Digital Divide: Challenges Faced by the University Students in the Context of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) during the Covid-19 Pandemic
The main purpose of the study was to investigate the challenges faced by the university students in the context of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) during the Covid-19 pandemic using the Motivational System Theory (MST). Therefore, the Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted with students who follow the BA Degree in Social Sciences offered by the Department of Social Studies at the Open University of Sri Lanka. The qualitative data were thematically analysed. The personal interviews were also conducted with the teachers attached to the department. The results showed that the challenges occurred due to personal factors and institutional factors. Moreover, the students mainly face personal issues such as IT literacy and IT infrastructure issues, technical issues, health issues, financial issues, and institutional issues such as inadequate support given by the supportive divisions, unreliable online platforms such as student registration platform and Learning Management System (LMS), and a lack of resources and IT infrastructure facilities available in the university for students. The results show that mostly the students attached to the regional and study centres face these challenges compared to the students in the Colombo regional centre due to the digital divide. In other words, there is a divide between information rich and poor when it comes to the e- learning. Therefore, the responsible parties should facilitate the students by providing the required resources, facilities, services, opportunities, guidance, and training to create a student-friendly learning environment during the pandemic.