Using NUD*IST Vivo and hypermedia in the analysis, presentation and representation of research on distance education in Swaziland, Southern Africa
Professor Stewart Marshall
Faculty of Informatics and Communication, Central Queensland University, Australia
Paper presented at the Higher Education Close Up Conference 2, Lancaster University, 16-18 July 2001
With the enormous capital and infrastructure costs associated with on-campus higher education, it is little wonder that developing countries wishing to create greater access are increasingly looking at distance education to provide the solution. But does this mean that such countries will adopt a Fordist industrial model of distance education, or is it possible to develop a post-industrial, post-colonial system more suited to local knowledge, learning, and culture? This was the research question that initially formed the basis of my research in Swaziland in Southern Africa.
It is impossible to fully understand the experiences and the difficulties involved in the introduction of distance education in Swaziland without considering the broader social, cultural and political contexts. It is also necessary to recognise and give voice to the plurality of voices in these contexts. Thus, one needs to use methods of analysis and presentation that faithfully capture the richness of the data.
In this paper, I reflect on the introduction of distance education in a small country in Southern Africa. I describe the first two years of operation of the Institute of Distance Education at the University of Swaziland, and critically reflect on the issues that emerged and on my experiences. I also reflect on the methodological issues involved in such research and outline my use of Nvivo for the analysis of the data and hypermedia for the presentation of the results and representation of the context.
(Note: the conference presentation will include a demonstration of the hypermedia document.)
The context for the introduction of distance education in Swaziland
Swaziland is a landlocked country that shares borders with Mozambique and South Africa. It covers an area of 17,364 square kilometres and is the second smallest country in Africa. It was founded by Bantu peoples from Mozambique in the 18th century and became a British protectorate when colonial rule was established in 1903.
Sobhuza II led Swaziland to independence in 1968. In 1973, proclaiming the rejection of colonial influences and the re-affirmation of Swazi tradition, Sobhuza II repealed the independence constitution, banned political parties and assumed supreme power in the kingdom (Matsebula, 1988, 260). The country continues to be ruled under this 1973 decree as a dual monarchy with a King (currently King Mswati III) and Queen Mother. The present system of governance is the "Tinkhundla System" whereby members of a parliament are "democratically" elected from some 55 constituencies. The King has executive powers, and through an advisory council, appoints a prime minister and cabinet ministers (Government of Swaziland, 1998). The system is described by the ruling aristocracy as "Swaziland's unique form of democracy".
The population of Swaziland is approximately 913,000 people, and the population growth rate is about 2.8% per year (Carmichael, 1999, section 2.3.8), which places Swaziland among the fastest growing populations in the world. Subsistence agriculture, which occupies more than 60% of the population, contributes nearly 25% to GDP. English (in which government business is conducted) and siSwati are the official languages. Sixty-seven percent of the population aged 15 and over can read and write.
There is one university, the University of Swaziland (UNISWA), with an enrolment of approximately 3000 students. It was to this university that I was appointed in October 1996 as Coordinator of Academic Studies to assist in the establishment of distance education at the newly formed Institute of Distance Education (IDE).
The mission of IDE (located at the Kwaluseni campus of UNISWA) is to create educational and training opportunities for qualified individuals who have been unable, for one reason or another, to undertake conventional university education programs. The programs offered by IDE are the same as those offered on-campus.
IDE programs use two modes of teaching: printed materials and face-to-face tutorials. The printed material is specially written by IDE Course Writers, who are usually the UNISWA lecturers teaching the on-campus version of the program. Students must also attend approximately 25 hours per subject of face-to-face tutorials. Ten to fifteen of these hours occur when the students attend the university for three one-week intensive study sessions with the IDE Course Lecturers (who are usually the UNISWA lecturers teaching the on-campus version of the program). The remaining tutorial hours are conducted in the Regional Learning Centres (RLCs) in Manzini and Mbabane by part-time Course Tutors, recruited from people employed as college lecturers, secondary teachers, and lawyers.
