About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN09 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 832-842
ISBN: 978-84-612-9801-3
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2009
Location: Barcelona ,Spain
UNISA (the University of South Africa) is an open distance (tertiary) educational institution. This implies that students registered for any subject(s) or module(s) at Unisa (main campus situated in Pretoria, South Africa) can reside anywhere in the world. The delivery mode for studies at Unisa is via correspondence and Unisa does not have any formal classroom (venue) for teaching. In some modules face-to-face discussion classes are presented once per annum or semester, but generally students study at their own pace in their own homes and in their own time by corresponding with the lecturers concerned.

In 2005 UNISA expanded the use of telematic technologies (satellite broadcasting, virtual collaboration through the use of video conferencing, computers used for mediation of communication and other forms of digital collaborative infrastructure [1]. Telematic Student Support was enhanced by the option to replace face-to-face personal visits (for discussion classes to selected centres in South Africa) with the presentation of discussion classes via satellite. Satellite broadcasts enable students who cannot attend a discussion class ― especially those residing across national borders ― to hear and see what was asked, addressed and presented by the lecturer. The ultimate aim and purpose of the presentation of discussion classes via satellite broadcasts is to reach as many students as possible since registered Unisa students reside across the world. These broadcasts also illustrate interaction with students since they are able to raise important issues or questions. A Digital Video Disk (DVD) of each discussion class is available for purchase or for viewing at each of the regional centres of the university. A copy of the PowerPoint presentations used in the recording of the discussion classes are included in the follow-up tutorial letter sent to students.

This paper provides an overview of the establishment, development and student attendance of satellite broadcasting. It addresses the increase in lecturer and student participation, as well as the university’s commitment to integrate electronic media, and also to expand and include Telematic Learner Support in its commitment to continuously narrow the gap in terms of distance between students and the university. The paper has as purpose the creation of an awareness of how Unisa promotes Telematic Learner Support through the utilisation of discussion classes via satellite broadcasts and reports on the introduction, expansion and nature of Unisa Satellite Television (USTV) as an educational communication medium. This paper will be followed up with a scientific research study to investigate student and lecturer participation, interaction, benefits, problems experienced and possible recommendations for improvements. The proposed research will also measure the uses and gratifications experienced by students who utilise this educational communication medium.
distance education, information and communication technology (ict), learner.