When I saw your email I thought this could be my answer. For the past six months I have been looking for a university that offers distance learning to do a Master degree by home study by reading study material at home without going to a full time university or using computers but just books.

I am a rural development worker and currently working as a grant coordinator in the capacity of building coordinator, based in central province of Zambia in a rural town where email facilities are poor. Zambia has only two universities. Both do not offer distance learning.

I started my career as a farm worker where I raised to a position of farm advisor, but I did not find the work very challenging. So did a bit of youth work--I got a job with UNDP and worked in Malawi for three years as volunteer and since then I have being working with NGOs. To date all my qualification have been obtained by distance learning. I have acquired a diploma in business English, one in management business activities and a degree in business administration.

Please can you advise me of what might be a good field of study for me and at which university?

Thank you for bringing up a concern that I'm sure affects many international students who rely on distance learning: limited access to a computer and the Internet. Distance learning has become practically synonymous with online education. Programs are typically based on Internet communication with an instructor and other students, and feature lectures, discussions, and workbooks online. But dig a little deeper, and you'll find that print-based correspondence courses still exist.

First of all, it might be heartening to know that several major international initiatives are afoot to establish "Community Learning Centers" (or 'telecentres') throughout Africa. These centers provide computers, fax machines, films and telecourses, instructional CD-ROMS, and the necessary Internet connectivity to give African students access to online distance learning programs. The University of Zambia maintains a community learning center through the African Virtual University (AVU) program. For up-to-date information on technological access throughout Africa, check out The African Distance Learning Association's newsletter.

Since you reside in a rural area and are seeking an advanced degree, such programs may be more inspirational than directly useful. As you indicate, print-based distance learning is probably your best option. The authoritative print guide to advanced college degrees by mail is Bear's Guide To College Degrees By Mail & Internet: 100 Accredited Schools That Offer Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorates, and Law Degrees by Distance Learning, published by Ten Speed Press (ISBN 1580086543) and available internationally through major online book retailers. Search the Internet under the term "correspondence courses" ('correspondence' usually refers to mail correspondence, and therefore to print materials) for more information.

Until Internet access becomes truly universal, there will be a place for print-based distance learning. Good luck and don't get discouraged--mail correspondence degrees may be increasingly eclipsed by online degrees, but they are still out there.