Towards the development of an effective model for the practical and sustainable use of informationand communication technologies( ICTs) for teaching and learning in tertiary education: A case of the University of Cape Town and the University of Zimbabwe
Problem statement The virtues of an modern university( innovation driven university, demand by society for university social responsiveness, need to provide service to the community and ensuring university education relevance ) appear to have strongly influenced the design of UCT and UZ’s mission statements. UCT-strives to become “a world class African university” -become “a transforming institution providing excellent teaching and research.” -promoting “social responsiveness by meeting the provincial and national needs of the country.” UZ- in its second strategic five year plan also poises to: in addition to research, develop new goods and services which are valuable to the community. - introduce entrepreneurial courses- a paradigmic shift from attending courses on business entrepreneurship.
While these visions and missions statements have been theoretically appealing the challenge for both universities has been to convert them into practice and operationalise them. Evidence of this: • A yawning gap between university education training and labour market demands .Graduate tracer studies- Cosser(2003), Moleke(2005), Koen (2006), Maharasoa and Hay (2001) • Employers have accused universities of producing para- professionals who are too theoretical and lacking the requisite training to meet job standards. Employers put emphasis on training be it institutionalised (internal/external) or on the job which graduates lack. (Boehm 2000), (Koen 2004) • Graduands acknowledgement that their university training did not adequately prepare them for the challenge of their jobs and professional careers.( IDS Tracer study of UZ graduates 2003) • Governments have incessantly questioned the relevance of university education in relation to solving the challenges of the knowledge society. Government White Paper on Higher Education Transformation(1997), National Plan for Higher Education(2001), Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training(1999)
The noticeable irony is that while these universities have fulfilled the need for social responsiveness, for example, through their conduct of contract based research (in the form of experimental development, strategic basic research, applied research ) for industry and government, the same university have failed to fulfil their service provision function role (through producing graduates whose educational training meets the demands of industry) . Universities have not applied the same skills which they use in their contract based research in the ICT mediated learning to prepare students to meet the demands of the labour market where the same skills (those applied in contract based research) are a premium. Instead, basic research (which emphasise theoretical grounding ) has dominated student learning, hence the accusation by employers that students are too theoretical.
Goals of the study • Development of an ICT mediated learning model based on the integration of other research types (experimental development, strategic basic research and even applied research) into the curricula, teaching methods and learning processes. This model its envisioned, will engender the following; • An entrepreneurial, research and learning culture that challenges student to engage in their own knowledge construction. • Strong foundation for those students who will assume positions in the knowledge based society and those going into self employment • A strong foundation for students who want to progress to Masters and Doctoral levels where the capacity for knowledge construction is more paramount , and independent learning is a must.
Objectives of the study • Creation of a new ICT mediated learning platform where the curriculum provides undergraduates with the opportunity to participate in knowledge construction, creative thinking, development of new ideas, discovery of new artefacts and are afforded life long learning. • Creation of computer mediated teaching strategies which allow for the cross fertilisation of different kinds of research ( experimental development, strategic basic research and even applied research ) into teaching and learning processes. • Develop a ICT driven knowledge base which acts as a foundation for students who will proceed to Masters and Doctoral level where knowledge construction skills are even more fundamental. • Engender university education relevance to the industry and community demands by producing graduates who manipulate their IT skills to engage in critical thinking, problem solving , and autonomous decision making at their work places. • Nurture entrepreneurial skills for self employment .
Hypotheses This study hypothesizes that: • The dominant use of basic research in ICT mediated teaching and learning in universities( UCT and UZ) explains the mismatch between university education training and the labour market demands. University education over emphasizes theoretical grounding at the expense of practical training. • The existing university-industry and university – government partnerships is self serving ,for they have benefited the universities but has not influenced the learning of students who are ultimately destined for the same industries and government upon graduation. • Integration of main traits and values of experimental development and strategic basic research into the students curricula and teaching immensely benefits students.
Research questions • To what extent is ICT mediated teaching at undergraduate level informed by other forms of research other than basic research? • How can the curricula for undergraduates be designed to ensure students use ICTs to engage in knowledge construction, critical thinking, independent learning and development of new ideas? • Which form(s) of pedagogy do lecturers employ ICT mediated learning environments? • What traits, forms and values should pedagogies employ to ensure more knowledge construction by students? • What structural, institutional, socio- technical, cultural and individual impediments constrain universities from integrating other form of research (experimental development, strategic basic research and even applied research) into their ICT mediated teaching and learning? • What explains the gap between the labour market skills demands and university education training?
Methodology • For the purpose of this study, grounded theory will be used as the methodology. Grounded theory is a methodology for developing a theory that is grounded in data systematically gathered and analysed in which theory emerges during actual research, doing so through the continuous interplay between analysis and data collection ( Straus and Corbin 1990). The central features of this analytical approach include constant comparative analysis, theoretical sampling, and theoretical sensitivity and theoretical saturation.( Glaser and Strauss 1967). Theoretical sampling is a process of data collection for generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects, codes and analyses her data and decides what data to collect next and where to find them, in order to develop her theory as it emerges. The choice of grounded theory as a research method for this study is hinged on the explorative nature of the study . No previous studies have been located that focus on the how other forms of research (experimental development , strategic basic research ) can be integrated in to ICT mediated learning at these universities. More so, this methodology can also bridge the gap between theory and practice by providing an emergent theory based on the detailed and carefully crafted account of the area under investigation (Paullen and Yoong 2004). The study will randomly select undergraduate students and lecturers in two disciplines in the humanities and two others from the natural sciences for investigation.
Theoretical framework • This study is informed by the following theories: Vygotsky’s (1978) Social Constructivist Learning Theory , Social -Cultural Theory by Barnett (20004), Activity Theory (Engestrom et al 1999) and the Learner Mediated Approach( LMA) by Albon and Trinidad (2001) used at Curtin University of Technology. These learning models acknowledge the value of the learner’s knowledge construction . Knowledge construction demands the in-depth understanding of the different kinds of knowledge and this understanding is demonstrated by the learners’ ability to interpret, synthesize and create new knowledge creatively, purposefully and strategically . (Baskin and Barker 2003,3). The ultimate product of this academic engagement is the development of a usable ICT mediated learning model that is partly informed by these mainstream social constructivist theories. .
Definition of terms • Basic research-theoretical research work undertaken to acquire new knowledge without looking for long term benefits other than the advancement of knowledge. • Strategic basic research- experimental and theoretical research work undertaken to acquire new knowledge directed to specific broad areas in expectation of new discoveries. • Experimental development-a systematic work using existing knowledge gained from research or practical experience, that is directed to producing new materials , products , devices, to installing new processes, systems and services or improving substantially those already produced or installed. • Applied research- research as original work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge with a specific application in view . • ICTs – focus will be restricted to mediational technologies like computers, WebCT –bulletin boards, projectors .