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Adding value to education for sustainability in Africa with inquiry-based approaches in open and distance learning

Rudi Pretorius (Department of Geography, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa)
Andrea Lombard (Department of Geography, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa)
Anisa Khotoo (Department of Geography, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 7 March 2016

3595

Abstract

Purpose

Inquiry-based approaches can potentially enrich sustainability learning in any educational context, more so in open and distance learning (ODL – perceived as theoretically inclined) and in regions of educational need (such as the Global South, of which Africa forms part). The purpose of this paper is to map the benefits and challenges of using inquiry-based learning (IBL), with reference to ODL and the value added by IBL in terms of education for sustainability (EfS) in Africa.

Design/methodology/approach

Evidence-based reflection is used to provide a narrative assessment of the experience gained with IBL in two undergraduate sustainability-focussed modules in the Department of Geography at the University of South Africa (Unisa), an ODL provider in Africa and the Global South.

Findings

Consideration of enabling and limiting factors indicates that although constraints are experienced, adoption of IBL approaches holds potential as pedagogic for EfS in Africa, due to grounding of learning in theory and applied to local places/contexts. This indicates a role for IBL to change perceptions regarding the lack of practical utility of ODL.

Originality/value

Implementing place-based and contextual IBL is innovative in ODL. It adds value to learning experiences and supports transformative learning, both important components of EfS and addressing a need in the African context. Practitioners will find the experience gained with implementation of IBL, coupled with possibilities associated with information and communication technologies, of value.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank M. Nöthling (Centre for Professional Development, Unisa) for her support of the development of alternative approaches to teaching and learning in the Department of Geography. They also thank J. Browne, C. Van Niekerk, A. Olwagen, L. Govender and J. Casoojee for their permission to re-print figures and the students of “Geography of tourism” and “Ecotourism” for permission to be quoted.

Citation

Pretorius, R., Lombard, A. and Khotoo, A. (2016), "Adding value to education for sustainability in Africa with inquiry-based approaches in open and distance learning", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 167-187. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2014-0110

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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