IDE enrolled its first intake of students in August 1996. A total of 150 students registered for the three programs offered by IDE: BA Humanities (Languages), Diploma in Law, and Diploma in Commerce. Nearly all the students enrolled in the BA were students straight from school, whereas all the students enrolled in the other two programs were mature-aged and employed. None of these students were given government scholarships (loans). Twenty-five UNISWA Course Lecturers taught this first intake in addition to teaching their usual on-campus classes. These Course Lecturers were assisted by 30 external part-time Course Tutors.
Events, issues and my reflections
The participatory and transformative action research project described in this paper formed the basis of my PhD thesis.
The project was intended to empower local communities by enabling them to participate in the formation of the system of higher education by distance mode. This is not meant to imply that people in the local communities are not themselves competent and capable of action, but it was intended that the project would mobilize resources and provide extra avenues for their voices to be heard.
I worked very closely with IDE staff, UNISWA lecturers and the local community tutors employed to provide local support for the University distance education programs. I established a "discussion newsletter" to facilitate communication between this dispersed group of co-researchers and also encouraged the regular reporting and reflecting on issues after lecture/tutorial sessions. I also collected material from government and non-government sources, and conducted interviews and administered questionnaires with open-ended questions with many of the stakeholders in distance education in Swaziland.
The secondary and tertiary teaching methods in Swaziland have tended to create dependent learners skilled in surface rather than deep learning (Marton and Saljo, 1976). The members of staff in IDE wanted to change this. We saw the role of academic and other staff employed by IDE as facilitators of learning, not deliverers of education. So, in our early staff development workshops for Course Tutors and Course Lecturers, we endeavoured to engage the participants by using the student-centred methods we favoured.
We stressed to the participants that we wished them to be "dialogically involved" (Freire, 1982) as partners and action-researchers in the distance education project in Swaziland. We wanted them to reflect on their ways of thinking and acting, because "through this process of investigation, the level of critical thinking is raised among all those involved" (Freire, 1982, 30). We tried to establish our roles as "critical friends" (Kember, 1998, 57). Unfortunately, although most of the Course Tutors attended, it was difficult to get the UNISWA Course Lecturers to attend these workshops.
Attendance by staff at their teaching sessions was also a problem on many occasions. For one of the Saturday Study Days at the University campus I was dismayed to find that for the Law Year 1 program only four of the seven Course Lecturers turned up, and in each of these four classes the students were given a test rather than a lecture or tutorial.
The creation of effective information and communication systems proved to be a major problem for me. I decided that I would use written communication (newsletters and mail-merge letters) both for information purposes and also to try to create a sense of "community" amongst all those staff and students involved with IDE. Since I had no computer in my office, all this had to be done on our home computer and printer. Three weeks after the first mail-out to all students, I was surprised to find how few of them had actually received my mail. Subsequent mail-outs confirmed that mail was taking at least two weeks to get to those outside the university, and that in far too many cases it never arrived at all.
Communication with the world outside Swaziland was even harder. Email and telephone calls from my office were not possible since I had neither a computer nor an outside telephone line. We had a computer at home, but we had no telephone line (nor any chance of getting one because of the shortage of lines where we lived).
In August 1997, IDE added a Bachelor of Adult Education to its list of programs, and registered a second intake of students into the other programs. As in the previous year, registration was conducted at the beginning of the first Study Week. But this particular registration exercise was a disaster.
Because a few students in the 1996/7 cohort had not paid all their tuition fees, the University Senate decided that for 1997/8 the full fee of E2500 (instead of the half-fee, as before) should be payable up-front at registration. Unfortunately, this decision was only communicated to the new and continuing students a couple of weeks before registration by means of a notice in the Observer newspaper. Since most students did not read this paper, they arrived to register with only half their fee. They were told by the Registrar that they would be allowed to register late, but that they would have to pay a late-registration fee of E50 per day (one week's pay for a Swazi housekeeper, half a week's pay for a gardener) and they would not be allowed to sit in classes or receive teaching material until they had registered. This meant that the majority of the IDE students missed the first Study Week entirely and did not receive their DE materials for several weeks.
