DEVELOPING AN ONLINE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT TO SUPPORT PREVIOUSLY DISADVANTAGED SCHOOLS IN SOUTH AFRICA
The use of information and communication technologies in education is not a new field. Many online learning environments exist, but often these are either too generic, or too specific to the education systems of other countries. As a result, they do not satisfy the requirements of the schools and the curriculum in South Africa. There is, therefore, a need for an online learning environment that is developed specifically for the South African context. In particular, previously disadvantaged schools have highly specific needs, due to a lack of learning resources and poor computer literacy. The aim of this research was to identify the specific requirements of South African schools and to develop a prototype online learning environment that demonstrated the ability to sustainably satisfy these requirements. The process of gathering requirements included a survey of literature in the field of e-learning and discussions with 12 South African teachers. The prototype was evaluated through user studies involving 86 learners and 22 teachers. Learners were asked to rate the components of the prototype and certain aspects of their use. Out of a maximum of 4, the prototype scored an average rating of 3.24 in this evaluation, indicating a remarkably positive response from the learners. 85% of the learners who used the prototype stated that they would like to use it to study for their examinations. Learners enjoyed using the prototype, found it easy to use and found that it had a positive impact on their learning. The results demonstrated that the prototype is an intuitive, interactive application that offers a sustainable solution to South African teachers and learners, particularly in previously disadvantaged schools.