How well are students at UKZN equipped to successfully learn online?
That is what Ms Oyinkansola Akinlabi aimed to establish in research she did which earned her a cum laude Honours degree in Media and Cultural Studies.
‘UKZN students come from different walks of life and have a diverse range of skills and experiences,’ said Akinlabi. ‘Not all of them have the same level of digital technology skills thus causing digital divides that may affect the way they understand and use technology for their academic work. These divides are based on different factors.’
Her research examined the extent to which these factors impacted on online academic activity, the effects they had, and ways UKZN could help students make better use of digital technology for learning.
Akinlabi says the secondary schools’ students had attended determined, to a large extent, the degree of digital literacy they possessed. Other factors contributing to digital literacy (and the digital divide) included family background, financial status, and personal preferences.
She found that many students had to also self-teach with tools (Moodle, Library Tools), and required more training to help them better understand the platforms.
Akinlabi says her research will assist the educational sector in South Africa to identify the best ways of incorporating digital learning into curricula. ‘Nations that excel in today’s world are those which understand the importance of digital technology and encourage their youth to leverage it. I hope that my research helps produce improved digital learning experiences for students.’
She thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their support, ‘I am really blessed to have such people in my life.’
Akinlabi plans to pursue a master’s degree while working in corporate communication and social media management fields. ‘I want to help people and organisations improve their communications through the digital media.’
She had this advice for other students: ‘Take care of yourself at all times. ‘Every day and every task cannot be perfect, so don’t allow unrealistic expectations for perfection to affect your mental health.’