An investigation of the perceptions of South African students with regards to accelerated learning courses

Keywords: accelerated learning, first year students, financial accounting, summer and winter schools


The cost of repeating a module has both financial and social implications. The social implications include increased workloads when repeating a module and students often not being able to graduate within the prescribed minimum course period. A possible solution for this is the use of accelerated learning courses, in the form of summer or winter schools. These schools provide students with another opportunity to pass a module, during the summer or winter recess, using an accelerated learning mode, and consequently complete modules with prerequisites of failed modules in the following year. Using an accelerated learning approach, a summer or winter school covers a large portion of the content in semester or year modules in a shortened timeframe outside the normal academic period. Using a questionnaire approach, the various perceptions of first year students at the end of the academic year regarding the use of these schools were obtained and analysed. The timing of the end of the academic year allows students to familiarise themselves with the various accelerated learning courses offered to them throughout the academic year. The findings suggest that students have a positive perception of these schools despite most of them not having had previous experience of completing an accelerated learning course. Although previous literature has indicated that students are hesitant to complete finance-related modules in an accelerated learning format versus traditional semester and year modules, the perceptions indicate that students are willing to engage in financial modules, with the students identifying that the benefits of these accelerated learning courses exceed the cost. The findings suggest that students who are presented with various non-academic obstacles throughout the traditional module are able to use summer or winter schools as a way to reduce exposure to these obstacles and complete an accelerated learning course. The use of these schools therefore presents an area for module developers to consider when implementing these schools as a way to improve throughput rates, thereby contributing in a positive way to students’ financial and social health.

Author Biographies

L. M. Van Rooyen, Stellenbosch University

School of Accountancy

J. M. Ontong, Stellenbosch University

School of Accountancy

Z. L. Mitchell, Stellenbosch University

School of Accountancy


Africa Check. 2016. “FACTSHEET: Funding and the changing face of South Africa’s public universities | Africa Check.” Africa Check. (Accessed 25 February 2020).

Anastasi, J. S. 2007. “Full-Semester and Abbreviated Summer Courses: An Evaluation of Student Performance.” Teaching of Psycology 34(1): 19–22.

Arrey, L. N. 2005. “Intensive learning versus traditional learning in organic chemistry.” Summer Academe 5(1): 21–26.

Austin, A. M. and L. Gustafson. 2006. “Impact of Course Length on Student Learning.” Journal of Economics and Finance Education 5(1): 21–37.

Baard, R. S., L. P. Steenkamp, B. L. Frick and M. Kidd. 2010. “Factors influencing success in first-year Accounting at a South African university: The profile of a successful first-year Accounting student.” South African Journal of Accounting Research 24(1): 129‒147.

Blöndal, S., S. Field, and N. Girouard. 2002. “Investment in human capital through upper-secondary and tertiary education.” OECD Economic Studies 2002(1): 41–89.

Business Tech. 2018. “Government changes minimum entry requirements for a Bachelor’s degree in South Africa.” BusinessTech. (Accessed 25 February 2020).

Business Tech. 2019. “2018 Matric pass rate climbs to 78.2%.” BusinessTech. (Accessed 25 February 2020).

Burton, S. and P. L. Nesbit. 2008. “Block or traditional ? An analysis of student choice of teaching format.” Journal of Management and Organization 14(1): 4–9.

Carrington, L. G. 2010. “The impact of course scheduling on student success in Intermediate Accounting.” American Journal of Business Education 3(4): 51–60.

Caskey, S. R. 1994. “Learning outcomes in intensive courses.” The Journal of Continuing Higher Education 42(2): 23–27.

Centre for Chinese Studies. 2014. Conference: Building infrastructure and capacity in higher education: Lessons from China and South Africa. Stellenbosch University. (Accessed 25 February 2020).

De Jager, E. and R. S. Baard. 2019. “Does ‘free’ higher education in South Africa make economic sense?” South African Journal of Higher Education 33(6): 70–91.

Department of Basic Education. 2019. “Subject choice and career pathing.” Department of Basic Education. Pathing/tabid/980/Default.aspx (Accessed 25 February 2020).

Eames, M., S. Luttman, and S. Parker. 2018. “Accelerated vs. traditional accounting education and CPA exam.” Journal of Accounting Education 44: 1–13.

Edgecombe, N. 2011. “Accelerating the academic achievement of students referred to developmental education.” Assessment of Evidence Series.

Etheridge, J. 2020. “Matric 2019 results by numbers and provinces.” News24. 1/6 (Accessed 25 February 2020).

Ferguson, J. M. and A. E. Defelice. 2010. “Length of online course and student satisfaction, perceived learning, and academic performance.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 11(2): 73–84.

Government Gazette. 2018. Higher Education Act, 1997 (Act No.101 of 1997) Notice of amendment of minimum admision requirements for Higher certificate, Diploma and Degree programmes requiring a National Certificate (Vocational) at Level 4 of National Qualifications Framework.

Herrmann. M. and K. Berry. 2016. “An investigation into graduate student preference for compressed courses.” Academy of Educational Leadership Journal 20(2): 23–33.

Hesterman, D. 2015. Intensive mode delivery of courses in Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics. Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics: The University of Western Australia.

