The use of world wide web technologies for course delivery at tertiary institutions in South Africa.
As the world perches on the dawn of a new millennium, the strides humankind has made in the advancement of information and communications technologies such as the World Wide Web (WWW) and Internet, have surpassed even the greatest of expectations. Technology is a force that is reshaping the way we live. In the field of Public Administration it is being given increased prominence as a social restructuring force which has immense potential to assist with the delivery of public services. One of the areas in which it is having a notable impact is in the field of education. This study investigates the role of World Wide Web (WWW) technologies in the delivery of education at South African Tertiary institutions. An overview of the experiences of practitioners in the higher education arena in using Web-based technologies is provided. Both the problem-areas as well as positive aspects of Web-based teaching are reviewed. Specific emphasis is placed on the benefits of using the WWW to support resource-based, student-centred learning as envisaged in the Education White Paper 3: A Programme For The Transformation Of Higher Education and Technology-Enhanced Learning in South Africa: A Strategic Plan. Lecturers from fifteen South African tertiary institutions were surveyed. From the results of the survey the extent of usage (currently and in the immediate future) of specific WWW features for course delivery are determined. Possible problems that exist in our institutions, which may be impeding the implementation of Web-based courses, are also highlighted in the analysis of the survey. Lastly, the survey provides some insights into the key aspects of Web-based courses that are important in supporting student-centred learning. The following recommendations are suggested, bearing in mind the limited sample size with which the survey was conducted: • Lecturers designing Web-based courses should make a concerted effort to move away from the use of the Web to merely support delivery of lectures and to incorporate WWW features that would support a more dynamic, interactive, student-centred approach to course delivery. • Management at the departmental, faculty and institutional level should be encouraged to create the possibility for and invest in adequate training of both academic and support staff to support WWW-based course delivery. • Heads of academic units (Departmental Heads) should support lecturers in the adoption of WWW technologies by creating a psychological and physical space to experiment and try out new ideas. • Tertiary institutions should investigate possible collaboration with external partners in the private sector, e.g. vendors of information and communication technologies as a means of alleviating the high financial costs associated with implementing Web-based courses. • The design of Web-based courses should be based on a student-centred learning approach in which the learner is able to select an individualized path in the learning process, and achieve the learning objectives at his/her own pace. Further, the Web course should include the following features to support such an environment: Hosting of students' Web pages; interactive platforms to promote synchronous communication; online drill and testing; course management functions; tracking facilities; and features to provide a secure environment to maintain integrity of students' work and other confidential information.