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Title: A soft systems framework for online distance education : the case of Saudi Arabia
Author: Basahel, Sulafah
ISNI:       0000 0004 8499 3125
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2017
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Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) developed by Checkland to adapt the theory in practice to tackle ill-defined issues that are difficult to measure and assess by hard systems thinking like political and social issues. SSM can be defined as a structured approach to understand real-world problems from the multiple perspectives of the people involved, rather than from a single viewpoint. The systems thinking literature acknowledges that SSM-Mode 2 places greater emphasis on the practitioner's interaction and reflection than on their intervention in a problematic situation. This indicates that the goal of SSM-Mode 2 is to enquire about a situation rather than explicitly change it. Additional research is required; however, as the SSM literature contains only a few studies specific to SSMMode 2. This thesis assesses the application of SSM-Mode 2 as a learning approach in the Online Distance Education (ODE) context. From a soft systems perspective, ODE is perceived as a problematic situation comprising interrelated and ill-defined issues, the interconnectedness of which can produce additional issues, which are perceived differently by multiple stakeholders involved in ODE practices. This leads to a high level of complexity and lack of understanding of how the system works for decision makers who administer and design ODE systems. In this regard, ODE seems a suitable context within which to apply a soft systems approach to understand the ODE context holistically. Herein, the SSM-Mode 2 approach is empirically employed to explore the ODE situation at King Abdulaziz University (KAU) within the cultural context of Saudi Arabia. The findings of this thesis led to the development of a novel conceptual framework which illustrates the characteristics and activities of the learning process encompassed in SSMMode 2, thus contributing to the development of SSM and enabling SSM and ODE practitioners to practice SSM-Mode 2 effectively in any future developments in ODE situations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: soft systems methodology ; mode 2 ; systems thinking ; online distance education ; higher education institution ; learning approach ; SSM