Communication remained a problem. Although I now had an outside line in my office, this was no help for maintaining contact with most of our students. An effective ways to communicate with our DE students was to place notices in the independent newspaper the Times of Swaziland. Unfortunately, in 1997 the Government decided to forbid parastatals using the Times for advertising. The Government maintained that this was a cost cutting exercise, but many people saw it as an attempt to close down the Times because it was always outspoken and revealed much of the corruption and abuse in the country. The Observer was the only other newspaper. This paper (basically owned by the Royal family) had a very small circulation and so it was not really worth putting notices in there. So I now had difficulty communicating with the students at short notice.
This problem was highlighted when the University Graduation ceremony was postponed by one week at short notice because the scheduled date coincided with a traditional Royal ceremony (which was arranged at short notice). The new date for Graduation coincided with our IDE Study Day. So we announced on the radio that the new Study Day date would be one week earlier than planned. The result was chaos! People turned up for the Graduation on our Study Day, and students turned up for the Study Day on Graduation Day.
November 1997 was an exciting time for everyone in IDE. UNESCO donated the much-needed educational technology hardware: computers, printers, scanner, television, videocassette recorder, and video camera. At last I had a computer on my desk.
The chaotic nature of things in the last four months of 1997 had made it difficult to communicate with the Course Tutors, let alone organise staff development workshops. It was as a result of this that I decided to publish a newsletter specifically for Course Tutors and Course Lecturers that would contain their critical reflections on their practices. I hoped that this would facilitate their dialogical involvement with the project and assist in their personal development. I did not obtain a large number of responses (those from Course Lecturers were very few), but was able to produce and distribute two issues of the IDEAS Network (Institute of Distance Education Action-research Support Network) newsletter before I left Swaziland at the end of June 1998.
One thing I noted during my time in Swaziland was the reluctance of most Course Lecturers to commit themselves in writing. I had to communicate with about 45 Course Lecturers in the university. I did this by means of mail merge memos and letters. During the two years that I was at the University I sent out hundreds of written communications, but received back only a handful of replies. Now, is this a function of this being an oral culture, or something more sinister? One Course Lecturer said to me "don't put anything in writing".
Having said that, I did obtain critical reflections in the form of verbal feedback from many of the Course Lecturers and written feedback from a few. One Course Lecturer wrote about the students' dependent learning style:
"the students appear not to understand the whole concept of IDE. They expect a lot from the tutors when they should contribute themselves towards their own professional development."
And another Course Lecturer wrote that the students:
"should take it upon themselves to do the reading and come for tutorials only to ask questions and then expand wherever possible. However, most but not all of the students seem to look to the tutors to give them lectures. Yet we come prepared to assist them to understand better what they have read on their own, not to give a lecture."
The Course Tutors, who were much more forthcoming in their comments, made similar written comments about the students:
"Poor attendance and lack of confidence in general."
"There was a general lack of reading and they show a degree of laxity, that is, they seem to think everything is easy."
"Students do not do assignments and always do not have questions to ask. They look forward to tutor to lecture or explain all concepts."
One Course Lecturer verbally commented on the absence of critical thinking in the work of the first year students, both on and off campus. She laid the blame for this on the culture of obedience and respect for authority in which most Swazis are reared (this lecturer was herself a Swazi).
Many of the Course Lecturers complained about the increase in their workloads caused by the IDE teaching. One lecturer said that she was taking five courses that year. She felt that she had to fit dealing with IDE in whenever she could, rather than seeing it as of equal priority to her on-campus commitments.
At the end of 1997, I asked students to comment on any aspect of their studies with IDE. Sixty-four (64) students wrote comments for me.
Over 20 per cent of the respondents raised financial concerns. Some students commented on the cost of bus fares, and one Humanities student used this as a reason to be transferred to the on-campus program, saying "we cannot afford the bus fare from Mbabane to Kwaluseni." One Adult Education student commented on the method of payment of fees to the University, saying "paying tuition fees on cash basis is very strenuous."
