The Provision of Co-operative Education through Open and Distance Learning Mode at Moshi Co-operative University (MoCU): Success, Challenges, and Prospects

Enitha Michael Msamba
Moshi Co-operative University (MoCU)

This study aimed at assessing the provision of co-operative education through open and distance learning (henceforth, ODL) mode at Moshi Co-operative University (MoCU). Specifically the study aimed at analysing the success and challenges the university is experiencing in the provision of co-operative education through ODL mode as well as the prospect of ODL co-operative education. The study used convenience sampling strategy. The population of the study included staff members currently working and those previously worked with the ODL department. Data were collected using questionnaires, key informant interview, and documentary review.
 The findings indicated there are many accomplishments the university has attained since it stated offering co-operative education through ODL mode such as increase in number of collaboration and networking, increase in the number of ODL academic staff, attainment of membership, and certificate recognition. However, the successes are not without challenges. Among the challenges include high students drop-out, low graduation rates, declining in the number of students enrolment, financial challenges, poor marketing strategies of ODL programmes etc. Nevertheless, even with these challenges, researchers agree that co-operative education is a critical factor in these new initiatives of co-operative development. Thus, there is a good future for co-operative education offered through ODL mode, as long as the university places equal effort in promoting co-operative education through ODL mode as it is with its residential programmes.
  1. Introduction
Distance education is any educational process in which all or most of the teaching is conducted by someone removed from space and/or time from the learner, with the effect that all or most of the communication between teachers and learners is through an artificial medium, either electronic or print (UNESCO, 2002). ODL is a method of learning that releases learners from constraints of time and place whilst offering flexible learning opportunities. The method helps to relieve learners from multiple roles such as employees and mothers (Bee, 2011).  ODL has become a policy option for a growing number of African states as it has the potential to provide higher education to masses while the personnel remain in employment to continue servicing the market (Pityana, n.d). In African continent where resources are scarce and higher education provision is poor, ODL has been accepted as a viable, cost effective means of expanding provision without costly outlay in infrastructure. Among the early established ODL universities in Africa include: University of South Africa (UNISA), Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU), Open University of Tanzania (OUT), and the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) (Musingafi, Mapuranga, Chiwanza, & Zebron, 2015).
According to Mnjagila, (2012) ODL education in Tanzania has been practiced since the year 1970’s. It was influenced by the government with the aim to improve educational access, equity, and equality and to create a lifelong learning population. This was achieved by establishing the National Correspondence Institute (NCI) which was established under the University College of Dar es Salaam in 1969. The main objective of the institute was to serve underprivileged literate but isolated youth throughout the country with the aim of expanding access to education to all. The major thrust of NCI programmes was in mass, secondary, and professional education courses so as to help those with primary-level education to attain secondary level education (as a pre-requisite for professional training), and those with secondary-level education to obtain professional qualifications, particularly, in the areas of public and business administration as well as in the teaching profession (Dodds, 1996 as cited in Kolimba, Kigadye & Reuben, 2012). Later on, a number of other institutions, mostly by public institutions like the then Co-operative College of Moshi, currently, known as Moshi Co-operative University (MoCU), Institute of Adult Education (IAE), The Open University of Tanzania (OUT) and the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) among others, started to provide ODL at different levels (Kolimba, Kigadye, & Reuben, 2012).
 According to Pityana (n.d) ODL is a practical approach to address the challenge of widening access thus increasing participation in higher education in developing countries. It is a good education strategy that is accessible to people who cannot attend regular classes due to social structural or personal situations (Rotim & Sanusi, 2012). Even with the challenges such as lack of infrastructure and professional competence facing ODL, the forms of educational delivery have come to stay, and many countries are looking at open and distance learning as a major strategy for expanding access, raising, and ensuring cost-effectiveness (UNESCO, 2002).
