By Dr Thirumeni T Subramaniam (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Prof Dr Latifah Abdol Latif (email@example.com)
ODL adult learners who discontinue their studies
before completing their programmes often do so
for a whole gamut of reasons, not all of which are
necessarily and causally linked to the institution in which
Dire financial diffi culties and inability to cope with
overwhelming life, work and family responsibilities are but
two factors that are very often beyond the control of both the
learner and the university.
Apart from these, there are, of course, other causal factors
which learners can realistically do something about in order
to stay on course.
Poor time management fi gures as one of the most critical
learning barriers for at-risk learners at OUM. Other barriers
include work pressure, poor learning skills, poor command
of the English language, and poor mathematical skills.
These are all barriers that have not reached the overwhelming
proportions that usually leave learners with little choice but
to drop out.
Given the foregoing, it is important to realise that not at-risk
learners are equally prepared to tackle learning problems
which are theoretically not impossible to surmount.
As Moore (1986) underscores, there are fundamentally three
kinds of working adult learners.
The first consists of self-directed learners who have decided
that the teaching programmes of their institution meet their
The second category refers to self-directed learners who are
motivated by the need for certifi cation which can only be
obtained by following the teaching programmes offered by
The third adult learner category refers to learners who are
not self-directed but use the educational institution to satisfy
their emotional needs for dependence.
It is this third category which requires our attention the
Cook (1993) states that the two common characteristics that
have an impact on learning effi cacy and the overall classroom
experience for adult learners are lifetime experiences and
the self-directedness of the learner.
Learners who are unable to incorporate lifetime experiences
into their studies and to direct their own learning are
considered to be at risk. The slightest hurdle will weigh
them down and eventually force them to leave the system.
In view of all this, several initiatives have been put in place
to help these learners. (See Dr Santhi's piece for a big picture
To highlight but a few initiatives, in January 2009, the Centre
for Student Management introduced Online Academic
Of course, the existence of such support will not automatically
make learners self-directed.
This is where tutors, as a point of contact for OUM, play a
crucial role in reaching out to their learners in order to help
them to take advantage of the available support.
Tutors, as a point of contact for OUM,
play a crucial role in reaching out to their
Tutors can help their learners in this and other ways, as
discussed in this issue of TCX.
Ultimately, however, there is only so much that tutors can
do to support their learners, especially those in the at-risk
The learners themselves also need to work at surmounting
the barriers they face in order to become self-directed and
effective in setting goals for their learning and evaluating
their learning performance.