2010–2015 Strategic Plan

Strategic plans

January 2010

CONTENTS

1. Introduction......................................................................................................................................... 2

2. ODL at a glance.................................................................................................................................. 3

3. Vision................................................................................................................................................ 4

4. Mission.............................................................................................................................................. 4

5. Strategic goals................................................................................................................................... 4

6. Structure............................................................................................................................................ 6

6.1 Division of Research and Analysis....................................................................................................... 7

6.2 Division of Capacity-building and Partnerships...................................................................................... 7

6.3 Division of Policy Development and Facilitation..................................................................................... 8

6.4 Division of Quality Promotion.............................................................................................................. 8

7. Prioritising actions.............................................................................................................................. 9

7.1 Coordination capacity........................................................................................................................ 9

7.2 The extent of funds available and fundraising capacity........................................................................... 9

8. Project management ......................................................................................................................... 10

9. Conclusion........................................................................................................................................ 11

In Africa, there is much to be gained from enhanced regional collaboration on policy issues, development of delivery systems and sharing of materials.[1]

1. Introduction

The Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA) is striving to become the regional powerhouse in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. DEASA’s general objective, as stated in its constitution, is to “enable members to share information, to collaborate in obtaining and developing quality distance education courses in identified areas of need, and to organise relevant professional development activities”. By being the central coordinating point for regional ODL organisations, from where member countries and institutions can share and create collaboration opportunities, DEASA underlines the principle that cooperation and the shared application of resources can contribute to improved efficiencies in the provision of ODL, thereby promoting the chances of more widespread and faster growth in the sector.

Through its linkages (both professional and informal) with other regional and international ODL organisations and statutory bodies, DEASA has become a key driver of initiatives to further develop ODL knowledge-sharing and collaboration in the region. To enhance its reach and impact, DEASA is actively encouraging all SADC countries and their respective institutions to become members and contribute to ODL.

During 2003, the member countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) initiated a strategic planning process to drive the process of ODL collaboration and growth. Based on six overall strategic objectives defined by the member countries, each country contributed action plans and cost estimates for the implementation of initiatives required to support the strategic direction.

In 2009, the extended executive of DEASA met several times to revise the 2003 strategic plan. The plan was presented at the DEASA annual general meeting (AGM) that was held in Maseru, Lesotho, on 19 September 2009. The meeting accepted the proposed strategic plan. This document is an integration of these inputs into a strategic framework for the period 2010–1015.

2. ODL at a glance

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has changed the nature of education, particularly distance education. The opportunities that have developed have been accompanied by as many challenges, especially when one looks at ODL in developing countries. This is evident in the changing nature of what constitutes ODL. According to the Commonwealth of Open Learning (COL), the typical characteristics of ODL definitions and approaches include the following:

  • The separation of teacher and learner in time or place
  • Some form of institutional accreditation to differentiate learning from working on one’s own
  • The use of mixed-media courseware
  • Two-way communication that allows interaction between learners and tutors
  • Opportunities for face-to-face interaction between learners and with tutors
  • Specialisation among staff in large organisations, especially in course development

Specific advantages of ODL, as identified by UNESCO, are as follows:

  • Balancing inequalities between age groups
  • Extending geographical access to education
  • Delivering educational campaigns and other education to large audiences
  • Providing speedy and efficient training for key target groups
  • Expanding the capacity for education in new and multidisciplinary subject areas
  • Offering the combination of education with work and family life
  • Developing multiple competencies through recurrent and continuing education
  • Enhancing the international dimension of educational experience
  • Improving the quality of existing educational services[2]

3. Vision

  • DEASA strives to be a world-class powerhouse in ODL policies, standards, expertise and information-sharing in the SADC region.

4. Mission

  • The mission of DEASA is to promote ODL quality delivery and its adequate deployment in the SADC region through the formulation of policies and frameworks to guide practice.

5. Strategic goals

DEASA has decided to pursue seven strategic goals for the period 20102015. DEASA has also developed specific strategies for each goal. In achieving these goals, DEASA will be able to progress towards its vision and realise its mission in the SADC region.

