fully supported in their attempt while remain at distant from their tutors
or instructors. According to Perraton (2010) open and distance education
facilitate individuals who want to get in-service or pre-service teacher
training. Open and distance learning can be made more effective with
proper use and up dated technology in Pakistan and everywhere easily.
World Economic Forum, (2009) highlighted that use of information and
communication technologies (ICTs) is very poor in Pakistan and
suggested an increase in funding to develop strong infrastructure of
Asaf Niwaz
ICTs. Jung (2005) suggested integration of technology in provision of
training of teaching methodology. Patrick and Abdurehman, (2010)
explained that problem of training and professional development of
teachers have been successfully addressed through open and distance
learning programs. With the provision of computer skills with internet
facilities revolutionized success rate of open and distance learning
programs. Jensen and Brushwood (2006) suggested that institutions must
use computer technology which impart training programs through open
and distance learning mode of education. In Pakistan, the need and
importance of computer technology has been felt and in its latest national
policy (2009), special focus was laid down on empowering teachers
through their capacity building in the use of computer skills. Higher
education commission has developed few courses of information and
communication technologies with the help of experts of the field and
these courses are being taught throughout Pakistan. There are many
barriers in open and distance learning programs and it seems significant
to highlight in the following lines.
Barriers of Distance Education
There are many barriers in distance education. According to
Neighbors (2004) absence of face to face interaction of both genders is
the primary barrier of distance education. Secondly, quality of and the
accuracy of content of courses offer through web based; there is also a
lack of students support services and administrative services for distant
learners; lack of confidence in students as compared to the student of
face to face; and lack of time are the main or prominent barriers of
distance education. Some are faculty, institutional and students’ barriers
as well. Yap (1996) concluded that the institutional barriers generally
occur due to lack of cost and lack of equipment which are necessary for
proper delivery of content and assistance. Hall (1996) and Van Dusen
(2000) stated that ongoing cost of online courses generally considered as
a significant barriers for institutions. Similarly according to Zirkle (2002)
concluded that in engineering courses scheduling is a barriers while
students advisory services, library and registration process are also
institutional barriers in distance learning. According to Berg, Muilenburg
and Haneghan (2002) institutional network for technical assistance is
major barriers of online courses, some faculty members do not change
their style of teaching (Dillon & Walsh, 1992), some faculty members
Launch of Distance Education in University of Haripur… 79
need professional development to use technology (Zirkle, 2002) and
motivation behind deploying online courses (Franklin & Kaurman, 1999;
Picciano, 2001; Wolcott, 1999). Galusha (1998) concluded that cost,
motivation, lack of interaction, proper feedback of assigned tasks,
students support and lack of experience are the barriers to distance
education. Poor communications, feedback, sense of isolation are
barriers of distance education (Zirkle, 2002) communication between
instructors and students and between students themselves (Dooley Patil
& lineberger, 2000; Flowers, 2001). Despite of many barriers in proper
implementation of open and distance learning there are many advantages
of distance education as well.
Advantages of Distance Education
Lawrence (2005) enlisted following advantages of distance education
in paper presented at an international conference on Informing science
and IT education, according to him;
Students can take courses of their choice when and where they want.
Flexibility is the characteristic of distance learning programs
Students of distance learning proceed with their own pace, avail
preferred medium of instruction and enjoy a more favoring
Students of distance learning programs have number of choice in
taking courses of choice without any fear of any conflict with class
Open and distance learning programs apply more student centered
teaching leaning approaches as compared to traditional and formal
study programs.
Generally instructors seem ready to provide any support their
students require
It is cost effective and more updated knowledge is shared
Research Questions
1. What qualities of students support services are present for distance
education learners of AIOU, SUIT and Peshawar University in
2. How general issues and problems of students are deal by AIOU,
SUIT and Peshawar University?