Hyun, E., M. Kretovics, and A. Crowe. 2006. “Curriculum characteristics of time-compressed course in a U.S. higher education institution.” Educational Research and Review 1(2): 29–39.

Johnston, V. 1997. “Why do first year students fail to progress to their second year? An academic staff perspective.” Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, York University, 11–14 September.

Keegan, D. 1995. Distance education technology for the new millennium: Compressed video teaching. (ZIFF papiere). Hagen: Institute for Research into Distance Education.

Lapsley, R., B. Kulik, R. Moody, and J. B. Arbaugh. 2008. “Is Identical really identical? An investigation of Equivalency theory and online learning.” The Journal of Educators Online 5(1): 1–19.

Lutes, L. and R. Davies. 2013. “Comparing the rigor of compressed format courses to their regular semester counterparts.” Innovative Higher Education 38(1): 19–29.

Lutes, L. and R. Davies. 2018. “Comparison of workload for university core courses taught in regular semester and time-compressed term formats.” Education Sciences 8(12): 1–12.

MacGregor, K. 2014. “The massification of higher education in South Africa.” University World News. (Accessed 25 February 2020).

Macupe, B. 2019. “Nzimande wants to prioritise rural universities.” Mail and Guardian. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Marriah, J. and S. Mlambo. 2020. “Motshekga all smiles as matric Class of 2019 breaks 80% pass rate.” IOL. (Accessed 25 February 2020).

Martin, H. and K. B. Culver. 2009. “To concentrate, to intensify, or to shorten?” Summer Academe 6: 59–69.

Mohamedbhai, G. 2014. “Massification in higher education institutions in Africa: Causes, consequences and responses.” International Journal of African Higher Education 1(1).

Muller, S. 2017. “Options on the table as South Africa wrestles with funding higher education.” The Conservation. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Muller, S. M. 2018. “Free higher education in South Africa: Cutting through the lies and statistics.” The Conversation. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Naidoo, A. and T. J. M. McKay. 2018. “Student funding and student success: A case study of a South African university.” South African Journal of Higher Education 32(5): 158–172.

Petersen, I. H., J. Louw, and K. Dumont. 2009. “Adjustment to university and academic performance among disadvantaged students in South Africa.” Educational Psychology 29(1): 99–115.

Prior, B. 2019. “South Africa’s latest matric pass rate shock.” Mybroadband. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

PwC. 2015. “Funding of public higher education institutions in South Africa.” PwC. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Richardson, J. T. E. and E. King. 1998. “Adult students in Higher Education: Burden or boon?” The Journal of Higher Education 69(1): 65–88.

Scott, P. A. and C. F. Conrad. 1992. “A critique of intensive courses and an agenda for research.” Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (8): 411‒459.

Scyoc, L. J. and J. Van Gleason. 1993. “Traditional or intensive course lengths ? A comparison of outcomes in Economics Learning.” The Journal of Economic Education 24(1): 15–22.

Seeth, A. 2017. “Limited Space: Universities face thousands of first year queries.” City Press. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Serdyukov, P. 2008. “Accelerated learning: What is it.” Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching 1(1): 35–59.

Shrivastava, M. and S. Shrivastava. 2014. “Political economy of higher education: Comparing South Africa to trends in the world.” Higher Education 67: 809‒822.

The Skills Portal. 2017. “Overcrowded universities not the only learning option.”

The Skills Portal. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Simonson, M. 1999. “Equivalency theory and distance education.” TechTrends 43(5): 5–8.

Spaull, N. 2019. “Increase in 2018 matric bachelor’s passes means universities headed for a perfect storm.” Daily Maverick. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Statistics South Africa. 2017. “Higher education and skills in South Africa.” Education Series Volume V.

Statistics South Africa. 2018. “Higher education continues to cut capital spending.” Stats SA. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Stead, D. 2019. “How much does it cost to study a first year at a South African university.” Go Study. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Thornton, B., J. Demps, and A. Jadav. 2017. “Reduced contact hour accelerated courses and student learning.” Journal of Instructional Pedagogies 18: 1–8.

Tjønneland, E. N. 2017. “Crisis at South Africa’ s universities – what are the implications for future cooperation with Norway?” CMI. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

Vlachopoulos, P., S. K. Jan, and L. Lockyer. 2019. “A comparative study on the traditional and intensive delivery of an online course: Design and facilitation recommendations.” Research in Learning Technology 27: 1–13.

Wangenge-Ouma, G. and N. Cloete. 2008. “Financing higher education in South Africa: Public funding, non-government revenue and tuition fees.” South African Journal of Higher Education 22(4): 906‒919.

Wayland, J. P. 2000. “Summer scheduling on a traditional campus: Expectations, reality, and implictaions.” In Annual Conference of the Southwestern Marketing Association.

Wlodkowski, R. J. and T. N. Westover. 1999. “Accelerated courses as a learning format for adults.” Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education 13(1): 1–20.

Xala, N. 2019. “Deputy Minister of Higher Education says overcrowding may lead to Universities deteriorating.” Hypertext. (Accessed 26 February 2020).

How to Cite
Van Rooyen, L. M., J. M. Ontong, and Z. L. Mitchell. 2021. “An Investigation of the Perceptions of South African Students With Regards to Accelerated Learning Courses”. South African Journal of Higher Education 35 (3), 254-79.
General Articles