Over 40 per cent of the respondents were concerned about Course Tutors and Course Lecturers missing sessions. Some of the respondents requested compensation for lost study days. One Adult Education student commented about "going to RLC for tutorials only to find that tutors are not there. We would like compensation for this." One Humanities student pointed out that "during the strike, we did not attend some classes due to the fact that the classes were locked in the centres. So please compensate us for this missed days."
Over 20 per cent of the respondents wanted to transfer to the on-campus program. All these students were enrolled in the BA program and had originally applied for the on-campus program, but owing to a shortage of places had not been successful. One Humanities student wrote: "we would like to transfer as full time students since some of us come from distant places. Secondly, it is tough to make it since we are far from a library source."
Sixteen per cent of the respondents commented on the need for more face-to-face study time, especially as the examinations approached, as this Law student comments:
"As we are new students its better for us to meet the requirement of our lecturers and enjoy the course if the University can increase both number and length of our tutorials. This because other lecturers do not want to make an appointment with. And it is difficult to solve the problems we encounter in the course. As a result we are behind and exams are near."
Nearly a third of the respondents expressed their need to be treated better by the University and staff. One Humanities student requested that they "have all the benefits that are given to full time students". Other students wrote of their concern about the lack of consideration and respect from some staff. One second year Law student asked us to "employ lecturers who are legally bound to lecture instead of ones who are doing us a favour or a sacrifice".
Ten per cent of the respondents commented on communication problems between IDE and students. One Adult Education student commented:
"Sometimes we are not informed on time of changes of RLC dates. This becomes expensive because we travel for nothing. IDE must use even the Times of Swaziland since some of us don't buy the Observer."
Nvivo and hypermedia in analysis and presentation
In order to gain an understanding of problems and issues which arose in the introduction of distance education at UNISWA, I collected detailed accounts which people gave in their own words, administered questionnaires, recorded field notes from participant observation, collected government and University documents, and recorded minutes of University meetings. Wherever possible I collected detailed accounts that people gave in their own words.
These data were relatively unstructured and not appropriately reduced to numbers, and so I used qualitative rather than quantitative data analysis. However, given the amount of data, paper-copy coding and analysis would have proved too difficult and too restrictive. For projects such as this one, computer-assisted coding and analysis is invaluable. For this I used QSR's Non-numerical, Unstructured Data Indexing, Searching and Theorizing (NUD*IST) software package, the most recent version of which is called "NUD*IST Vivo" or "Nvivo" for short.
The NUD*IST software package is designed to enable the qualitative researcher to link, code, shape and model complex data. It comprises a Document System, with facilities for organizing, linking, and exploring documents, and a Node System with structured and unstructured ways of representing concepts, topics and ideas relevant to the project. Generally, the Nodes are generated from the documents by the researcher, taking account of the data, features and themes that emerge.
In the NUD*IST Vivo (NVivo) version, all documentation is handled as editable rich text, enabling "visual coding" by highlighting, font changing, etc. Documents are fully editable whilst coding, and the editing does not invalidate existing coding and linking. Both documents and nodes can be given any number of "attributes" (properties) to describe and characterize them. NVivo is designed to remove rigid divisions between "data" and "interpretation". It has an integrated "Search Tool" for searching sets of documents and nodes for text patterns, coding, and attribute values, which then stores the results back in the project for future study. It also has report generators that provide listings of project data as editable rich text documents.
But even with rich analysis and modelling facilitated by NUD*IST, it is impossible to fully understand the experiences and the difficulties involved in the introduction of distance education in Swaziland without considering the broader social, cultural and political contexts. In some way the reader of the thesis needs to be "presented" with the context so as to be able to experience it. It is also necessary to recognise and give voice to the plurality of voices in these contexts. Thus, one needs to use a means of presentation that faithfully captures the richness of the data and "represents" the context.
In writing-up this ethnographic study and action research project, my goal was to create a rich description and to present this in way that captured the dense interconnectedness of the people and events in this complex situation. For these reasons I created my thesis as a hypertext (and hypermedia) document using Macromedia's Dreamweaver as the visual authoring tool.
