Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Access to ICT for Teaching and Learning: From Single Artefact to Interrelated Resources

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Access to ICT for Teaching and Learning: From Single Artefact to Interrelated Resources

Article excerpt


In the past few years, concepts of the digital divide and theories of access to ICT have evolved beyond a focus on the separation of the "haves" and the "have nots" to include more than just physical access to computers. Researchers have started considering the conditions or criteria for access and broadened the concept by including additional components. Terms such as "real access", "thick conceptions of access" and "social inclusion" give some indication as to the change in thinking about access to ICT.

These broader views of access are particularly applicable in the Higher Education context. However, in examining the applicability of the existing theories of ICT access, we found that no single model fully encompassed that range of resources required for access to ICTs in Higher Education in South Africa. We therefore combined, simplified and enhanced the existing models to develop a comprehensive framework for ICT access. Our model of access describes what people use, need and draw on in order to gain or acquire access to specific ICT uses and practices in terms of different kinds of resources namely technology resources; resources for personal agency; contextual resources; and online content resources.

The applicability of this model has been tested in a survey of academic staff and students in Higher Education Institutions in the Western Cape, South Africa. The aim of this research is to explore access to and use of ICT and how they may support or hinder a range of educational technology practices.

Keywords: Higher education, access, teaching and learning, digital divide


The ideas described in this paper arose during the conceptual and planning stages of a project which aimed to investigate access to, and use of, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in teaching and learning in higher education institutions in the Western Cape of South Africa.1 The project set out to develop baseline information through a survey of academic staff and students in the respective institutions, as well as to identify factors, which may be hindering or encouraging the use of computers for teaching and learning.

In the process of developing a survey instrument, it became evident that the project offered an opportunity to move beyond descriptive fact-gathering. The data to be gathered would (and will) certainly be useful since such baseline data does not exist at all, making planning particularly difficult. At the same time, it became clear that a richer and more nuanced analytic investigation could also be designed, one which would allow for identification of relationships and patterns both within and between access and use. This has the potential to enrich our understanding of the changing nature of teaching and learning in an increasingly technology-mediated environment.

We set out to develop a more refined and informed understanding of access to ICT for teaching and learning in the South African higher education context. Our motivation was primarily to develop an analytical model which could be used as the basis of our empirical investigation. While we were able to draw on an established international theorist, Laurrilard (2002), for usefully explaining ICT use for teaching and learning, we did not find a ready-made model of access which suited our purposes in the local context. And despite important enthusiastic national policy support for access to ICT, we found little local research to help us name and frame access to ICT in higher education.

This paper charts the journey we travelled to develop a conceptual framework specifically to understand access to ICT in higher education. Firstly, we examine the local and international literature on the purposes cited for ICT access, and we confirm our own focus on teaching and learning. The main part of the paper discusses ways of framing access in general and examines the debates around the concepts, as well as the dimensions we believe are relevant to our context and why. …

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