 1.1 Co-operative Education
Co-operative education is defined as “a structured educational strategy integrating classroom studies with learning through productive work experiences in a field related to a student’s academic or career goals” (Groenewald, 2004, p. 17 Haddara &Skanes, 2007). It is a fifth principle of co-operative which requires co-operatives to provide education and training to its members, elected representatives, manager and employees so that they can contribute effectively to the prosperity of their co-operatives (Zeuli & Cropp, n.d). Education of co-operative members is essential for effective communications both internal and external of co-operative society, because members need to know the unique features of co-operatives in general and how those features affect their cooperatives day-to-day operations (Williamson, n.d). Co-operative education can be provided by the number of agencies such as large and small co-operatives, universities, state co-operative councils, farm organizations, State Department of Agriculture, Credit Union Leagues, The National Institute on Co-operative Education (N.I.C.E.), and Rural Business Co-operative Service (RBCS), among other (Williamson, n.d).
Co-operative education  can be provided through different activities such as self-directed learning guided by organized tutoring, networking especially through peer learning, workshops, seminars or tailor made programmes, training of trainers and members; Open and Distance Learning (ODL), and long-term training programmes leading to award of accredited certificates (Bee, 2011).
The history of co-operative education in Africa has great connection with the co-operative education in U.K. it was pioneered by the Rochdale Society, who during their time, they placed a high priority on education thus they established library and newsroom.  By 1850, they were running their own school and adult education classes and there were other informal activities which characterised co-operatives education such as choirs, drama groups, and public parades (Shaw, 2009). However, in 18thC formal co-operative education was introduced and there were new programmes established with a detailed annual prospectus being produced. Further, there was a movement to establish co-operative college. They believed that “Education of university standard is essential if we are to equip ourselves properly …” (The College Herald, 1914 p3 as cited in Shaw, 2009). On that note, in 1919 the first college was established at Holyoake House in Manchester.
In Africa, introduction of co-operative education was related to the development of co-operative education in UK during colonial time. Co-operative colleges were established in most of the British colonies in Africa – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Swaziland, Botswana, and Lesotho (Shaw, 2010 as cited in Bee, 2011). Today, there are a number of universities, colleges, departments, and co-operative training centres which offer co-operative education in Africa. Examples of universities and colleges providing co-operative education both degree and non-degree programmes are as follows: Moshi Co-operative University  (MoCU), The Co-operative University College of Kenya, Lesotho Co-operative College, Uganda Co-operative College in Kigumba, Lusaka Co-operative College and Katete College, both in Zambia, Co-operative College Swaziland, Federal Co-operative College of Nigeria, and Co-operative College Ghana
Apart from residential courses offered by the universities and colleges, they also provide open and distance learning as well as outreach education for the wider co-operative sector such as the staff, leaders, and members of the co-operative societies. Regardless of the challenges co-operatives universities and colleges experience, co-operative education is increasingly becoming international through admission of foreign students, recruitment of foreign trainers, and sharing of training materials (Bee, 2011).
1.2 The Establishment Moshi Co-operative University (MoCU)
The history of MoCU dates back to January 5, 1963 when the Co-operative College Moshi was established to cater for the training needs of the co-operative sector in the country. In 2004 Co-operative College Moshi was transformed into Moshi University of Co-operative and Business Studies and it became the constituent college of the Sokoine University of Agriculture.  In 2014, the university college gained the status of being a full-fledge university (after 35 years as a co-operative college). MoCU is the only university in the Sub-Saharan region that offers co-operative and business education at undergraduate, postgraduate, and other non degree programmes in the fields of co-operative accounting, co-operative management, financial co-operative and rural development. The University has been the training base for senior and middle cadre personnel from Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa, etc. (Bee, 2011). It also has a campus at Kizumbi in Shinyanga Region. Apart from that, the university maintains a network of regional offices located in Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Shinyanga, Mwanza, Dodoma, Tabora, Kigoma, Mbeya, Iringa, Ruvuma, Coast, Mtwara and Singida regions to carter for grassroots training, research, and consultancy in the country, particularly in co-operative sector (MoCU, 2012).
