D. Gunasekera

The Open University of Sri Lanka (SRI LANKA)
Higher education undergoes fundamental changes as a result of increasing globalization, advances in technology, and changing demography of students. In response to these changes, distance mode learning in higher education is growing rapidly. During the last couple of decades, nations around the world have experienced a steep increase in the number of both secondary school graduates desiring to pursue higher education and working adults seeking specialized training to advance their careers and/or to keep up with the rapid changes in their professions. Therefore, the increased demand for educational opportunities and the need to find cost-effective solutions to meet this demand have become the top priority in national educational policy especially in case of developing countries where the population growth is most rapid and a well-trained workforce is most desired.

In Sri Lanka, as same as other developing countries new policies were drawn in 1970s to accommodate this demand for increased opportunities and higher education institutions of an off-campus nature to be definitely different from the external degree awarding system. Learner support services contribute directly to the two key issues of distance education: recruitment and retention. Many studies revealed that students without adequate support are likely to delay completion of their studies or drop out from the distance education programs and also indicated that customer satisfaction influences customer retention. Due to that quality service should be given to distance learners if the educational providers want to survive in the field.

The problem affected was that no evaluation was done to identify most critical factors and to measure level of importance and satisfaction on available resources and facilities.

The objective of this study is to specify the critical success factors (CSFs) of distance learning in Sri Lankan distance education system (SLDES) and to measure the level of importance-satisfaction on existing services.

Survey method was used to collect data from 163 distance learners who follow BA in Social Sciences at the OUSL. The main research tool was a questionnaire. The study employs a four dimensions and students were asked to mark the level of importance and satisfaction under the five point Likert sale ranging from ‘to a great extent’ to ‘not at all’. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with the 04 academic staff who conduct day schools to get their views and opinions on support services provided by the university and problems faced by them.

Collected data was analysed using SPSS package and t test was done to find out means and values, the importance and satisfaction scores associated with each attribute. The study identified that distance learners think all CSFs are important to them. They are satisfied with CSFs related to learning resources and Assessment while they are in moderate level satisfaction on support services and learning environment.