[One] of the most important features of Hypertext applications results in the blurring of the boundaries between 'data' and 'analysis' on the one hand, and between both of those and 'representation' on the other. There is no need in a fully developed hypertext environment, for instance, to force the 'analysis' into the straightjacket of a single, monologic and linear textual format. ... The use of Hypertext software to 'author' materials as well as to undertake analytic tasks, means that a highly flexible set of relationships can be facilitated: between the ethnographer and the data (and other materials) on the one hand, and between the 'reader' and the ethnography on the other. (Weaver and Atkinson, 1995: p. 165).
In addition to using NVivo to provide some analysis of the data, I also used it to "collate" and create "reports" for presentation in the hypermedia document. Thus, after analysing the data, I was able to copy reports from NVivo and use the "paste as text" function in Dreamweaver to paste them into web pages. This too had the effect of blurring the distinction between analysis and presentation.
Hypertext allows the writer and the reader to create diverse and non-linear pathways through the written text, and to incorporate non-written materials (e.g., audio and video recordings, photographs).
Many people working with qualitative data, whether they use fieldnotes, interviews, oral history or documentary sources, feel frustrated by the necessity of imposing a single linear order on those materials. It is, after all, part of the rationale of ethnographic and similar approaches that the anthropologist, sociologist, historian, psychologist or whoever, recognises the complexity of social inter-relatedness. We recognise the over-determination of culture, in that there are multiple, densely coded influences among and between different domains and institutions. It is, therefore, part of the attraction of hypertext solutions that a sense of dense interconnectedness is preserved, enhanced even, while linearity is discarded (Coffey, Holbrook and Atkinson, 1996, section 8.5).
In order to "represent" the context of the study, many of the hyperlinks link to audio, visual, and audio-visual material. Some of this material was audio-recorded, photographed or video-recorded in Swaziland. The "Swaziland" section of the thesis is introduced with a Flash movie comprising a montage of relevant photographs, and within that section appear links to video-recordings of Swazi cultural events. In this way, the hypermedia thesis seeks to embed the study in its social context.
... what hypermedia allows is the ability to integrate different types of data, interpretation and lines of enquiry, so that the interweaving of ethnographic voices and authorial commentary can be explored and opened up for scrutiny by the reader. .... Instead of relying on the hierarchical organisation of printed narrative, where authorial commentary appears to 'enclose' the voices it cites, hypermedia opens up the possibility of innovative re-organisations of these relations both by the author and by the reader. As a result, hypermedia may allow the ethnographic object of study to be seen as more fully embedded in its social (cultural, economic, political) context, and the analysis to proceed in a more flexible manner through a thicker level of description. The objective is to allow the reader to move more easily between the general picture and the particular local situation, to adopt both the 'jeweller's eye' as well as the 'bird's eye' view of the social world. (Dicks and Mason, 1998: section 7.5)
Exploring the hypermedia document
My thesis maps a world populated with stories of change - primarily of personal change and cultural change in Swaziland. It is populated with voices speaking from many different perspectives about change. That is why my thesis does not have a table of contents. Instead, the main navigation page has vantage points to enable the reader to plot where they wish to explore next. The vantage point occupied at any one time becomes the centre of the thesis world.
The main navigation page comprises a "dynamic map" that I call the "Swazi-Econet". It utilises the fact that hypertext is almost infinitely re-centreable to represent the multiple ways of perceiving the Swaziland project.
