Integrating Online Learning in Schools: Issues and Ways Forward for Developing Countries
ICT integration into classroom pedagogical practices is considered an essential aspect of learning processes in developed countries but there are issues in developing countries regarding funding, infrastructure, access, and teacher skills and professional learning. This article presents some aspects of the findings of a study in one remote region within a developing country after the implementation of a widescale ICT initiative. This study investigates issues for implementing ICT in schools in relation to teacher and school leader attitudes, access and ICT use, and improvements needed in Papua which is one of the most remote regions of Indonesia. The paper frames these issues within the context of successful online learning initiatives in developing countries and foreign aid implementation literature, with these aspects being under-researched, especially in significantly remote developing country locations.
Developing countries like Indonesia have progressively introduced online learning into school management and classrooms within government planning frameworks and with initial support from foreign aid providers. While there is research available regarding ICT implementation in more urbanized contexts within developing countries, there is a gap in terms of large-scale research which is focused on more remote regions and is supported by foreign aid.
Mixed methods including surveys and interviews were used to investigate research questions concerning teachers’ and principals’ attitudes, ICT access and use, and perceptions about improvements needed. SPSS software was used for surveys and descriptive analysis, and interviews were analysed through manual coding processes.
ICT access and e-learning in schools are increasingly becoming relevant in developing country contexts, and this research paper is a preliminary large-scale study that makes a contribution through highlighting issues experienced in more remote locations. This includes specific internet and power issues and transport inaccessibility problems, which highlight the need for locally-based and ongoing coaching of teachers within schools and regions. The paper also draws on the literature about online learning in developing countries and foreign aid towards some possible success directions in isolated contexts, an under-researched area. The importance of education systems establishing ICT skills levels for students integrated across subjects, for well-coordinated planning involving partnerships with hardware and internet providers, as well as the need for school leaders being trained in establishing teacher peer support groups for ongoing coaching, are learnings for Papua and other remote locations from the comparative developing countries literature
The findings highlight teachers’ and school leaders’ positive attitudes to ICT in education, although the results indicate that ICT was frequently applied for administrative purposes rather than for teaching and learning. Principals and teachers highlighted some improvements that were needed including systematic training in computer skills and professional learning about the integration of ICT with teaching and learning, especially in relation to pedagogical practices, as well as the need for improved infrastructure and equipment.
The study highlights issues and potential success factors as evident in remote regions of developing countries that have achieved recognition for widescale ICT implementation in schools. This includes issues in relation to policy makers and education authorities working with foreign aid funders. Of significant importance is the need for coordinated and collaborative strategic planning including in relation to sustained professional learning towards student-oriented ICT pedagogies and skilling principals to establish a positive culture and teacher peer coaching. Particularly relevant to developing countries in remote locations is the importance of additionally addressing specific infrastructure and maintenance issues.
Regarding ICT and its use for student learning, more research is needed in developing countries and, in particular, in more remote locations where specific issues, differing from those encountered in capital cities, may be evident for teachers and principals.
Teachers and principals in remote locations of Indonesia such as Papua have generally positive attitudes about the benefits of online learning but need greater ICT access for students in the classroom and also professional development regarding pedagogical practices to support students in learning effectively through online processes.
Updated and more detailed comparative research with other developing countries, especially those with remote locations, would be beneficial to more comprehensively identify Papua’s current stage of development and to design appropriate future interventions.