Suspending Contact without Stopping Learning: Technological Response of the South African Higher Education to the COVID-19 Pandemic Challenges
The COVID-19 Pandemic is an emergency that requires higher education administrators to design responses that mitigate the challenges of saving lives, simultaneously saving their academic years through non-disruption of educational programs. This study aims to examine how one university and one TVET college in South Africa responded to the teaching and learning challenges imposed by COVID-19 during the 2021-2021 academic cycle. The study followed an exploratory sequential mixed-method approach, viewed through the lens of the Diffusion of Innovation Theory. The methodology involved gathering quantitative data using a survey questionnaire, conducting a qualitative inquiry through interviews, followed by a comparative analysis of how the university and TVET college use the technology to mitigate the COVID-19 challenges. Analysis performed using SPSS Version 27 software and thematic content analysis brought out descriptive data regarding coping mechanisms of the two institutions. Results revealed that the university was ready for a migration to online and remote pedagogy, and a TVET college was still struggling to adjust to the requirements of the digitally driven pedagogy, despite both being under the same higher education system in the country. Wide gaps in accessibility to resources, digital efficacy levels, and supportive ICT infrastructure exist between the two institutions. These findings should provide insight to higher education administrators and policy makers on the need for appropriate interventions that support effective technological adaptations and implementation of remote teaching and learning across all higher education institutions, to fit them in the digitally driven educational environments of the COVID-19 era and beyond. The study recommends digital upskilling of the TVET staff, establishment of partnerships with Internet service providers and reviewing funding models for higher education ICT infrastructure development. This study contributes to the existing literature on higher education administration by identifying challenges hampering TVET institutions’ progress toward technologically driven teaching and learning environments of the 21st century and beyond.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, digital infrastructure, information, communication.
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