Barriers of Effective Online Learning in South Africa

Posted by Martha Malete


From the various posts and articles, I have identified the following list of challenges.

  1. Lack of internet access: The vast majority of South Africans do not have access to internet. This is enhanced by three factors: they do not have internet enabled devices, they do not have the finance for data bundles, or there is no significant internet in their area.
  2. Underprepared Teachers/Lecturers: The people in charge of facilitating learning do not possess the skills to fully use the online learning platforms. We have many technophobic teachers and lecturers who will do all in their power to avoid using technology or to discredit its benefits. This is not to say that their arguments are invalid, but to say they have a natural resistance and they will probably not change in the near future. We also have another group which lacks the skills required to operate online.
  3. Underprepared Institutions: Institutions can be underprepared for online learning in that their policies, visions and missions do not support or include online learning. As a result they lack the infrastructure and personnel to drive the online learning initiatives.
  4. Lack of Skilled Personnel: Online learning requires both the technically skilled worker and the online pedagogically skilled individuals. Positions such as Learning and Instructional Designers did not exist in the past (10 – 15 years ago), hence it is not surprising that they are in short supply today. These people are the engine that gives value to online learning.
  5. Lack of Finance: Online learning requires a substantial investment. The infrastructure, the skilled personnel for day to day operations take up a huge chunk of an institutions budget.
  6. Inconsistent Power Supply: We all know that we have load shedding in South Africa. The inconsistent power supply poses a challenge of damage to online learning infrastructure. In addition, load shedding results in loads of network downtime and thus interrupting online learning.

This list is not exhaustive, and I would greatly appreciate it if anyone can expand on it.

By Martha


8 responses on "Barriers of Effective Online Learning in South Africa"

  1. You are so on-point Martha. We need a lot of factors to come to play in order for us to complete painting this bigger picture. I love technology so much that I am starting to feel like this needs to be a personal project but like you said, i need the financial power to enable me.

  2. Martha, lack of finance has a huge impact on online learning. These courses are so expensive. That is why I asked in a previous blog if a free online learning course like this one would be recognised by institutions.

  3. I read an article, “How to Solve the 4 Biggest Challenges with Going to School on-line” (Eric Sorrentino). I agree with him that one of the biggest challenges is to juggle family and work life together with doing a course online. When the work has a deadline, you can’t tell them to wait. When there is a family crisis you also need to respond immediately. So, the online course has to wait.
    What helped me to overcome the problem is that with an online course I can work at any hour. I can even sit in front of the TV, have family time and in between e..g look for articles on the internet to do the assignment.…/How-to-Solve-the-4-Biggest-Challenges-with-Goin..

  4. @dolly@wilma I do not think local institutions are ready yet to recognize any free courses. It is only in the progress United States that you find Coursera courses being accepted for credits. I think and issue of quality and trust comes into play. Furthermore, I do not think this course was meant for or aimed for credits. Instead form what I now realise,it is a course for those who want genuine knowledge, not a certificate.

    • I agree, David, but it is a pity that it is not recognised in a more formal way. On a personal level it is worthwhile for me to do the course because it is increasing my knowledge and it provides a platform to interact with people that has a similar interest.

      • Interesting conversation between @davidjones, @wilma. Do you see any future for courses like this one? Or should it even be called a course since it does not bear any credits? Is there a way we can get to a point were we are not chasing credits, and start chasing learning/competency?

  5. @wilma @dolly thankyou for the comments, and @wilma, for the additional challenges. Talking about expensive, I am starting to think that there is no such thing as a free course, since there is a cost involved in all of them. Furthermore, free courses might also mean that less money for the Universities, hence the chances of them getting accreditation is slim.

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