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Employers’ perception and expectations of professional competency of distance learning graduate: A tracer study of graduates of National Open University of Nigeria
Published on: April 11, 2022

Research team

  1. Dr Dorothy Ofoha
  2. DrOnyeka lwuchukwu

Duration: 20I3

Funded by: Commonwealth of Learning

Project objectives

Noting the scepticism against open and distance learning (ODL) and the challenge of acceptability of ODL certificates by the labour market, the need to assess the quality of ODL graduates in the workplace becomes imperative. The study was designed to track NOUN graduates in their places of work to ascertain their level of professional competency and to explore employers’ expectations of graduate competencies. Since research has found that competencies are acquired at different rates in different professions, it is essential to focus on one particular field at a time when conducting a tracer study. Hence, the study targeted graduates from the B.Sc. Nursing Programme, given that the nature of the programme is competency-based. Specifically, the study was designed to determine:

  • the present level of professional competency among NOUN graduate nurses in their workplace as assessed by external assessors;
  • whether there have been any significant changes in NOUN graduates’ attitude to work (from the time of enrolment to the time of completion of studies and thereafter);
  • the proportion of professional competency that is attributed to workplace experience and the proportion attributed to the education received from NOUN;
  • the proportion of NOUN graduates that met employer expectations;
  • perception of NOUN graduates on the quality of education provision in NOUN;

This study employed a mixed methodology using a purposively selected sample of 240 NOUN alumni who graduated from the Nursing programme, and a corresponding 240 heads/top-level managers of the organisations where the graduate nurses were employed. Multiple instruments were used to collect data including competency tests, survey questionnaires, direct observation and interview schedules.

Summary of the outcomes

The majority of sampled graduates appeared to possess a high level of professional competency in all three competency dimensions measured (clinical performance, nursing documentation, and knowledge and understanding of nursing practice). A significant proportion of employers seemed to hold high perceptions regarding the graduates. NOUN graduates demonstrated a positive attitude to work both before and after graduation. The rating of the employers showed significant changes in graduates’ attitude to work as reflected in the reduced rate of absenteeism, lateness, number of complaints, number of queries and warnings, number of work-related accidents, and use of mobile phones. The findings based on graduates’ assessment of themselves corroborated those of the employers. A significant proportion of graduates met and exceeded employer expectations. A high proportion I 08 (62.4%) of NOUN graduate nurses appeared to have acquired competencies that could be attributed to workplace experience while 65 (37.6%) had competencies that could be attributed to the education received from NOUN. Also, the quality of education provision in NOUN concerning the BSc Nursing programme was highly rated by the majority of sampled NOUN graduate nurses. The quality of course content topped the list of ten indicators that received the highest rating while the provision of clinical practicum exercise and the quality of infrastructural facilities were rated the least.

  • There is a need for NOUN to conduct more tracer studies in other areas of professional fields and their findings utilised in the decision-making process of the institution. It would therefore be desirable to set up a tracer study unit in NOUN that would coordinate such tracer studies.