Title of thesis

ICT-based Distance Education. A study of university students’ views and experiences in early post-apartheid South Africa.


Professor Stewart Kowalski, Department of Information Security and Communication Technology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.

Committee members of the examining board

Professor Per-Olof Thång, Department of Education and Special Education, University of Gothenburg, professor Panagiotis Anastasiades, Department of Education, University of Crete, Greece, and associate professor Marianne Teräs, Department of Education, Stockholm University. Deputy member is associate professor Åsa Murray, Department of Special Education, Stockholm University.

Main supervisor and chair

Associate professor Petros Gougoulakis, Department of Education, Stockholm University. 


Associate professor Ulf Fredriksson, Department of Education.

Disputationen kommer att hållas på engelska/ The Phd-defence will be in English.

Länk till avhandlingen i fulltext i DiVA/Open access in DiVA


Description of thesis

The overarching aim of this study was to investigate how the introduction of information and communications technology (ICT) into distance education in South Africa during the early post-apartheid period from 1994 to 2002, enabled learning and the delivery of educational content to students at universities and technikons (universities of technology). The specific objectives were: (1) To analyze the views and experiences of selected students about using various ICT equipment for learning, and how content was delivered to them. (2) To analyze the views and experiences of selected course facilitators concerning their work with students at learning centers affiliated with one distance education institution. (3) To analyze the views and experiences of selected students who used the services of an Internet café at a technikon in South Africa.

A case study research design was applied to collect, analyze and interpret quantitative and qualitative data at four universities and one technikon. Two electronic surveys were administered by email and on the Web, to self-selected students at the five case institutions. The first survey examined the views and experiences of respondents (n = 605) who participated in ICT-based distance education, while the second one investigated the views and experiences of respondents (n = 274) who used a private campus-based Internet café. Non-participant observations were made at some learning centers to understand how classes were carried out, and at the Internet café, to understand the type of services offered. Unstructured interviews were held with selected students and course facilitators, whereas informal interviews were conducted with some students and the Internet café manager. Further, a literature review was undertaken to understand certain issues and trends in ICT-based distance education, within and beyond South Africa.

The findings indicate that the majority of respondents chose ICT-based distance education because it was flexible. They were also comfortable with using the English language for instruction. However, some complained that the learning materials were irrelevant and were not delivered on time. Course facilitators/lecturers were generally satisfied with their work, although they were disappointed for not having the opportunity to influence changes in the study guides. Many respondents used the Internet café because they did not have any other means of accessing the Internet. Moreover, it was affordable and they used it for socializing.

The present study has contributed to a deeper understanding of the South African higher education system in general, and to the selected distance education institutions and students, in particular. The empirical findings and literature review contribute to the existing body of knowledge in ICT-based distance education. Further, the processes used to conduct the electronic surveys can contribute to the improvement of similar methods in the future.