The politics of e-learning in South African higher education

10 Sep 2012

Introduction: The appearance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) at the intersection of competing perspectives on higher education transformation in South Africa suggests that the increasing use of ICTs is not an automatic ‘good in itself’ but needs to be problematised. This paper first describes the new ICT-related practices emerging in South African higher education institutions, and then identifies and compares four broad approaches informing the relation of these new practices to higher education change. The first three approaches conceive of this relationship in terms of the role of ICTs in effecting specific changes in higher education institutions, while the fourth approaches the relation discursively. The final section describes access patterns in ‘dual-mode’ institutions, and asks whether the emerging trends are redefining the meanings of access to higher education. In thinking about how to re-imagine current elearning practices outside of the tight globalisation script, this paper supports a framework that both embraces the possibilities offered by online pedagogies, and problematises central aspects of the political economy and cultural politics of e-learning in higher education.