Undergraduate medical students’ readiness for online learning at a South African university: Implications for decentralised training

Main Article Content

A M Ingratta
S E Mabizela
A Z George
L Green-Thompson


Background. Decentralised teaching has the potential to transform medical education but requires greater use of online learning to address some of the challenges of decentralised teaching in low- and middle-income countries. Given the digital divide that exists in South Africa (SA), it is necessary to establish the extent of student readiness for the broader implementation of online learning. 

Objectives. To determine medical students’ device ownership, usage and attitudes towards online learning at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. 

Methods. A cross-sectional survey of first-, third- and sixth-year students was conducted in 2017. The questionnaire included open- and closed-ended questions. Quantitative data were analysed using frequency and custom tables and Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests. Open-ended responses were analysed using content analysis. 

Results. The survey response rate was 48.5% (448/924). No significant differences in device usage and attitudes towards online learning were observed across the 3 years of study. Most respondents (99%) owned internet-capable devices, and >90% wanted some degree of online learning. The perceived barriers included poor internet connectivity on university campuses and the high cost of data in SA. 

Conclusion. The majority of respondents owned internet-capable devices and requested more online learning, but the socioeconomic disparities in the country raise concerns about students’ readiness. Wider online learning requires policy decisions to ensure not only access to devices and data but also the implementation of online learning in ways that avoid further disadvantaging already disadvantaged students. Institutional barriers must be addressed before an expanded online learning environment can be considered.


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Undergraduate medical students’ readiness for online learning at a South African university: Implications for decentralised training. (2022). African Journal of Health Professions Education, 14(2), 66-71. https://doi.org/10.7196/AJHPE.2022.v14i2.1433
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Undergraduate medical students’ readiness for online learning at a South African university: Implications for decentralised training. (2022). African Journal of Health Professions Education, 14(2), 66-71. https://doi.org/10.7196/AJHPE.2022.v14i2.1433


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