Managing the challenges of digital divide among first year students : a case of UKZN.
Faloye, Samuel Temitayo.
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The integration of technology into the educational system has brought about changes in the style of teaching and learning. Nowadays, institutions are adopting technologies such as computers and the Internet to enhance their teaching and learning activities. Students that grew up using computers and related technologies are often at an advantage with their learning because they would have developed the skills required for using technological resources to enhance their learning. However, students that have not been exposed to any form of technology are often at a disadvantage with their learning because they often lack or do not possess sufficient technological skills. The disparity between students that have been exposed to technology and those that have not, is often referred to as digital divide. The literature shows that the digital divide is a challenge that is impacting on students’ academic performance. This study was therefore conducted to understand the challenges faced by the first-year students of UKZN with regards to the digital divide. In this study, a quantitative research methodology was employed. The findings of this study show that students with little or no exposure to technology prior to joining the university often face challenges that include the use of application programs (e.g. MS Word, Spreadsheet), downloading of informative materials, conducting online tasks and navigating the Internet. The findings also show that time of access/ownership to technology (before or after joining the university), technology skills and computer anxiety affects student’s computer self-efficacy. However, the study’s findings also showed that irrespective of student’s exposure level to technology prior to joining the university, students are faced with the university’s technological challenges that include insufficient technological resources (e.g. printer, computers, scanners), power interruption, poor Wi-Fi connectivity and lack of technology assistants. Based on the findings in this study, it is therefore recommended that universities organize frequent orientation and IT training programs for first year students. Such programs should focus on the effective use of technologies for learning purposes. In addition, universities should ensure the availability of administrative and technical support whenever students are performing technology related learning tasks. Furthermore, universities should setup a team that will focus on continuous monitoring of whether students are coping with technology or not. This team should also evaluate the available resources on monthly basis to identify the possible or required maintenance.