The goals and respective strategies are as follows:

Goal 1: To position and strengthen DEASA as a word-class regional association

Strategies

  • Conduct comprehensive stakeholder analyses to determine the impact of DEASA’s products and services in the SADC region
  • Perform continuous environmental  screening and benchmarking to position DEASA in line with the new vision
  • Optimise DEASA’s expertise and resources through strategic partnerships and collaboration
  • Develop an effective governance structure to monitor and evaluate the implementation of approved projects

Goal 2: To promote and facilitate relevant research in ODL

Strategies

  • Conduct an ODL research audit to identify focus areas  
  • Develop a research policy and agenda
  • Facilitate and promote research in line with research focus areas
  • Monitor and evaluate research outputs and their impact

Goal 3: To advocate effective platforms for knowledge management

Strategies

  • Develop a policy and framework for knowledge management to share material and expertise
  • Facilitate collaboration and networking to broaden DEASA’s knowledge base
  • Develop and maintain knowledge databases

Goal 4: To provide direction in the use and integration of ICT

Strategies

  • Conduct  a situational analysis of the ICT status and opportunities
  • Develop a policy and framework to provide direction of the contextual relevance of ICT utilisation
  • Promote research development and innovation in ICT

Goal 5: To provide leadership in addressing emerging socio-economic concern, including HIV and AIDS

Strategies

  • Assess the efficacy of ODL practices and expertise  in addressing emerging concerns
  • Continuously scan the environment to identify emerging socio-economic concerns
  • Identify points of intervention to complement the existing efforts in addressing concerns
  • Facilitate the development of policy with a specific emphasis on ethical leadership

Goal 6: To chart policy direction for the development and promotion of ODL

Strategies

  • Identify and assess existing policies and procedures to determine their efficacy  in line with ODL best practices
  • Develop a policy framework and guidelines to strengthen policy development and capacity
  • Facilitate the development of policies in line with the framework and guidelines
  • Advocate and promote the institutionalisation of ODL
  • Monitor and evaluate policy implementation and impact against ODL best practices

Goal 7: To direct the development and promotion of quality assurance

Strategies

  • Assess current quality assurance (QA) practices in the SADC region to develop a standardised framework
  • Develop criteria and standards for ODL in line with the SADC QA framework
  • Facilitate capacity-building to promote the implementation of quality assurance
  • Promote continuous inter-institutional audits

6. Structure

DEASA is a voluntary regional organisation without any dedicated appointed officials to run the day-to-day business of the association. The association is run according to its constitution and code of ethics. An executive elected by its members at an AGM takes the overall responsibility for the operations of DEASA.

The following structure will operationalise the strategic plan of DEASA: Four divisions were developed, each with a specific focus and key performance areas to address the strategic goals. A selected expert from a member institution will take responsibility for each division. This expert will be the chair of the division and will be supported by members from the region who are interested in the focus of that division. It will be the responsibility of the chair of each division, in cooperation with the members of his or her division, to develop and execute the plan of action.

The chairs of the divisions and the executive of DEASA constitute the extended executive of DEASA. The chairs report to the executive regarding their plans of action. The executive directs, facilitates, coordinates and supports the work of the divisions. During the annual general meeting, the executive will submit a report on progress made in achieving the goals contained in DEASA’s strategic plan.

6.1    Division of Research and Analysis

Key performance areas

  • Commission research and special studies
  • Mobilise resources
  • Engage in project scoping and the allocation of responsibilities
  • Monitor and evaluate the progress and impact of study

6.2    Division of Capacity-building and Partnerships

Key performance areas

  • Conduct a capacity needs analysis and the screening of potential partnerships
  • Engage in liaison and facilitate the signing of agreements
  • Monitor and evaluate the efficacy, tenure and impact of the partnership

6.3    Division of Policy Development and Facilitation

Key performance areas

  • Engage in policy screening and  analysis
  • Conduct scoping of the policy
  • Draft a policy framework and guidelines
  • Monitor and evaluate the progress and impact of policy implementation