As readers move through a web or network of texts, they continually shift the centre -- and hence the focus or organizing principle -- of their investigation and experience. Hypertext, in other words, provides an infinitely re-centreable system whose provisional point of focus depends upon the reader ..... One experiences hypertext as an infinitely de-centreable and re-centreable system, in part because hypertext transforms any document that has more than one link into a transient centre, a directory document that one can employ to orient oneself and to decide where to go next. (Landow, 1992, p. 12)
The main navigation page of my thesis actually resembles a solar system with links between most of the planets and the central body. Each node (planet) represents a view of the project world. The reader's current view is the centre of the Swazi Econet. If the reader moves the cursor over a node, the contents of that node are displayed in a text frame. The links between the nodes symbolise the connectedness of all other stories and voices (represented by the planets) to the current location of the reader (represented by the central body) - a momentary ego in a complex web of hyperlinks, just as their owners were linked in a complex web of social networks that simultaneously constrained and enabled each other's identity and development. Clicking on one of the de-centred story nodes or voice nodes brings it to the centre of the system and all other stories and voices are now seen in relation to the new ego. Clicking on a node in the central area of the window opens the relevant web page. In this way, the reader "sees" the project world from this node's point of view.
In this sense, we do not discard linearity as such, but seek to offer multi-linear pathways that make up to a web of sense-making trails. This web is more than the sum of its parts. The reader can see how the same data are implicated and included in different interpretations, and can thereby retain a sense of the contingency and complexity of analysis. The data are no longer hidden from view, archived in the researcher's filing cabinets, spatially and temporally removed from the analysis and the reader. Instead, the data and the analysis are embedded within the same medium and are thereby equally accessible to the reader. (Dicks and Mason, 1998: section 7.2)
So, the reader of this thesis is an "explorer". Each "explorer" will trace a different path and so will construct a different reading. Would this have been different if this thesis had been written in traditional form as a linear text? Not really. Meaning is not something that resides in the text waiting to be unearthed. Giddens (1987, pp. 100-101) reminds us that in the case of written communication,
the interpretation of cultural objects occurs without certain elements of the mutual knowledge involved in co-presence within a setting, and without the co-ordinated monitoring which co-present individuals carry on as part of ongoing talk". The consequence of this is that "the 'consumer' or receiver becomes more important than the producer in the interpretative process.
Meaning is constructed when language is used - in this case, when the text is read. Even in the process of reading a linear text, the reader is actively engaged in the creation of meaning and so every reader constructs a different reading. My hypermedia thesis explicitly recognises and legitimises this. The "path" the reader chooses to follow will "shape" the reader's reading of the thesis.
The data on which my thesis is based are "catalogued" in the "voices" section. In this section the lecturers, tutors, students and other stakeholders express their views about their perceptions of the DE project and their "lived actualities" in Swaziland.
In the "voices" section, the navigation or cataloguing system enables the reader to explore the data in whatever way the reader wishes, but essentially it is divided into the following seven main subsections:
The "Lecturers' Voices" subsection is a collection of all the discussions, interviews, questionnaires, reflections, etc., produced by the IDE Course Lecturers. The comments made by the Lecturers can be viewed either from the point of view of each individual Lecturer, or collected together into "common concerns". In either case, their voices are presented without comment or interpretation; During the first semester, I asked the students for any comments they might wish to make. These comments are available in the "Students' Voices" section and can be seen by "programme cohort" or arranged by "concerns"; The "Tutors' Voices" subsection is a collection of all the discussions, interviews, questionnaires, reports, etc., produced by the IDE Course Tutors. The comments made by the Tutors can be viewed either from the point of view of each individual Tutor, or collected together into "common concerns". In either case, their voices are presented without comment or interpretation; During the time I spent in Swaziland I attempted to keep a journal. Pressure of work meant that my entries in this journal were less frequent and regular than I might have hoped. The web pages in the "My Journal" section contain my journal entries listed by month; The "Official Voices" subsection brings together the official documentation of UNISWA and the Swaziland Government; The Global Voices subsection contains the "conversations" that I have had through correspondence (mainly emails) about topics relating to this thesis and the published voices that I have "heard" in completing this thesis; The "IDE Staff" subsection brings together the discussions, interviews, questionnaires, reflections, etc., produced by the IDE Staff members.