Asaf Niwaz
Study was qualitative in nature. Respondents were selected through
snow ball sampling techniques. 11 tutors of AIOU, 7 tutors of SUIT and
5 tutors (from two distance study centers) were selected along with 32
students of AIOU, 13 students of SUIT and 12 students of Peshawar
university were also selected. Final sample comprised on 57 students and
23 tutors. Interview protocol was thought appropriate for satisfactory
answers of research questions. Interview session of tutors was about 40
minute’s duration while students interview session was little bit longer as
compared to tutors’ session. Questions asked in interview protocol were
firstly presented before a group of expert tutors and few statements/
questions were modified as per directions received from group. In
interview protocol respondents were asked about timely delivery of their
course materials, process of admission and registration, assessment of
their assignments and final papers, availability of course tutors and their
attitude towards them, venue of workshops and level of input through
resource persons, rechecking of papers, fee submission and receiving
final degree etc. All of the respondents were also asked about the
possibility of launching distance learning programs at university of
Haripur, its possible challenges, issues and advantages. Data were
analyzed simply on the basis of what the most frequently said by the
respondents along with what else have been mentioned less frequently.
Against each of the question, direct quote of any one also presented
reflecting stance of majority of the respondents.
Provision of Course Material: Most of respondents of all two
universities (AIOU and SUIT) reported that in the first semester, usually
they faced lot of problem in receiving course materials on time while
learners of distance study centers of Peshawar university reported that
generally course outlines were shared with past question papers with
them but the content of the courses which were shared at the time of
admission did not cover all of the questions given in previous
examination of the university. A respondent from SUIT claimed that;
“Tutors of SUIT convinced her to take admission in Associate
degree in Education (ADE) and promised that he would help her
in passing the examination in good grade. The tutor and the
Launch of Distance Education in University of Haripur… 81
university did not provide us even course outlines of the courses
and I manage to have course outlines from Regional Institute of
Teacher Education (RITE) Haripur with the help of my
Conduction of Workshops: Majority of students respondents of all
three universities were not satisfied with the quality of workshops conducted
in each semester while majority of tutors claimed that they taught with great
zeal during workshops and they blamed that most of the students of
(Peshawar University and SUIT) did not bother to come in study centers.
Tutors of AIOU said attendance in the workshops is necessary and we
managed it successfully. A student of AIOU reported that;
“Most of the tutors or resource persons (who are school teachers)
did not contribute positively in sharing relevant knowledge; they
delivered their lectures without preparation; they were not
following schedule and topics of workshops; most of the time
they share their personal experiences during lectures”.
Most of the resource persons/tutors reported that generally students
attended workshops for the sake of their attendance they never took
interest in learning and sometime they spoiled the environment. They
asked irrelevant questions during the sessions and they always requested
to leave them early in workshops. When we follow strict rules of
workshop they felt it inappropriate.
Assignment Checking: Students of AIOU and SUIT were not
satisfied the way their tutor check assignments. One of the students of
SUIT said;
“Our tutors checked our assignments carelessly and sometimes
they missed away our assignments. They cooperated with us and
sometimes they gave us marks without assignments. In most of
the cases, they favored their near and dear ones”.
Majority of students of Peshawar University reported that they never
ever submit any assignment to their resource persons/tutors of courses.
They did not know how their assignments marks were given.
Asaf Niwaz
Assessment of Paper: Majority of students and tutors of all three
universities were opined that students usually got more marks who wrote
a lot regardless of its relevance to the question.
Tutors Attitude towards Students: majority of students of AIOU
and SUIT were not satisfied the way their tutors behave. They claimed
that most of the tutors remained absent for study centers and they were
rude and uncooperative if they requested for guidance. Interestingly
point of views of females’ students was quite different regarding their
male tutors while about their female tutors they almost opined the same
as male student had about their male tutors. Majority of them claimed
that their tutors neither check their assignments on time nor they sent
their assignments back. If they were asked about assignments, they
behaved rudely.
