An evaluation of the use of online resources in the teaching and learning of curriculum context and change module : a case study at a higher education institution in south africa.
Internationally governments have recognised the pertinent role education holds in achieving economic growth and competitiveness. Information and communication technology (ICT) have become a catalyst for educational transformation in the last century, and higher education institutions have developed a strong incline towards this move. It is within this context that tertiary institutions have expanded their teaching and learning pedagogies by providing greater access to computers and internet facilities. Implementation of innovative teaching methods is important in higher education courses to involve and motivate the newer tech-savvy generation of students. However, many lecturers have been hesitant to welcome this change due to inadequate salary structures and insufficient training and expertise in using online resources as a pedagogical approach in higher education. The purpose of this study evaluated the use of online resources in the teaching and learning of the Curriculum Context and Change module at a university in Durban, South Africa. The institution at which this study took place utilizes modern technologies that can support the use of online resources in the various areas of disciplines. Despite these technological advancements many facilitators have experienced serious challenges in effectively using online resources as a tool for teaching. Therefore this study sought to develop an understanding of the facilitator’s and students’ experiences into the benefits and challenges encountered by implementing online resources in their current practise. This supported the need to draw implications and possible recommendations for applying online teaching and learning in similar contexts at higher education. The study adopted a qualitative research design and followed a case study methodology. It applied qualitative data generation methods inclusive of semi-structured individual interviews, focus group interviews, and lecture observations, document/online learning space analysis and an online reflection. The purposive sampling method was selected to include thirty five students and one facilitator of the Curriculum Context and Change module. Participants were also selected on the basis of convenience sampling. Eleven students participated in the focus group interview, and of these, five volunteered to share their experiences in the individual interviews. The study followed guided analysis based on the theoretical frameworks of Activity Theory and the Spider Web Curriculum to support the interpretations and analysis articulated thereof. The findings revealed that there were potentially more benefits than challenges experienced in the use of online resources in the teaching and learning of the module. The most prominent features of implementing the use of online resources were greater participation of students; work and study were combined to save time and ensure completion of tasks; peer involvement; immense interaction between students themselves, and between the facilitator and students; independent learning led to richer experience; informed practise as educators; more accessibility and saving costs; and achievement of learning outcomes of the module. Challenges experienced in the utilization of online teaching and learning resources were of a technical nature. In some instances students were diverting from the online learning activities to social networking sites thereby shifting their attention from the tasks at hand. Although the research identified possible problems that can incur in an online learning platform, they were minimal in comparison to the benefits because the facilitator was careful to use hard-ware resources (HW) and soft-ware (SW) resources in co-ordination with ideological-ware (IW) resources. The study therefore proposes that since the potential benefits significantly outweighed the challenges, the use of online resources is highly recommended in teaching and learning at higher education if they are supported by concrete IW resources.