Universities trailing behind: Unquestioned epistemological foundations constraining the transition to online instructional delivery and learning

R. Dlamini, N. Ndzinisa


Universities across South Africa have positioned learning management systems (LMS) as central to remote teaching and learning in response to COVID-19. This fundamentally challenges traditional teaching and learning practices where lecturers typically have close personal contact with students. Our argument is underpinned by critical discourse analysis and social constructivist pedagogy to gain deeper insights into the dimensions of LMS pedagogical affordances and the notion of equitable access to tertiary education in the midst of COVID-19 and the subsequent education and economic depression. Conducting a social constructivist pedagogy inspired analytical argumentative evaluation, we interrogate how digital technologies and platforms challenge the status quo and then argue on the systemic deficits of placing LMS at the centre of the transition in the hope of automatically cultivating an equitable learning environment to enable ubiquitous learning. Our analysis highlights potential contradictions in universities’ reliance on lecturers’ ingenuity without developing enabling structures supporting digital pedagogies at grassroots. This is to ensure inclusivity and avoid creating systemic inequalities that affect individual students’ experiences.


learning management systems affordances, instructional equity, ubiquitous learning

Full Text:



Anderson, T. and J. Dron. 2011. Three generations of distance education pedagogy. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 12(3): 80–97.

Baker, P., C. Gabrielatos, M. Khosravinik, M. Krzyżanowski, T. McEnery and R. Wodak. 2008. A useful methodological synergy? Combining critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK Press. Discourse & Society 19(3): 273–306.

Batchelor, J. 2018. Learning design principles to support communities of practice in a blended learning programme. In 9th Annual UNISA ISTE Conference on Mathematics, Science and Technology Education: 315.

Bozkurt, A. and R. C. Sharma. 2020. Emergency remote teaching in a time of global crisis due to Coronavirus pandemic. Asian Journal of Distance Education 15(1).

Chandler, J. D. and A. Teckchandani. 2015. Using social constructivist pedagogy to implement liberal learning in business education. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education 13(3): 327–348.

Chaubey, A. and B. Bhattacharya. 2015. Learning management system in higher education. International Journal of Science Technology & Engineering 2(3): 158–162.

CNBC Africa. 2020. Breaking: Nationwide lockdown announced in South Africa. https://www. cnbcafrica.com/news/2020/03/23/breaking-nationwide-lockdown-announced-in-south-africa/ (Accessed 18 May 2020).

Dabbagh, N. and B. Bannan-Ritland. 2005. Online learning: Concepts, strategies, and applications. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education.

Dlamini, R. 2018. Corporatisation of universities deepens inequalities by ignoring social injustices and restricting access to higher education. South African Journal of Higher Education 32(5): 54–65.

Feldman, J. 2020. To grade or not to grade? How districts can enact fair and equitable grading policies during the coronavirus closures. Educational Leadership Special Report https://filecabinetdublin. eschoolview.com/6D88CF03-93EE-4E59-B267-B73AA2456ED7/ToGradeorNottoGrade article.pdf (Accessed 18 May 2020).

Frehywot, S., Y. Vovides, Z. Talib, N. Mikhail, H. Ross, H. Wohltjen, S. Bedada, K. Korhumel, A. K. Koumare and J. Scott. 2013. E-learning in medical education in resource constrained low-and middle-income countries. Human Resources for Health 11(1): 4.

Habib, A. 2016. Transcending the past and reimagining the future of the South African university. Journal of Southern African Studies 42(1): 35‒48.

Hennessy, S., K. Ruthven and S. Brindley. 2005. Teacher perspectives on integrating ICT into subject teaching: Commitment, constraints, caution, and change. Journal of Curriculum Studies 37(2): 155–192.

Hodges, C., S. Moore, B. Lockee, T. Trust and A. Bond. 2020. The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. EDUCAUSE Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/ 2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teachingand-online-learning.

Laurillard, D. 2010. Rethinking university teaching: A framework for the effective use of learning technologies. TechTrends 69.

