|dc.description.abstract||Rationale: Unavoidably, the 21st century is witnessing continuous discourse about students’
technology uses in higher education. This thesis explores the underpinnings of students’
technology usage in their rhizomatic (personal) learning networks in the higher educational
environment through a lens of four sub-research questions and four research hypotheses.
Methodology: This research adopted a cross-sectional narrative and numeric study using the
Frameworks for an Integrated Methodology (FraIM). The study was conducted in four universities
comprising two universities in Ghana, one in South Africa and another in Belgium. Participants and
respondents included students and lecturers. Data collection methods comprise focus group
interviews, individual interviews, surveys (paper and web-based) and rhizomatic maps. The
philosophical underpinning was inclined towards the critical realists’ stance and hinged to Rhizome
Theory and Actor Network Theory. Data were analysed through descriptive and multivariate
analyses and learning analytics employing tools in social network analysis. Results were presented
graphically via Rhizomatic Learning Network maps, charts, tables and narratives.
Findings: Students’ personal learning networks exhibit traces of rhizomatic patterns which are
related through human and non-human actors. Seven categories of actors – comprising 218
individual actors – were found in students’ Rhizomatic Learning Networks. Out of 19 traceable
digital devices used by students, this research established differences among the institutions in the
four most widely used digital devices: Laptop, Smartphone, Tablet or iPad, and E-Reader pro rata.
Students owned, in this sequence, smartphones, laptops, tablets or iPads and e-readers. This
research also found statistically significant differences among all four institutions in terms of
students’ self-perceived importance of handheld mobile devices towards academic success,
university wireless network experiences and satisfaction of Learning Management Systems in the
universities. However, results indicated that students are not likely to skip classes when materials
from course lectures are available online, implying an inclination towards a blended approach to
learning despite a technologically-rich environment.
Implications and Value: With an underlying effect on curriculum design and implementation,
this thesis, supporting rhizomatic approaches to learning, has tremendous potential to improve
personal learning networks in higher education. It further contributes an understanding of
emerging patterns in the personal learning networks of higher education students within a
technology-rich environment. Again, integration of the two theories – FraIM, analytical tools and
style of presentation – in understanding the problem through the lens of a critical realist is novel.
Key Recommendations: Further rhizoanalysis research into the detailed roles performed by
individual technological actors in students’ personal learning networks in the higher educational
environment is required. Additionally, clear policies exhibiting willingness and enforcement
strategies to integrate technology in all facets relating to learning should guide curriculum
development within the universities.||en_US