Vol. 37 No. 2 (2022): Innovating Every Day: Moving Beyond COVID-19
Research Articles

Targeted and Tailored: The Importance of a Personalized Approach to Open Distance Learning Support

Liesl Scheepers
IIE Varsity College
Geesje Van den Berg
University of South Africa
Published January 3, 2023
How to Cite
Scheepers, L., & Van den Berg, G. (2023). Targeted and Tailored: The Importance of a Personalized Approach to Open Distance Learning Support. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education / Revue Internationale Du E-Learning Et La Formation à Distance, 37(2). https://doi.org/10.55667/ijede.2022.v37.i2.1270


The article explored the need to provide ODL students with support that is more personalised in nature; support that speaks to the presence of a “human touch,” and specifically refers to an individual whose primary focus is on relationship building and fostering a sense of community and care amongst its online students. Although literature reveals the importance of online student support, including affective, cognitive, and systemic support, not enough is known about the value of having a role whose sole focus is personalised affective support in an online learning environment. Within a qualitative approach, the study used 12 semi-structured interviews and five focus groups with 34 participants to explore the value ODL students place on non-academic support. The findings revealed that while participants were familiar with who their Programme Success Tutor (PST) was, for various reasons, there was no shared or common understanding of the role as being intentionally affective in nature. Based on the findings, the study suggests that a PST or a similar role at an ODL institution should be closely aligned with the needs and expectations of the students for whom this role is envisaged. We further recommend using Karp’s four non-academic support mechanisms as a framework when establishing or revising such a support role.


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