A Multi-Island Situation Without the Ocean: Tutors' perceptions about working in isolation from colleagues

  • Ilse Fouche University of South Africa (Unisa)
Keywords: Distance education, open education, tutor isolation, staff isolation, collaboration, administrative support, professional support, colleague support


Distance education is generally seen as a very isolating experience for students, but one often forgets that it can be an equally isolating experience for teaching staff, who sometimes must work in isolation from colleagues. This study examines the experiences of nine tutors at one of the 10 biggest universities in the world, Universtiy of South Africa's (Unisa) Reading and Writing Centres. The tutors all work at different Regional Offices across South Africa. This study examines both quantitative data (closed-ended questions) and qualitative data (open-ended questions) obtained from questionnaires. This study seeks to determine to what extent administrative support, professional development support, and colleague support influence tutors' feelings of isolation. This paper takes the position that if feelings of isolation are curbed, staff retention will be improved, which in turn means that the university retains valuable experience. Findings show that contact with and collaboration between colleagues significantly decrease feelings of isolation. Other important methods of curbing isolation are regular training and continuous administrative support.

Author Biography

Ilse Fouche, University of South Africa (Unisa)
Ilse Fouche is a tutor at the University of South Africa (Unisa) Reading and Writing Centres. She is currently busy with her MA degree in Applied Language Studies. She has been teaching academic literacy for four years. Her duties include facilitating undergraduate and postgraduate academic literacy workshops, and helping students in individual consultations. Ms Fouche's email address is: uvudec18@unisa.ac.za
How to Cite
Fouche, I. (2006). A Multi-Island Situation Without the Ocean: Tutors’ perceptions about working in isolation from colleagues. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 7(2). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v7i2.295
Research Articles