Cheryl Brown, Herbert Thomas, Antoinette van der Merwe, Liezl van Dyk
Paper prepared for TENET Symposium 12-14 November 2007
Submitted 1 October 2007
1. Introduction 3
2. What is the national infrastructure? 3
2.1 South Africa in relation to Africa. 3
2.2 Progress since 2000 5
2.3 Comparison of SA and selected G8 countries 6
2.4 Thinking about these issues in terms of households 7
3. What is our institutional infrastructure? 8
3.1 Student computer ratios 8
3.1.1 How is this comparable with other countries? 8
3.2 Bandwidth availability 9
3.3 Learning Management Systems (LMS) used 12
3.4 Other e-learning software tools 12
3.5 Plagiarism detection software 12
4. What are our organisational support structures ? 13
4.1 Centres that support the integration of ICT in teachng and learning 13
4.2 Policy Environment 18
5. ICTs and Teaching & Learning 19
5.1 Are ICTs being used for teaching and learning? 20
5.2 How are ICTs being used for teaching and learning? 21
5.3 Where are the pockets of innovation? 22
5.4 Barriers towards the implementation of e-learning 22
5.5 What are the particular issues for students? 24
6. Case Studies: First-year experiences 24
6.1 First-year survey at the University of the Free State (2007) 24
6.1.1 Background 24
6.1.2 The survey 25
188.8.131.52 Access to hardware 25
184.108.40.206 Software skills 26
220.127.116.11 The perceived value of ICT-integrated study 28
18.104.22.168 Preferred modes of study 28
22.214.171.124 Age, usage patterns and perceptions 28
126.96.36.199 Gender 29
6.2 First-year survey at the University of the Stellenbosch (2006 and 2007) 29
7. Discussion and Conclusion 34
Addendum A: Questionnaire for Symposium article (Landscaping ICT in Higher Education in South Africa) 38
Drawing on recent research about the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in higher education institutions (HEIs) in South Africa, we describe prevailing and emergent practices with regard to the pedagogic integration of ICTs in South African higher education institutions. Whilst we mention other uses of ICTs, our focal point is teaching and learning practice. We describe the context in which the HEIs are situated and how they are organised, characterising tensions between policy and implementation in specific institutional contexts where possible. Barriers to e-learning that seem to affect staff and students across institutions are highlighted. As an illustration, we draw on two case studies of first-year student experiences, conducted at two institutions.
When taking stock of the current situation in terms of pedagogic practices regarding the use of ICTs in HEIs in South Africa, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on where we’ve come from, and what kind of context we find ourselves in.
As noted in a recent Western Cape study of access to, and the use of, ICTs in HEIs in the Western Cape, when computer use first started in higher education, the focus was on administration and infrastructure. It was only from the mid nineties that ICTs shifted into the domain of teaching and learning (Lippert 1993) and it has only really been since the start of the 21st century that some institutions have started to mainstream ICTs into teaching and learning practices across the institution (Czerniewicz and Brown 2006).
However, these practices do not occur in a vacuum. They are framed and constrained by national and institutional infrastructure, the latter of which can differ quite considerably between institutions given their historical context.
This paper draws on a number of resources as indicated in the references section. Data is also drawn from a survey done in September 2007 to obtain current information about the e-learning context in HEIs. A questionnaire was sent out to the “e-Learning managers” of 16 SA higher education institutions (see Addendum A for questionnaire), who engage in e-learning activities, in order to ascertain their organisational structure in support of ICT in teaching and learning. This focused particularly on what type of infrastructure they have available, as well as the policy environment at each institution. They were also asked to list barriers and enablers to the integration of ICT at their institutions, and whether they offer any incentives for lecturers to integrate ICT into their teaching and learning activities. We received 14 responses.
2. What is the national infrastructure?
2.1 South Africa in relation to Africa.
In terms of GDP, South Africa rates 29th in the IMF 2006 listings (International Monetary Fund 2007). Its GDP is two- and-a- half times larger than the next African country on the list (Nigeria at 48th). With this position on the African continent, one expects SA to be far ahead of its African counterparts in terms of ICT infrastructure.
Indeed, when one compares ICT access in South Africa to that of the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), it is apparent that access to ICTs in South Africa is far more widespread than in other SSA countries (see Table 1 below). South Africa has more fixed lines, mobile subscribers and Internet users (including broadband subscribers) than other countries in SSA (World Bank 2005).
However, unlike other SSA countries, the number of Internet users in South Africa exceeds the number of personal computers. In fact, SA has fewer PC’s per 1000 people than Namibia and Botswana. This raises the question of how South Africans access the Internet.
Table 1: Comparison of South Africa’s ICT infrastructure with other Sub-Saharan African countries Extracted from World Bank (2005)
Data, based on household surveys in a number of African countries (Gillwald and Essler 2005), also confirm this observation showing that, whilst 4% of households had a computer at home, nearly 16% of households had at least one person with an email address. Around 75% of these people had access to the Internet via school or work (2005).
Another area where SA is less advantaged than other SSA countries is in terms of affordability. South Africans pay a sizeable USD63 per month for Internet access. This is considerably higher than the SSA average of USD 45. Citizens of Botswana, for example, only pay USD21 per month for Internet access (World Bank 2005).
In terms of the rest of Africa, SA does not always have the best ICT infrastructure either. Both Egypt and Mauritius have a higher fixed line density, better bandwidth per person and lower Internet costs (World Bank 2005), as suggested by the data in Table 2
Table 2: Comparison of South Africa’s ICT infrastructure with other high infrastructure African countries. Extracted from World Bank (2005)
per 1000 ple
Int bandwidth (bits pp)
Cost Internet (USD pm)
In terms of the proportion of the population who are users, Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius and Morocco all have a higher proportion of Internet and PC users (International Telecommunication Union 2005) In terms of cell phone subscribers, SA has the highest proportion per population.