Demystifying Online Modules and Study Guides: Unpacking Preferences of two Universities in Zimbabwe

  • Thomas Musankuleni Kaputa Zimbabwe Open University
  • Beatrice Bondai Maupa University of Zimbabwe
  • Pedzisai Goronga University of Zimbabwe
Keywords: Modules, Study guides, electronic Learning Management Systems, Distance Education, Teaching and Learning mode


This study explored lecturers’ preferences regarding online modules and study guides for Distance Education (DE) in Zimbabwe. It focused on two universities, one campus-based and the other one an open and distance electronic learning (ODeL) institution. The advent of Covid-19 has hastened the use of electronic learning management systems in higher and tertiary education institutions as an antidote for the pandemic. Universities agree that the use of technology is the only way to go in the new normal. The use of online modules or study guides, resisted for some time by campus-based universities, has now become central to the narrative on the best delivery mode for online teaching and learning. This qualitative study adopted a case study design. A sample of eighteen (18) participants drawn from two faculties of education, from the two universities, responded voluntarily to the online questionnaire sent to them through their emails. Thus, eight (8) participants from the campus-based institution and ten (10) from the open and distance institution responded to the online questionnaire. Data collected were analysed thematically. The study established that participants from the two institutions had differing views of which mode of teaching to adopt between online modules and online study guide. Campus-based participants preferred using study guides while participants from the open and distance electronic learning institution opted to use both modes of teaching although they preferred modules more. The study recommends that universities need to use lecturers’ preferences, as they are crucial for the success of online teaching and learning. Consultation is fundamental to coming up with a common position informed by lecturers’ preferences. In view of the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, the study further recommends that universities use online modules as they avail to the students more material in one package without using much data than is the case with study guides. For maximum benefit, where resources permit, universities may use both online modules and study guides. The study also recommends further research on university students’ preferences of online learning modes since they are the beneficiaries.