Design-reality gap assessment of an international distance education initiative

29 November 2012

This article assesses a recently completed discontinued internationally funded e-education initiative at a South African higher education institution (HEI). The e-Learning Initiative in South Africa (Elisa) project was a collaborative venture between a prestigious university in the United States (US) and a South African HEI, which unexpectedly had its funding withdrawn after a seemingly successful first delivery. Unfortunately, many information and communications technology (ICT)-related developmental interventions in developing countries fail. Heeks' (2003) ITPOSMO model distinguishes three types of design-reality gaps that increase the risk of failure on seven dimensions. This model was used to address, from a community informatics perspective, the research question: What factors contributed to the discontinuation of the initiative? Findings are presented as design-reality gaps on the seven dimensions. Different role-players had different perceptions of what such gaps constitute. Conclusions consider factors such as the restructuring at HEIs and the source of funding as crucial indicators of success in e-education projects, assessment by lecturers, mentor teachers, peers and the students themselves. The findings are significant to improve tutorial matter, provide guidelines for assessment and coordinate a platform for partnerships between the different role players regarding this issue.