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Unlike distance education institutions in developed countries Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University makes very limited use of assignments in its teaching programs. The…
Unlike distance education institutions in developed countries Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University makes very limited use of assignments in its teaching programs. The main means of interaction between tutors and students consists of free face-to-face tutorials conducted three times per semester in provincial centers throughout the country. In courses with low enrolments (less than 1000 students) such tutorials have recently been deemed not to be cost effective. Alternative regional or central intensive programs have been developed. These involve 20 hours of tutorial classes and assignment work over two weekends in the final month of the semester and count for 30% of the assessment. A small charge is made for registration. The Mathematics for Social Science course was affected by this change. Since mathematics is a difficult subject for students, (only about 30% normally passed the course) the special tutorial program was used to help students in the second semester of 2006. Students were more interested in this approach than in the regular face-to-face tutorials. After the project was advertised, 98 students applied. While this was more than three times the number who had attended the free tutorials in the previous semester, it was not sufficient to justify tutorials in the four regions. Instead, three classes were conducted in Bangkok. Only 71 of the original applicants attended. During the program the better students were asked to assist those who needed help. Student questionnaires indicated that more than half identified themselves as weak in mathematics, most had completed year 12 and just over three-quarters had never attended regular face-to-face tutorials. They were asked to rank items about the classes on a five-level scale. The availability of up to 30% of the marks for the course was the major attraction. Most indicated that they were pleased with the classes, and gained more knowledge; while assignments, as well as the solutions given after submission, helped them understand the contents. Having classmates help them with learning also encouraged them with their study. They felt that they needed more time to study and do assignment work, and would like more marks to be allocated for the assignments. It was found that the achievement of students who attended the special tutorial classes was significantly higher than that of those who did not. The pass rate in this semester dramatically increased compared to the previous semester, 50.72% and 30.34% respectively. But when comparing students' final exam scores for both groups, it was found that there was no significant difference in the scores. However students were satisfied with these special tutorial classes.