Using Reflexive Agency to Explore Students’ Access to Online Learning Resources in Resource Constrained Learning Environments

Patient Rambe, Delson Chikobvu


The discourse on student access to learning resources in resource-poor African environments is often steeped in the digital divide, which reinforces technological determinism. However, at historically privileged South African universities where institutionally-sanctioned networks and learning environments mediate universal on-campus access to technologies, the digital divide insufficiently accounts for variations in student access to networked resources. The persistent information asymmetries cannot be explained diametrically in terms of digital natives and digital stranger arguments. This paper employs Archer’s construction of agency as an interpretive lens for understanding how students in resource-poor contexts appropriate existing technologies, enact new practices and renegotiate access to deal with inequitable technology provision. Findings suggest that albeit strategic but complex choices that students make regarding access to educational resources, historically-induced cultural imbalances, socio-economic disadvantage and gender asymmetries continue to implicate student access to these resources. Students tended to switch strategically to mobile access when access to resources via walk-in labs proved to be a challenge. Moreover, student levels of study and gender played a moderating role in their access to educational technologies. The study recommends context-driven, social practice informed approaches to the deployment of technologies in resource-constrained environments to address challenges of accessing educational resources.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n20p1147

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This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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