6.4 Division of Quality Promotion

Key performance areas

  • Research QA frameworks
  • Develop and maintain QA frameworks for the SADC region
  • Promote quality through training and development
  • Monitor and evaluate QA through inter-institutional audits

The divisions will be guided by the following principles:

  • Ensure that ODL reaches its maximum market through increased collaboration and resource-sharing among ODL organisations
  • Understand the importance of ODL in becoming a vehicle for social and life-skills education
  • Realise the role an effective and focused DEASA can play in addressing the region’s education needs
  • Remain innovative and fresh in approaching the coordination of ODL in southern Africa.
  • From the seven goals, each division will identify those goals and strategies on which to focus.

7. Prioritising actions

One of the key measures of success for the implementation of DEASA’s strategic plan will be the extent to which actions take place in accordance with the time frame identified by each division. Monitoring progress against the project time lines will give DEASA’s Executive Committee and member countries the opportunity to assess the actions in terms of practical events and constraints. A number of factors can contribute to delays in implementation and these should be managed proactively to prevent serious backlogs from occurring. The two most crucial backlogs are discussed below.

7.1 Coordination capacity

The respective action plans vary in duration. Some had already started during the previous strategic phase. However, the official start-up date for this strategic plan is January 2010. There is a heavy burden on the Executive Committee, Secretariat and chairs of each division. Where there are a number of conflicting needs, prioritisation and consolidation will become very important to ensure that activities are staggered in a way that allows for sufficient attention to be given to all, without members spending time exclusively on these matters.

7.2 The extent of funds available and fundraising capacity

The action plans of the divisions will require significant inflows of external funds to ensure that activities are implemented. The nature of DEASA as a non-profit association means that membership fees and subscriptions will not cover expansion and growth goals in the short term. For this reason, urgent attention needs to be given to fundraising to cover the initial funding requirements of the action plans. DEASA might even opt to prioritise all actions that do not require funds as a way of ensuring that progress is made while funding is sourced. The extent of the funding that is needed will be determined once the divisions’ action plans have been developed and approved. It will be the responsibility of the extended executive to raise the necessary funds, based on the action plans developed by each division.

8. Project management

The successful implementation of the strategies for growth and collaboration outlined in this document will depend on the ability of all responsible parties to commit sufficient time and effort to the process.

Within the current DEASA structure, the Secretariat, which is located in the SADC Centre for Distance Education (SADC-CDE), will play a major role in the support and coordination of the work of the divisions. Project management requires good organisational, administrative and communication skills to ensure that progress is measured at both a high and detail level. Some basic rules of successful project management include the following:

  • Consensus on project outcomes should be established among all the relevant parties early on.
  • A comprehensive and viable project plan is required from each division and needs to be kept up to date.
  • The number of members per division and the expertise required to maintain momentum and progress need to fit the need.
  • The implementation schedule for projects to be concluded must be realistic.
  • Regular communication must be sent out to all stakeholders regarding all initiatives.
  • A budget and expenditure focus should be maintained.
  • Progress needs to be well supported by the executive.

For the Secretariat to act as a project office for the implementation of DEASA’s strategic goals, it will need to perform the following functions:

  • Maintain regular communication with all parties to assess progress
  • Track and update all project information electronically
  • Compile progress reports for the Executive Committee and brief them on progress as requested

9. Conclusion

DEASA is facing an exciting and challenging future. The period 2010 to 2015 will, in many ways, give further momentum to the development of quality ODL in the SADC region. In terms of its vision, DEASA is committed to work hard to realise its ambitious yet reachable goals. Key to successful implementation will be the association’s ability to communicate, work together in teams internally, and provide peer leadership to all parties concerned. Then, certainly, DEASA is set to become the ODL powerhouse in southern Africa.


[1] UNESCO. 2002. Open and Distance Learning: Trends, Policy and Strategy Considerations.

[2] UNESCO. 2002. Open and Distance Learning: Trends, Policy and Strategy Considerations.

 

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