ODL and the impact of digital divide on information access in Botswana
Keywords:distance learners, digital divide, information environment, ICTs, library/librarian, internet service providers (ISP), data service providers (DSP), information literacy skills (ILS), cross-border education, online
Open and distance learning (ODL) has created room for the emergence of virtual education. Not only are students found everywhere and anywhere undertaking their studies and earning their degrees, but geographical boundaries between nations no longer appear to have much relevance. As the new education paradigm irretrievably alters the way teaching and learning is conducted, the application of modern educational ICTs has a major role to play.
With students of transnational or cross-border education dispersed into various nooks and crannies of Botswana, many others enlist for the “home-baked” distance learning programmes from their diverse locations. Like the face-to-face conventional students, distance learners also have information needs which have to be met. But blocking the distance learners’ realization of their information needs is the digital divide, which further marginalizes the underclass of “info-poor.”
The survey method was used, and a questionnaire administered to 519 students of four tertiary level distance teaching institutions that met the criteria set for the study yielded a 70.1% response rate. The results showed that while the Government of Botswana has made considerable effort to ensure country-wide access to ICT, which now constitutes an effective instrument for meeting information needs, a number of problems still exist. The factors impeding easy access are unearthed. The findings of an empirical study portraying some learners as information-rich and others, information-poor, and the consequence of distance learners studying on both sides of the digital divide, are discussed. Suggestions on bridging the digital divide are offered.
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