ACCESS TO AND USE OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES IN THE PROVISION OF INFORMATION TO DISTANCE LEARNERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI AND KENYATTA UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES
Kamau, Grace Wambui
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Distance education is becoming popular for accessing higher education due to its flexibility. Unfortunately public university libraries in Kenya have not responded to this change by providing information access for distance learners which can be achieved through ICTs. Although these libraries are adopting the use of ICTs, distance learners are disadvantaged because of limited access to and use of ICTs occasioned by scarcity and small range of ICTs, low level of e-readiness for distance learners, absence of or unsuitable policies for distance learning and challenges experienced by distance learners in accessing information. The aim of the study was to investigate access to and use of ICTs in the provision of information to distance learners at the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University libraries and to propose a model for improvement. The objectives of the study were to: examine the range of ICTs at the selected universities; explore the level of e-readiness of the libraries for distance learners; establish the adequacy of information literacy skills of distance learners; establish the policies that the university libraries have developed for providing information to distance learners; identify the challenges experienced by distance learners in accessing information through ICTs; make recommendations and propose a model of improving access and use of ICTs by distance learners in public universities. The study was informed by the Diffusion of Innovation (DoI) Theory supplemented by the Constructivism Learning Theory. It employed a mixed method research design. A multiple case studies research design was used. Stratified, purposive and census sampling techniques were variously used to select key participants namely: distance learners, Directorate of Distance Education, Deans of Schools and Chairmen of Departments, University librarians and senior library staff. A sample of 200 distant learners and 56 respondents from the other strata was selected. Data was collected through a semi structured questionnaire administered to distance learners, semi-structured interviews with the other respondents and documentary review. It was analysed using descriptive statistics and thematically. The key findings of the study were that: distance learners had limited access to and use of ICTs; they could not access e-resources from the university library remotely and they experienced challenges in accessing information through ICTs such as internet connectivity, inadequate electricity in rural areas, inadequate library services at regional centres and inadequate computer skills and information literacy skills. The study concludes that there is a gap in distance learners‟ access to and use of ICTs at both universities and this affected their access to information. The study provides the following recommendations: improvement of the national ICT infrastructure; review of institutional ICT policies; improvement of university ICT infrastructure; development of library portals and e-services accessible remotely and information literacy development of distance learners among others. A model for improving access to information through ICTs for distance learners is proposed.