  1. Open and Distance Education at MoCU
Moshi Co-operative University has been offering distance education since 1964. It started by establishing Co-operative Education Centre (CEC) in 1964 to carter for the training of members, leaders and primary societies’ personnel, and was formally registered to operate in Tanzania on 6th June, 1967. In 1968, the Government of Tanzania signed an agreement with Governments of Sweden and Denmark for the latter to support CEC to provide co-operative education countrywide through established Regional Wings (now Regional Centres). The objective of CEC was to provide co-operative education through short seminars, workshops, radio programmes, study circles and correspondence courses, which was structured for the understanding of the basic co-operative knowledge (Bee, 2014). Further, at that time, the centre was a private facility owned by the Co-operative Union of Tanzania (CUT). When Tanzania experienced serious macro-economic crises towards the end of 1970s to early1980s, the government was forced to introduce economic reform measures like trade liberalization which had a big impact on co-operative education. The introduction of trade liberalization weakened the co-operative organizations as they became unable to compete with corporate companies and private traders which caused them to be nearly outdated. As a result, in 1993, CEC had to be integrated with the college. Under the college, the name was transformed into Directorate of Field Education (DFE) but maintaining the regional outreach structures. Since then, the college has undergone a series of transformation. In 2004, the college was transformed and the government declared the establishment of the Moshi University College of Co-operative and Business Studies (MUCCoBS) as a constituent college of the Sokoine University. Along with the transformation, the Directorate of Field Education, together with its activities, was transformed into Institute of Continuing Co-operative Development and Education (ICCDE) (Bee, 2014).
Currently, distance education has been offered under the Institute of Continuing Co-operative Education (ICCD). The institute has three departments, namely, extension and outreach programmes, distance education, and gender development. The department of distance education offers the following distance learning programmes: Professional Financial Co-operative Management (PFCMP) which carries three programmes; Professional Certificate in Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies (PC-SACCOS) - English, Foundation Certificate in Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies (FC-SACCoS) - English (PC-SACCOS) – Kiswahili and Post-Graduate Diploma in SACCOS Management (PGD- SACCOS). Other programmes are Basic Book Keeping for Primary Co-operative Societies (BBPC) - Kiswahili, Leadership and Management of Savings and Credit Co-operatives Societies (DLM&C)-Kiswahili, and Leadership in Co-operatives.
 2.1 Organisation of the Programmes
The programmes are usually organised into modules depending on topics to be covered.  The content of the above programmes is usually modified over time so as to suit the clients’ needs. Since the content is divided into modules, it gives a chance for the interested part to learn either a module or the whole programme depending on his or her needs. On that note, even the payment of the tuition fee follows that perspective.
2.3 Target Groups
The target groups for the co-operative ODL are: the members, board members, managers and accountants, credit officers and secretaries of primary co-operative societies, union apexes, and federation, leaders of the other members based organisations, financial and other non financial organisations including informal groups, entrepreneurs, and individuals who are aspiring to strengthen their skills in co-operative accounting, co-operative management, financial co-operative and rural development.
2.4 Method of Delivery
The basic method of delivery employed for the distant learners involves the use of printed materials whereby the candidates are provided with the required readings and distance learning guidelines. The materials are posted to regional centres for students to collect. The medium of instruction is both English and Kiswahili so as to provide a chance for majority of the co-operative members, managers, and employees who have basic education and thus cannot use English language to be able to join the programmes.
  1. Statement of the Problem
In all countries conventional educational institutions, most notably at university level, are adding ODL activities to their face-to-face teaching and becoming ‘dual-mode’ institutions (Kanwar & Daniel, 2009). Like other universities, Moshi Co-operative University has set itself to provide co-operative education in both conventional and ODL mode as co-operative education is very critical for the advance in innovative solutions for co-operative development worldwide (Bee, 2014). Yet the provision of ODL education is not without challenges, milestones, and prospects. This account for the reason why the study is out to depict on the success, challenges and the prospects of open and distance co-operative education at the university.
  1. Research Objectives
The main purpose of this paper is to explore the provision of co-operative education through open and distance learning mode at Moshi Co-operative University (MoCU), assessing its success, challenges, and prospects. Specific objectives of the paper were:
  1. To identify the success of ODL co-operative education.
  2. To identify the challenges the University experiences in the course of providing ODL co-operative education.
  3. To examine the prospects of ODL co-operative education.
 Research Methodology
The study focused on the successes, challenges, and prospects of co-operative distance education. Therefore, the population of this study consisted of mainly staff members who are currently working and those worked at ICCE such as directors, coordinators of ODL programmes, heads of the distance learning department and other administrative staff at the department. The study used convenience sampling strategy to obtain its respondents. The main data collection techniques were questionnaires, key informant interview, and documentary review. Three key informant interviews were held with 3 administrative officers in distance learning programmes. The interview was conducted to obtain additional viewpoints on the success, challenges, and prospects of ODL programmes at the university. Data were analysed both, qualitatively and quantitatively.
