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

Assessing the Available ICT Infrastructure for Collaborative Web Technologies in a Blended Learning Environment in Tanzania: A Mixed Methods Research

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

Assessing the Available ICT Infrastructure for Collaborative Web Technologies in a Blended Learning Environment in Tanzania: A Mixed Methods Research

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

This paper aims to assess the current Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) infrastructure in higher education institutions (HEIs) whether it can support the use of collaborative web technologies (CWTs) in a blended learning (BL) environment. Our review of the literature shows that a good ICT infrastructure is an essential element when considering for the use and adoption of CWT-enabled BL in learning and teaching (Mtebe & Raphael, 2013; Toro & Joshi, 2012; Sife, et al., 2007; and Omidinia, et al., 2012). In the light of BL's potentials for learning and teaching, this study was motivated in one way, by the need to assess the current ICT infrastructure capable of supporting CWT-enabled BL (Lwoga, 2012) in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Tanzania. Equally important, the study is attributed by the fact that, the use of CWTs and the BL is increasingly becoming a common instructional model (Graham, et al., 2013) in higher education. Thus, it is timely and relevant, to assess whether the available ICT infrastructure in Tanzania can support the use of Collaborative Web Technologies (CWTs) in a BL environment in HEIs. This paper also reviews briefly the literature in both Mixed Methods approach and CWTs in higher education in order to advance its application in this context. The study findings and the reviewed literature discussed in sections two through six of this paper, provide enough evidence that, the study is a timely contribution to assess the available ICT infrastructure's capability for supporting the use of CWTs in a BL instructional model.

In view of the above introductory discussion, in this paper, we adopt a definition used by Graham, et al., (2013) and Lomas, et al., (2008) that BL is a combination of face-to-face and online learning instructional models. Not withstanding the current debate about the definition of BL (Chew (2009), contextually, the current practice of BL in Tanzania is limited to the combination of face-to-face and e-learning technologies such as Moodle and Compact Discs (Mtebe & Raphael, 2013). Consequently, the current practice is yet to consider the use of CWTs such as Wikis, podcasts, blogs, and social networks (Rosbotom & Lecarpentier, 2010). A closer look at the current practice reveals that BL in Tanzania HEIs is at its infancy level (Lwoga, 2012; and Mtebe, 2015). Along similar lines, we are of the view that, one of the main reasons why CWTs have not been widely used in Tanzania for BL is the lack of information about the available ICT infrastructure to support CWTs in learning and teaching. As far as we are aware, there is little research to establish the available ICT infrastructure in HEI in Tanzania capable of supporting BL (Lwoga, 2012; and Dahms & Zakaria, 2015). Scoring from study motivation discussed above, these empirical evidences (Dahms & Zakaria, 2015; Lwoga, 2012; Mtebe & Raphael, 2013; and Hennessy, et al., 2010) insist on the rationale for the study.

At the international research level, generally, Omollo (2011); Toro & Joshi (2012); and Dahms & Zakaria (2015) suggest that HEIs in developing countries have good ICT infrastructure to support learning and teaching. However, some challenges exist, such as lack of awareness among ICT users of the available services in HEIs, poor coordination across campuses, demotivated faculties, and lack of top management support (Omollo, 2011). Nevertheless, the challenges facing HEIs have been widely resolved and some efforts are underway to improve the situation (Omollo, 2011). For example, heavy investment in telecommunications, and high rate of electricity penetration in Africa, have reduced the impacts of the challenges faced by HEIs (Hennessy, et al., 2010) and (Wainaina et al., 2014). Additionally, the ICT infrastructural components such as internet connection, availability and affordability of hardware and software, ICT skills among students and the faculty, and national ICT projects such as the national fiber optic backbone in East, Central, and Southern Africa have improved the state-of the art of the ICT infrastructure (Toro & Joshi, 2012; Mtebe, 2015); Lwoga, 2012; and TCRA, 2015). …

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