Lee, M. J. W. and C. McLoughlin. 2008. Harnessing the affordances of Web 2.0 and social software tools: Can we finally make “student-centered” learning a reality? In Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 2008 ‒ World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications, edited by J. Luca and E. Weippl, 3825–3834. Vienna, Austria: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). https://www.learntechlib.org/p/28915 (Accessed 18 April 2020).

Li, Y. 2019. University teachers’ pedagogical work with canvas an exploration of teachers’ conceptions, design work and experiences with an LMS. Master’s thesis.

Linder, K. E., L. S. Bruenjes and S. A. Smith. 2017. Hybrid platforms, tools, and resources. New Directions for Teaching and Learning 149: 27–36.

McCabe, D. B. and M. L. Meuter. 2011. A student view of technology in the classroom: Does it enhance the seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education? Journal of Marketing Education 33(2): 149–159.

Mentis, M. 2008. Navigating the e-Learning terrain: Aligning technology, pedagogy and context. Electronic Journal of e-Learning 6(3): 217–226.

Milliner, B. and T. J. Cote. 2018. Faculty adoption, application, and perceptions of a CMS in a university English language program. In Handbook of research on integrating technology into contemporary language learning and teaching, 161–175. IGI Global.

Mlitwa, N. and J. P. Van Belle. 2011. Mediators for lecturer perspectives on learning management systems at universities in the Western Cape, South Africa. In PACIS, 135.

Protsiv, M., S. Atkins and ARCADE Consortium. 2016. The experiences of lecturers in African, Asian and European universities in preparing and delivering blended health research methods courses: A qualitative study. Global Health Action 9(1): 28149.

Rankine-Venaruzzo, L., D. Macnamara and T. Griffin. 2014. Changing the face of learning @ UWS. In Rhetoric and reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology. Proceedings Ascilite Dunedin, 58–68.

Rhode, J., S. Richter, P. Gowen, T. Miller and C. Wills. 2017. Understanding faculty use of the learning management system. Online Learning 21(3): 68–86.

Sadowski, C., M. Stewart and M. Pediaditis. 2018. Pathway to success: Using students’ insights and perspectives to improve retention and success for university students from low socioeconomic (LSE) backgrounds. International Journal of Inclusive Education 22(2): 158–175.

Toland, S., J. White, D. Mills and D. U. Bolliger. 2014. EFL instructors’ perceptions of usefulness and ease of use of the LMS Manaba. JALT CALL Journal 10(3): 221–236.

U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (OET). 2016. Future ready learning: Reimagining the role of technology in education. 2016 national education technology plan. https://tech.ed.gov/files/2015/12/NETP16.pdf.

Vonderwell, S., X. Liang and K. Alderman. 2007. Asynchronous discussions and assessment in online learning. Journal of Research on Technology in Education 39(3): 309‒328.

Vygotsky, L. 1978a. Interaction between learning and development. Readings on the development of children 23(3): 34‒41.

Vygotsky, L. S. 1978b. The role of play in development. Mind in Society 5: 92‒104.

Wang, Y. C. 2014. Using Wikis to facilitate interaction and collaboration among EFL learners: A social constructivist approach to language teaching. System 42: 383–390.

West, R. E., G. Waddoups and C. R. Graham. 2007. Understanding the experiences of instructors as they adopt a course management system. Educational Technology Research and Development 55(1): 1–26.

WHO see World Health Organisation.

World Health Organisation. 2020. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic. World health Organization. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Yim, S. and M. Warschauer. 2017. Web-based collaborative writing in L2 contexts: Methodological insights from text mining. Language Learning & Technology 21(1): 146–165.

Yu, W. K., Y. C. Sun and Y. J. Chang. 2010. When technology speaks language: An evaluation of course management systems used in a language learning context. ReCALL 22(3): 332–355.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.20853/34-6-4073


  • There are currently no refbacks.

eISSN: 1753-5913

Copyright © 2016 South African Journal of Higher Education

Hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2016.

Creative Commons License -CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.