Distance learning refers to a mode of study where a learner may complete all or part of an educational programme in a geographical location apart from the institution hosting the programme (Keegan, 1990). The final award given is equivalent in standard and content to an award programme completed on campus.
Makerere University External Programme
Open and Distance Learning programmes at Makerere University have been packaged as the Makerere University External Programme. As has already been indicated above, the origin of the External Programme is traced from 1991 when the University launched its two distance learning programmes, namely: Bachelor of Education (External) or B.Ed for short and Bachelor of Commerce (External) or B.Cox for short. According to Aguti (2009, p.219), the objectives for establishing the External Programme were to:
a) Increase University intake in some courses which meet urgent national needs;
b) Extend universal education; and
c) Extend use of University resources to eligible and interested people who could not pursue full-time courses and programmes at the University campus.
By 1992, 246 students had been registered on the two pioneering distance learning programmes. By 2001, Makerere University realized the objectives of the External Programme as two more programmes were bankrolled on the External Programme. These were the Commonwealth Diploma in Youth in Development Work programme or CYP for short, and Bachelor of Science (External) or BSc. for short. In that year, the overall student enrollment on all the four distance learning programmes grew to about 8,000 students. The Department received substantial funding from the central administration and student support was at its best. The Department also received a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the World Bank through the I@Mak.Com Project to facilitate materials production and setup regional learning centers fully equipped with ICTs. ICT enabled learning centres were setup in Fort Portal, Jinja, Mbale, Lira and Kampala. Support and administrative staff were also recruited at these learning centers. At that time the Department blossomed with decentralized student support services such as tutorials at learning centers, submission of assignments at learning centers, constant physical and non-physical outreach to students, materials production, materials distribution at learning centers and other designated places and effective student counseling and feedback. These support services offered flexible study opportunities to persons who would otherwise not be able to attend a fulltime education at the Makerere University main campus.