 Findings and Discussion
6.1 Success of the Co-operative ODL
  1. Collaboration and networking
The university has managed to partner with Development International Desjardins (DID) to offer a distance learning programme ‘Professional Financial Co-operative Management’ (PFCM) for executive and technicians in SACCOS and co-operative sector. DID provided technical and financial support during the initiation of the programme. Since its establishment, the programme has managed to attract a good number of customers within and outside the country.
 Moreover, since 2010, the university partnered with Uganda Co-operative Alliance (UCA) to develop and implement a nine (9) months long distance Professional Financial Co-operative Management Programme for SACCOS management staff and leaders in Uganda. The purpose of the course is to build the capacities of SACCO’s leadership and management staff to ensure that they can implement and comply with the sound SACCOS performance standards in their respective SACCOS. In the first intake, a total of 108 students graduated in January 2012 and others are still continuing to register and graduate from the programme.
 Increase in the number of academic staffs for ODL
The Department of Open and Distance learning at the university was established in the year 2005. At the time, the department had only 3 lecturers. But up to now, the department has 40 lecturers. Some of the lecturers, who are teaching residential programmes, have been enrolling into ODL certificates and post-graduate diploma courses which qualify them to work with the department. By doing so, the university has managed to solve the problem of untrained ODL practitioners and the part-timers lecturers.
  1. Membership
The university is member of the Distance Education Association of Tanzania (DEATA), a national association, which was established in December 1992 and registered in August 1993. The association comprises of all institutions offering distance education in Tanzania. The role of the association is to promote networking and collaboration among distance education professionals in Tanzania. By being a member, the university has a chance to participate in different activities organised by the association including participating in a National Forum on Distance Education; which is usually held annually. For example, in 2013 the university had an opportunity to host two days DEATA conference. What is more, by being a member to the association, the university has a chance to participate in different international distance education gatherings like the ODL project of 2014 organised by Southern African Development Community (SADC) to provide trainings on different areas. Among them were ODL curriculum planning and material development; ODL financing, budgeting and costing; Student support, assessment and accreditation in ODL; E-Learning etc. whereby 8 members from the department had a chance to participate.
  1. Certificates recognition
The Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) launched a new initiative known as Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). The initiative allows people with only primary education to be admitted to higher education based on work experience – once they have passed an entrance examination. Before RPL programme, many of the graduates who were registered for correspondence courses like Basic Book-keeping for Primary Co-operative Societies (BBPC); Leadership and Management Programme for Primary Co-operative (LMPC) and Leadership and Management Programme for Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies and those registered under Professional Financial Co-operative Management Programme (PFCMP) such as Foundation Certificate in SACCOS Management (FC-SACCOS) and Professional Certificate in SACCOS Management (PC-SACCOS), their certificates were not accepted in the process of further education because either they had primary education certificates or had work experience but not enough credit to allow then to continue to higher levels. However, from the academic year 2013/2014 graduates of these programmes have been able to be enrolled into universities to continue with their studies as long as they have experience in a field, show intention to pursue university education, competent in written and spoken English and most importantly, they have passed RPL entrance exams.
6.2 Challenges of the Co-operative ODL
There are many challenges which co-operative distance education has been experiencing. One of the challenges is low students’ enrolment. The findings indicate that the number of students registering for co-operative distance learning education has been declining day after day; even though it was not possible to get the enrolment data for all programmes since they   were established. However, enrolment data on PFCMP programme for academic year 2010/2011 to 2014/2015 shade light on the issue.
Table 1: Summary of Enrollment for Academic Year 2010-2015
Academic yearNumber of Registered StudentsNumber of students Graduated
 PFCMP UgandaPFCMP TanzaniaPFCMP UgandaPFCMP Tanzania
Source: PFCMP Registration Records (2015)
 The number of students enrolling for PFCM programme kept on declining in the academic year 2015/2016. On top of that, the programme did not admit any students from Uganda, because the number of the student registered for studies was too low compared to the cost of running the programme as shown in Table 2.
