Exploring the Relationship Between ICT Use, Mental Health Symptoms and Well-Being of the Historically Disadvantaged Open Distance Learning Student: A Case Study


Donald VAN DER MERWE


ABSTRACT
Whereas there exists a complex pattern of interrelated factors that act as determinants of the successful implementation of ODL in developing countries, most point at differences in access, use of, or impact of ICT. In addressing an area of research that has not received any attention, this study reports on an investigation into the relationship between ICT use patterns, selected mental health symptoms and the emotional, social and psychological well-being of the historically disadvantaged ODL student in the South African context of disparities. Data collected from 315 students in online survey revealed medium ICT use, higher computer use by working students compared to full-time students, a low prevalence of computer overuse symptoms, medium loss of sleep and a preference for individualized and non-collaborative activities that require minimalistic use of ICT. Differences between the ICT use scores of students who reported symptoms of stress and sleep disturbances and those who did not report symptoms were not significant, while the majority of students were diagnosed as moderately mentally healthy or flourishing. A significant relationship was found between working students’ ICT use scores and reduced performance, as well as between their ICT use scores and their social, emotional and psychological well-being scores. The strengths of the well-being relationships, however, ranged from weak to very weak. No significant relationships were reported for full-time students, nor for both groups between their ICT use scores and total mental health scores. The study concluded that in the context studied, ICT use patterns hold no risk factors for the mental health and well-being of the historically disadvantaged ODL student.


KEYWORDS: Open distance learning, student well-being, mental health symptoms, historically disadvantaged student, developing countries, ICT use patterns.

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