Crossing the digital divide safely and trustingly: How ecologies of learning scaffold the journey

Elizabeth Henning, Duan Van der Westhuizen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The article addresses the issue of learning to elearn in borderless programs in a globalised learning landscape and the associated problems of scaffolding the journey across the digital divide. The authors argue that the assumption underlying such courses is that cross-cultural programs are viable because they are conceived and designed to be 'global', and that they assume this design to be inclusive. Henning and Van der Westhuizen claim that the global discourse in most domains can take only marginal note of the need to infuse such programs with a local semiotic - a course design criterion for which they argue. They furthermore forward the notion that the majority of the world's prospective elearners need various bridging mechanisms in order to be able to access the broader discourse and that one of these mechanisms can be explored through the metaphor of "information ecologies" as proposed by Nardi and O'Day [Nardi, B.A., & O'Day, V.L. (1999). Information ecologies. Using technology with heart. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press]. They also conclude that issues of the learners' trust in the course and its system need to be considered when contemplating programs for diverse target groups. By way of a case study, consisting of three portraitures of adult learners, they explore the limitations of assumed distributed cognition and claim that learning is, in reality, contained/constrained in the familiar local narrative of the novice adult elearners in a rural South African context. The case study illustrates how the resistance to technology and its power base becomes an obstacle for the students and how the support of peers becomes the main scaffolding mechanism for their entry into electronic learning environments. The findings thus show how the social context becomes the facilitator and the scaffold for elearning, more than technology and the curriculum itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-352
Number of pages20
JournalComputers and Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2004


  • Distributed learning environments
  • Learning communities
  • Lifelong learning
  • Virtual learning environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Education


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