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Higher Education teachers' use of social computing in their teaching: the case of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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Educational technology literature explores the reasons Higher Education (HE) teachers provide for why they use (or do not use) social computing (Web2.0) applications in their teaching. Reasons are often provided as lists of factors impacting use, rather than systemic, context-based explanations of how patterns of use or non-use have developed over time, are instantiated, and shift in specific instances. This case study, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa; focuses on 18 HE teachers. The context is challenging, complex and in a state of systemic flux; providing sufficient reasons for teachers to choose not to innovate in teaching. When the study data was produced, the institution had experienced an institutional merger (eight years prior), reorganisation into a college structure (within a year) and was plagued by annual student protests related to student access. A critical realist approach was used as the underlabourer for the study. Teacher use of social computing is represented by an innovation reinforcement cycle of Commitment, Effort and Results. Mechanisms operating at each point in the cycle provide micro-points of interaction or system delays. HE teacher agency is articulated through the use of individual tactics and processes based on social capital. Processes, represented by system causal loops, illustrate the dynamics within the social teaching (and learning) arena and interactions with the institutional structures and processes. The ‘Circuits of HE Teaching Power’ framework represents the flow of power through institutional standing conditions, processes of systemic and social integration, and influences the arenas of negotiation in which actor agency operates. The circuit is completed when actor agency influences standing conditions. Underlying institutional and academic social norms are reinforced through obligatory passage points (OPPs) which seek to govern and control behaviour. Outside the institutional boundary, external forces may influence, and be influenced by, processes of both social and system integration. This theoretical framing is focused on being able to integrate an explanation of processes at both the individual and systemic levels, indicating its relevance at the operational-, tactical/management- and strategic/policy-level. This explanatory framing can also be used as a methodological device: from the individual teacher micro-scale to the institutional macro-scale, as well as at a variety of levels of abstraction, ranging from the transitive empirical and actual layers to the potentially more intransitive layer of the Real.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.