Students’ experiences of Open Distance Learning: A Samoan case study



Open Distance Learning, Samoa, distance learning pedagogy, collectivist cultures, in-service teacher education


The rise of Open Distance Learning (ODL) has created new learning opportunities for teacher education students, particularly in geographically remote small island states. Alongside increasing access to education, ODL is designed to promote independent and self-directed learning. Despite this highly individualised pedagogical orientation, little is known about how ODL is experienced in collectivist cultures, such as Samoa, where cultural practices are centred around a deep and interconnected relationality. This article responds to these concerns by employing fa’afaletui research methodology to investigate the pedagogical experiences of sixteen teacher education students in Samoa, who were completing a two-year teacher upgrade programme delivered through ODL.  The findings reveal that students placed a high value on relationality at all stages of their ODL programme. Students exercised agency to maintain relational connections by organizing their own informal face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations with fellow students and lecturers in order to enhance their learning. These findings suggest that relational connections and dialogic interactions were crucial for their learning, despite ODL providing few of these relational and dialogic opportunities. In a time where the global pandemic has accelerated the implementation of ODL, the findings of this study challenge the assumption that ODL can be unproblematically implemented, irrespective of context and culture, and offers important considerations for the international teacher education community.

Author Biographies

Tagataese Tupu Tuia, National University of Samoa

Dr Tagataese Tupu Tuia is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the National University of Samoa

Donella J Cobb, The University of Waikato

Dr Donella Cobb is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Waikato