There are some fairly well-defined paths through the thesis, which I present as "stories". Each story has an internal logic that is well established and constitutive of the particular genre to which the story belongs. The navigation aids reveal the logic of the story and enable the reader to follow it, or to diverge from it and return to it as the reader wishes. The "stories" overlap, each story being a particular interpretation and representation of the complex issues and events faced everyday by the IDE and UNISWA communities. When these "stories" use and refer to the data found in the "voices" section of the thesis, the reader can click on hyperlinks to see the data in pop-up windows.
Of these different ways of looking at the issues and events, the "Thesis Story" is perhaps the one usually associated with a thesis. Its narrative is determined by the conventions of thesis presentation, i.e., it includes a Literature Review, a section on Methodology, and other sections usually found in a thesis.
Another story - "My History" - takes the form of a mini autobiography. In researching social phenomena, we need to accept that there can be no neutral language of observation nor a clear distinction between the observer and the observed (Coffey, Holbrook and Atkinson, 1996). Thus, we must be aware of the power of the language and genre in which the research is reported and try to be explicit about the attitudes, feelings, and involvement of the researcher. Undoubtedly, how the researcher perceives and reports on events will be coloured by the researcher's life experiences. For this reason, "My History" tells of some of the key events, attitudes and feelings that I experienced in my life prior to going to Swaziland. In a similar fashion, "My Swazi Story" gives an explicitly personal account of the events that seemed important to me during my two years in Swaziland. The "Media Story" is an account of the events as reflected in the print media of Swaziland.
There are some other well-defined paths, which are to be found in the "Presentations" section. These are the formalised "stories" which are presented in written form to the staff, students and general public, e.g., student handbooks, IDE web site, lecturer handbooks. These presentations form some of the data for other parts of the thesis.
The administrative and academic culture of UNISWA is like that of so many single mode universities in that the administrative and teaching functions presuppose that students with government scholarships (loans) will attend university for five days a week between 9.00am and 5.00pm for approximately thirty-five weeks of the year. The staff and students of IDE challenged all these presuppositions and experienced considerable difficulties as a result, e.g., in relation to the payment of tuition fees at registration. Guy (1994, 103) notes a similar situation in Papua New Guinea, where his students commented "consistently about the process of distance education and the contradictions and tensions between their realities and the bureaucratic demands of the Institute".
Fung and Carr (2000, 44) found that Hong Kong distance education students valued highly "academic support from tutors which enhances their understanding of the course materials and provides general guidance on their assignments" and showed "a desire for a largely directive approach in tutorials". This was also true of the IDE students, but they seemed overly dependent on a directive approach in face-to-face teaching, and so showed some reluctance to engage with the academic culture of IDE.
Throughout my time in Swaziland, communication with students and staff remained a major problem. I was unable to find an effective way to transmit information to the students; I was unable to get effective feedback from the Course Lecturers; and, I was unable to create an effective mechanism for communication between Course Lecturers and Course Tutors. To some extent, these communication problems resulted from inadequate communications technology or infrastructure. But the communication problems with and between staff were largely due to the attitudes and levels of motivation of the participants.
Establishing effective communication between staff and changing the culture of an institution require levels of motivation and goodwill that are not apparent in UNISWA. In order to understand this, we have to look beyond the university administration. The cultures within which students learn and how to fit these factors with distance education pedagogy and curriculum are important. In many countries, education is seen as a way of gaining significant advantage in a competitive society which values academic success. In Swaziland, education is seen as a way to earn a living in a society that rewards birthright rather than ability. This situation is detrimental to motivation in students and academic staff alike.
In order to understand the changes in so many of the world's higher education institutions, we must take into account the broader economic, political, social and technological changes. There is recognition by many that African institutions of higher education also need to transform in response to these broader world changes (Otaala, 1997), but more particularly that they need to change to be in line with the continent's new political and socio-economic environment. In the case of the University of Swaziland, the necessary transformation is not helped by the political situation in Swaziland.
In order to capture the totality of the research, the plurality of voices and the broad context within which an action research project such as this occurs, one needs to use methods of analysis and presentation which faithfully capture the richness of the data and "represents" the context. The use of NUD*IST Vivo and hypermedia permits the qualitative analysis and rich description required.
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