Most of the tutors of both universities reported that students always
submitted their assignments late to us; they generally take help from
others to complete their assignments; they never write to the point and
they try to reproduce the text from course material. As per rules of
assessment, they do not qualify to have some marks on their assignment
which are almost ditto copy but we cooperate with them and try to
accommodate them to some extent. Some try to reach us through their
relatives or our friends and request to give them marks in the absence of
their assignments.
Students of study centers (Peshawar university) claimed that most of
their resource persons cooperate with them on the other side most of the
resource persons reported that attendance of the students in study center
was minimum.
General Students Support Services of Universities: Most of the
students and tutors stated that generally behavior of staff in universities
was rude; they did not even bother to listen us with attention; they never
ever referred us to right person; students faced lot of problems in
rechecking of their final papers or assignments; female students
complained that clerical staff of the universities try to develop relation
with them; they offered their services to enhance marks of examinations
and; they promised to give final papers before the start of examinations.
Launching of Distance Learning Programs at University of
Haripur: All of the tutors and students welcomed the idea of launching
distance learning programs at university of Haripur. At the same time
Launch of Distance Education in University of Haripur… 83
they raised their concerns regarding provision of students support
services, selection or development of courses; dispatching course
material on time and the huge finance which required launching these
programs in newly established university. They were happy for having
approaching university where their most of the problems would be
solved easily through their relatives working already in the university or
due to their own easy access. Students were showing their serious
concerns regarding appointment of these tutors again in university of
Haripur. Students recommended that tutors must be trained to facilitate
students at large at the hour of need. They further suggested that tutors
and students attendance should be made compulsory in the workshops;
workshops should be conducted in the university instead of government
schools where there is not proper arrangements of seating, water,
electricity, washrooms or writing boards.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Following conclusions were drawn and recommendations were made
on the basis of results of the study;
Course material of AIOU usually reached late in the start (first
semester of each program) due to its vast jurisdiction and largest
number of admission in each semester. Continuing students of AIOU
received their relevant course material on time. It was suggested that
course material may be send to each of the regional office for smooth
and quick dispatch process. Course material of SUIT may late due to
insufficient and inexperienced human resource power. There seems a
little negligence as well. It was recommended that the SUIT may
develop an effective system of dispatch similarly administration of
study centers were reflecting lack of professionalism in receiving and
then distributing courses to the students. Workshops were conducted
repeatedly by the same personnel in each semester of AIOU and SUIT.
There was monopoly of these personnel in Haripur; they distributed
workshops lectures among friends instead to hiring the services of
experts. It was recommended that workshops coordinators may be
replaced in each semester and proper monitoring mechanism should be
in place for smooth execution of the teaching learning component of
distance education. Administration of distance study centers of
Asaf Niwaz
Peshawar university did not engage experts from the field instead they
preferred to avail the services of retired personnel and teachers. It was
recommended that university of Peshawar must monitor this segment of
distance learning and may ensure quality input from experts in the
study centers. There was no system of monitoring tutors to assess the
way they marked the assignments that’s why problems occurred. It was
suggested that university may develop a system through which marked
assignments could be reassessed to address the problems of students.
AIOU has a very good system of centralized marking in the university
other universities sent their papers for evaluation to their paper setters.
Universities must have a valid and transparent system of students’
assessment. Usually clerical staff creates problems everywhere so it
was recommended that there should be a one window operation in each
of the university to address the students problems. Respondents
concerns regarding the start of distance education programs in
university of Haripur were genuine and it was recommended that
department of education must keep in mind these possible problems
and solutions. University must move forward to experience distance
learning programs which will definitely address many students
problems easily as they claimed.
Launch of Distance Education in University of Haripur… 85
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Citation of this Article:
Niwaz, A. (2017). Launching of distance education in university of
Haripur: Its relationale, significance and challenges. Pakistan Journal of
Distance and Online Learning, 3(1), 74-88.


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