Distance education (DE), a term applied to study programmes dealing with students
who study independently, is characterised by a lecturer/presenter acting as a facilitator
to engage students. The facilitator and the students are separated in space and time.
The DE factors that contribute to students’ success or failure include the extent to
which facilitators have been trained and prepared and have received support before
the contact sessions, as well as the facilitators’ ability to interact with the students and
to create an opportunity for interaction among the students. This article is based on
the training and preparation facilitators at the University of Pretoria receive in order
to improve their professional practice in the Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE),
for the Education Management programme that teaches students who study on their
own. Five facilitators of the ACE programme in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo
provinces were purposively sampled and interviewed. The findings revealed that
there was no standardised training programme designed for the facilitators, resulting
in some facilitators being better prepared than others. These findings will make a
contribution towards the design of a proactive DE facilitator support programme for
the achievement of excellence in DE.