Table 2: Summary of Enrollment for Academic Year 2015/2016
TOTAL 362460
Source: PFCMP Registration Records, (2016)
There are many reasons that are connected with the decline of the student’s enrolment. One of the reasons is said to be the programme is tailored to SACCOS employees only, since the numbers of SACCOS are limited both in Tanzania and Uganda, many of SACCOS have already sent their employees to pursue the programme. This has eventually decreased the number of students registering into the programme. Moreover, there is the failure to accredit the PFCM programme in Uganda. Uganda National Examination Board does not recognise programmes run in collaboration with non academic institutions in this case UCA inclusive; hence, it has been difficult for its graduate to proceed with higher levels of education.
A low graduation rate was also found to be a challenge by 85.6% of the respondents. From the Table 1, we can also see the difference between a number of students registered and students graduated. From academic year 2010-2015, 103 students did not graduate on time or some from dropped the programmes in the process. This may be attributed to the difficulties of juggling between work and school and failure to balance time for each activity.
Furthermore, the respondents identified lack of multiple method of delivery as a challenge to ODL. The programme still relies on printed materials and face to face meetings and to some extent radio programme. Similarly, there is lack of delivery technological tools such as audio, video, and computer aided programmes. Not only that, 51.7% of the respondents agreed that even the use of ICT in the process of communication and sharing of materials between students, the department, and their supervisors is still low. It was revealed that many students live in rural areas where they cannot access internet or they do not have background in ICT education. As a result, they have to rely on the university regional offices for teaching and learning materials and communication in general.
The findings further indicate that, quality assurance was as well a challenge with ODL at the university. According to Kalineza, Msonganzila, and Nzilano (2014) there is a challenge in quality assurance issues  especially on  the effectiveness of   the management of the learning and evaluation especially when is done in a situation where the learner and teacher are separated. For example, as we have seen, the university in collaboration with Uganda Co-operative Alliance runs Professional Financial Co-operative Management programme for SACCOS management. In this programme, all examinations and tests are conducted at Uganda Co-operative Alliance centre; however, Uganda Co-operative Alliance is neither an academic institution nor does it work under any academic institution. Even though most of the time the supervision is done by the part time lecturers from academic institutions, quality assurance issues such as professional handling of learner is still a challenge.
Moreover, another challenge identified was the lack of research conducted on co-operative education ODL. It was reported that, despite that in Tanzania, MoCU is the only accredited institution offering co-operative education in distance and conversion mode there is no enough research conducted on co-operative distance education and co-operative education in general. According to one of the respondents, this is attributed with lack of enough funds to finance education and research.
Besides, it was pointed that, the university lacks organisational policy that stipulates how ODL can be financed. According to Bee, (2014) the nature of their ownership and funding of the then Co-operative College and Co-operative Education Centre (CEC) were different. While the College was a public institution owned and funded by the government, the centre was a private facility owned by the Co-operative Union of Tanzania (CUT) on behalf of the movement. Up to now, many courses offered under the ODL department are run as a project therefore the department has to rely on the funds collected from the students and other departmental activities to finance and run its activities. Currently, with the declining number of students’ enrolment, even the ability to finance its activities is becoming a challenge and there is no fund the department receives from the university.
Poor collaboration and networking between the university and other co-operative supporting institutions such as Tanzania Federation of Cooperatives (TFC), The Savings and Credit Co-operative Union League of Tanzania Limited (SCCULT), Co-operative Audit and Supervision Corporation (COASCO), and the Tanzania Co-operative Development Commission (TCDC) is another challenge. When ODL programmes were just introduced, many teachers were outsourced from these institutions since the university did not have enough human resources. However, currently these institutions are competing with the university because; one among their objectives is to provide training and education to their members. Thus instead of collaborating with the university to support their clients to join different programmes offered at the university, it has created conflict of interests as they also train these people.
Organisation resistance to change is also another challenge among the many challenges which affects ODL at the university. The university has heavily invested in the residential programme to the extent that ODL seems as a project for the few. Furthermore, the department has shortage of ODL diploma courses something that makes it difficult for the programme to be able to absorb students graduating from their certificates since department offers certificates courses and postgraduate diploma programmes only. At the same time, other departments have been reluctant to let them borrow their programmes so that they can be offered in ODL mode. Some of the departments are even ready to run their programmes in ODL mode rather than allowing existing ODL department to manage the programmes.  All of the above challenges are summarised in the Table 3.

