Technology Infrastructure and Support Mechanisms: Impediment to Implementation of Distance Learning in a Tertiary Institution in Jamaica

This paper focuses on investing in the implementation of online learning at the University of Technology (UTech) in Jamaica over the next five years. Drawing on the experiences and opinions of students, lecturers and distance learning administrators, the paper examines the adequacy of the technology infrastructure and support mechanisms as well as the pace at which the necessary infrastructure is being introduced. The objective was to determine whether online learning could be successfully implemented at UTech within a five-year time frame and the researchers sought answers to the following research questions:

  • What are the views of participants on the adequacy of technology infrastructure and support mechanisms provided for the implementation of distance education?
  • What technology infrastructure and support problems do students encounter while participating in a programme offered through the distance education platform?

A mixed methods design was used to administer the survey instruments. Survey respondents were selected from the UTech community to seek their views on the adequacy of technology infrastructure and support mechanisms provided for the implementation of online learning. The first sample comprised 35 students who had been exposed to online learning over the past four years, and the second sample comprised eight administrators of online learning programmes in various departments of the university. The study revealed that while there is some commitment to use technologies to improve online learning at the tertiary level, there are significant barriers at the institutional level which prevent the full implementation of online learning in the near term. Barriers include the slow pace of development of online modules, outdated technology infrastructure, inconsistency of internet access, and inadequate training for the stakeholders involved in distance education. Despite these challenges, UTech has successfully implemented some online courses which have been acceptable. As such, these courses could therefore serve as a model for other online introductions. Without the required investment in new technologies however, including training and coordination to design and develop online courses, the implementation of online learning could be protracted. Commitment from the university as an institution is required to remove these impediments so that successful delivery of distance learning to its constituents is assured.

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