Moodle in an Open Distance e-Learning University: Is It a Building or Stumbling Block to Student Interaction and Autonomy?




e-learning, modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment, first-year students, open distance e-learning, student experiences; interaction, autonomy, transactional distance


Higher education institutions (HEIs) in Africa are seemingly staggering under the burden of digital division and exclusion. Due to its perceived flexibility and affordability for students in remote areas, distance education is a popular option for many students at HEIs. One of the e-learning tools introduced is a modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment (Moodle) learning management system (LMS), which is designed using web-based applications and provides online learning services to students. The key question remains: how do first-year students experience Moodle? Do they view it as a building block to their learning? Or is it a stumbling block? This article reports on a study that was conducted in a South African open distance e-learning (ODeL) institution with students who speak English as an additional language, in an Academic Writing module. The study used a qualitative case study approach and drew on the theory of transactional distance to understand how Moodle encourages student interaction and autonomy. Although the study findings cannot be generalised on a broader scale, the findings are in line with similar studies, amplifying the critical role of student experiences, interaction, and autonomy in HEIs to bring about the required change.

Author Biographies

Kershnee Sevnarayan, University of South Africa

Dr Kershnee Sevnarayan is 33 years old and obtained her PhD from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. She is a senior lecturer at the department of English Studies at the University of South Africa. Her research interests include technology integrated teaching and learning. She has published both locally and internationally. She has 11 years of teaching experience in both school and higher education contexts. She is also a Shanghai Open Univerity visiting scholar.

Kgabo Maphoto

Ms Kgabo Maphoto is a 31 year old female and junior lecturer in the Department of English Studies at the University of South Africa. She recently completed her Master’s degree Cum Laude. Her work focuses specifically on academic writing in ODeL and the impact of feedback in students’ writing. She looks forward to conducting more research on feedback and academic writing within the context of ODeL.

Mirriam Madikwe Keagile Lephalala, University of South Africa

Mirriam Lephalala is an Associate Professor and lecturer in the Department of English Studies at the University of South Africa (UNISA). She teaches both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and has successfully supervised students to completion. She has published in the area of English language teaching and learning, and student support in distance education. She has received a number of distance education related awards including the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE) Journal of Distance Education (JDE) Editor’s Award and the Fulbright Scholarship Award from the US Embassy. She has presented papers at various distance education conferences and published in this field with a specific focus on language learning and learner support. Her current research interests include student writing, assessment, e-learning, academic writing and language practices in distance education. She has been involved in international distance education institutions as an online tutor as well as a student and is currently pursuing a course in Technology in Distance Education and E-Learning at UMUC, in the USA. She serves as an external examiner for various national and international institutions.


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How to Cite

Sevnarayan, Kershnee, Kgabo Maphoto, and Mirriam Madikwe Keagile Lephalala. 2023. “Moodle in an Open Distance E-Learning University: Is It a Building or Stumbling Block to Student Interaction and Autonomy?”. Progressio 44:19 pages.



Received 2022-07-01
Accepted 2023-07-04
Published 2023-08-01