Use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) by postgraduate students and academic staff for teaching and learning at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is changing the organization and delivery methods of higher education. The pedagogical and socio-economic forces which have driven higher learning institutions to adopt and incorporate ICTs in teaching and learning include greater information access and better communication and learning. ICTs are being used to support pedagogic practices that provide learning environments that are more learner, knowledge and assessment-centered. Universities are thus responding to the many changes and adjusting to new demands and advancements through the incorporation of ICTs into the various aspects of their operations. In light of the above, a study to investigate the use of ICTs for teaching and learning by academic staff and postgraduate students in the Social Science Schools of the Faculty of Humanities, Development and Social Sciences (HDSS) of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Pietermaritzburg, was carried out. The study's conceptual framework was drawn from Vygotsky's constructivist theory of learning which suggests that learning is achieved by the active construction of knowledge supported by various perspectives within meaningful contexts. Such meaningful contexts include the use of ICTs as tools that facilitate constructivist teaching and learning. The study used both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection. The former was served by the use of a survey. Two questionnaires (one for academic staff and the other for students), administered by the researcher, were used as the main data collection tools. The questionnaires contained both closed and open-ended questions. In addition to the questionnaires, a focus group interview for postgraduate students was used to collect qualitative data. To increase the reliability and validity of the data collection tools, the researcher pre-tested the questionnaires before final distribution to the study population. Sampling followed a simple random stratified method for the survey and purposive sampling for the focus group interview. The target population for the study was academic staff and postgraduate students selected from the Faculty of HDSS. A total of 173 postgraduate students responded which yielded a response rate of 92% and all 53 academic staff responded which yielded a response rate of 100% for the academic staff. Data from the survey questionnaires was analyzed using SPSS® version 15.0 for Windows. Thematic content analysis was used to analyze the open ended questions obtained from the focus group interview. The findings indicated that a majority of academic staff and postgraduate students used ICTs for teaching and learning. Furthermore, the study identified various ICT hardware and software which were available at UKZN for teaching and learning and whether staff and students used these ICTs to support their teaching and learning. The study’s findings showed that a number of problems were experienced when using the ICTs for teaching and learning. The top three problems experienced were insufficient numbers of computers; slow network connections and poor support from the technical staff. Apart from the problems encountered when using ICTs for teaching and learning there were benefits to using the ICTs such as: ICTs facilitated communication and simplified interaction between academics and students: accessibility to learning materials was improved for students while academics considered that ICTs improved student’s skills. Lectures that could be delivered online were a positive benefit for academics. Furthermore, ICTs had enabled students to use computers more effectively to support their learning. Recommendations and suggestions to improve the use of ICTs for teaching and learning in general were made by the academic staff and the postgraduate students with regard to the findings and the literature reviewed.