Impact of the digital divide on information literacy training in a higher education context

  • Segarani Naidoo Durban University of Technology
  • Jaya Raju University of Cape Town
Keywords: Digital divide, higher education, information literacy training


This paper reports on a masters study undertaken to investigate the impact of the digital divide on information literacy(IL) training of Extended Curriculum Programme (ECP) students at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Since1994 the demographics of higher education institutions in South Africa have changed. Today these institutions compriseheterogeneous groups of students, by race, economic background, digital background, etc. and consequently with differentlevels of literacy, information and otherwise. The problem that this study addressed was the impact of having both digitallyadvantaged and digitally disadvantaged students in the same information literacy classroom, expecting them to reachlearning outcomes without frustrating students from either group. The objective of the study was to investigate the impactof the digital divide on IL training of ECP students at the DUT and to recommend guidelines for teaching and learning of ILthat would accommodate both digitally advantaged and digitally disadvantaged students. The study employed a mixedmethod approach in its research design. Data was collected from ECP students (of 2010) by means of a questionnaire; aninterview schedule was used to collect data from Subject Librarians involved in teaching the IL module to ECP students; aseparate interview schedule was used to collect data from the ECP Coordinator. Qualitative and quantitative datacollected were prepared for analysis by means of content analysis and numerical coding, respectively and then subjectedto statistical analysis via SPSS, which produced percentage and frequency distributions to ascertain findings. The findingsof the study revealed that the digital divide does impact on IL training in ways such as: slowing down the progress of ILlessons; basic computer skills need to be taught in the IL classroom; and that digitally disadvantaged students find itdifficult to follow online lessons while advantaged students already have the expertise to access online information. Basedon these findings the study recommended computer literacy training should precede IL training and that various creativeteaching and learning methods such as group work, online tutorials, games and interactive websites should beincorporated into IL education to accommodate both digitally advantaged and digitally disadvantaged students in the ILclassroom.
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