Access and Skill in Using ICT in an Open and Distance Learning Context—Students’ ICT Sophistication
Keywords:access, information and communications technology, ability, open distance learning, sophistication, higher education
A long-standing focus of research in higher education has been on monitoring the degree of student access to information and communications technology (ICT). Recent debates have moved towards a more nuanced understanding of students’ technological experiences and behaviour. As the world changes, so does higher education and expectations regarding the role of technology within this environment. Universities, which continuously strive to improve teaching and learning, need to accommodate students’ increased use of technology and enhance their proficiency and fluency in accessing and using ICT as these skills are required to succeed in education and in life after graduation. This paper proposes that access to ICT constitutes only one dimension of a more complex and elaborate construct, namely that of ICT sophistication, which concerns students’ level of ICT use, and their experience of and engagement and fluency in ICT. As a basis to evaluate the ICT sophistication of students at the University of South Africa, the researchers drew on the findings of the said university’s surveys conducted in 2011 and 2014. This evaluation also served as a method for segmenting the student body to inform interventions. The results obtained supported findings in the literature that “access” could not be fully understood by drawing a one-dimensional distinction between access and non-access.
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