The paradox between technology adoption and student success: a case study

29 November 2012

There are different factors influencing the adoption of technology in the service of learning in open and distance learning (ODL) in a developmental state such as South Africa. While there is ample reason to increasingly adopt a range of technologies to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning, the relationship between the adoption of technology and student success is less certain. The hype surrounding the adoption and inclusion of technologies in teaching is often lacking evidence that they actually increase student success. This article reports on the introduction and adoption rate of computer technology to enhance learning in the ODL environment. In 2008, an open source software tool, Maxima, was introduced in a Mathematical Modelling module in order to help students learn and understand mathematical skills applied to problem solving. Though the results show that the introduction of a compulsory assessment improves the adoption rate of the package, the link between technology adoption and student success is less certain. The article explores a number of reasons for the lack of evidence that the adoption of Maxima by students has not had any impact on their success. Based on the concept of technological pedagogical content knowledge, and the technology acceptance model, the article concludes with a reflection on strategies to ensure that the adoption of technology is integrated into the Mathematical Modelling curriculum in order to improve student throughput.