Table 3: The Challenges Facing Co-operative Distant Education (in Percentages)
(SN-Strongly Agree, A-Agree, UN-Undecided, D-Disagree, SD-Strongly Disagree)
1.High students drop-out85.70014.30
2Low graduation rates85.60014.30
3Certificates are not recognised in the of further education57.114.3014.314.3
4.Low students enrolments rates42.842.9014. 30
5Inadequate teaching and learning resource14.328.6042.814.3
6Lack of research in co-operative ODL071.4028.60
7Ineffective communication system which does not guarantee two way communication28.614.3057.10
8Poor staff motivation028.6057.114.3
9Lack of multiple methods of delivery071.4014.314.3
10Inadequate research fund on Co-operative ODL057.1042.90
11Delay in production of course material14.328.6042.914.3
12Examination malpractice and impersonation at the venue014.3085.70
13Lack of clear organisation policy for financing ODL28.657.1014.30
14Shortage of human resources042.9057.10
15Problem with ODL quality assurance  matters057.1042.90
16Poor collaborations and networking87.514.3000
17Lack of trained personnel in the philosophy, principles and method of Co-operative ODL14.357.1028.60
18Low utilization of  ICT42.957.10 0
19Lack of shared vision on ODL within the organisation28.642.9028.60
20Organisation resistance to chance28.642.9028.60
Another challenge that was frequently mentioned by the respondents is that the university has not invested much effort in marketing distance learning programme. They only rely on the word of mouth and radio programme aired for just 15minutes, every week; on Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) frequency modulation (AM) Radio.  Apart from the time not being enough, but currently majority of people do not listen to AM radios frequencies, except those living in the villages where reception of amplitude modulation (FM) radios is poor.
6.4. Prospects of Co-operative ODL
Moshi Co-operative University is the only university in Tanzania offering programmes in co-operative education through conversation and distance learning mode; therefore, the future of co-operative education is clear only if equal weight will be placed in distance education as it is with residential programmes, moreover;
  1. There is a room for the university to register itself as a centre for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) examinations. This will help to solve the problem of progressing to higher level of distance learning programme for those graduate who have completed standard seven, with working experience in the field and attended some extramural or professional development courses relating to co-operative such as Foundation Certificate in SACCOS Management (FC-SACCOS), Professional Certificate in SACCOS Management (PC-SACCOS), and Professional Certificate in Financial Management Programme (PFCMP).
  2. Also, the university should run a dual mode programme that is, its programmes of study to be both distance and internal learning programmes. This will solve the challenge of vertical growth of the programmes offered for those who wish to grow vertically at the university. What is more, by doing so it will increase the university intake in some courses which meet urgent national needs in relation to the co-operative education; extend use of the university resources to eligible and interested people who could not pursue full-time programmes at the university campus and it will stop the university from preparing graduands in ODL to feed other universities instead of MoCU.
  1. The university plans to establish its own radio “Ushirika Radio Station” which could be used to market and educate the community about various programmes offered by the university. However, until that is done, deliberate effort to market the distance learning programmes within and outside the country should be made to ensure that stakeholders are well informed on the existence of the distance learning programmes at MoCU. This can be achieved through the use of community radios in different regions and not restricting itself to one Radio, TBC.
  2. If we depart from  the introduction of Prior-Learning Recognition, PFCMP and other correspondence courses were not recognised in the process of further education i.e. diplomas even within the university. Thus, the university should upgrade PFCMP and correspondence course programmes to fit the requirement as any other certificate so that the graduates can be accepted to join diploma programmes in any other higher learning institutions including MoCU as long as they have the qualifications.
  1. The university should acquire online distance learning system to smoothen coordination of distance learning programmes since some of the infrastructures are already in existence and are being used in residential programmes.
Broadly, co-operative distance education at the university in general has been facing financial challenges. It is high time for the university to devote equal effort in ODL programmes as it is in residential programmes. Among other benefits, the university will be able to increase its revenue since high enrolment means high income.
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