N.B.W. Mlitwa

University of Zululand (SOUTH AFRICA)
Information Technology (IT) remains a key facilitator of teaching and learning efficiencies in higher education (HE) spaces. In effect, we no longer ask whether (or if) universities are adopting IT based solutions – but to what extent, and how are they using it. The problem however, is that capacity and access limitations persist in many universities in under-developed regions. Rural based educational institutions such as the University of Zululand (UniZulu), fall under this development “periphery” category. It is clear in the literature and in policy documents that UniZulu is restructuring for relevance, with IT solutions seen as an important vehicle to enhancing educational efficiencies. However, there is a big difference between talk, wishful thinking and ultimately, actions. For example, it is only when the noble intentions are conceptually and operationally implemented that desired outcomes can be realized. Given a limited insight on the adoption and use of educational technology in this institution, the author/s undertook to explore the extent of integration of IT solutions into undergraduate curricula at UniZulu. Methodologically, an exploratory approach, built on interview of key decision makers, and the analysis of literature and policy documents was followed. In particular, a description of the status-quo, an account of the types and formats of existing IT solutions, including uses, motivations and explanations thereto, describes the essence of the process. The ACTAD adaptation of the Activity Theory (AT) was used as the analytical lens. Findings suggest a non-linear format of educational technology adoption, with mixed patterns of usage between and across departments, most notably, with a need for compliance by the majority of educators. Nevertheless, the role of a single champion in driving the initiative is quite evident in the findings. Limited access to resources (i.e. no 24/7 access) for students emerged as a major impediment to educational technology integration into curricula in this institution. The paper closes with a clear picture of the entire activity system around the adoption and use of educational technology at UniZulu, together with explanations and recommendations for a way forward.