Student Academic Literacy Practices in a South African Vocational Web Design Higher Education Course

Coleman, Lynn (2009). Student Academic Literacy Practices in a South African Vocational Web Design Higher Education Course. MRes thesis The Open University.



This study explores and describes the academic literacy practices of students completing a vocationally orientated web design and development course at Hoerikwaggo University of Technology, a higher education institution in South Africa. The research study proposes a more inclusive conceptualisation of academic literacies to accommodate the multimodal and digital texts produced by students on the course. An academic literacies research perspective is used as a conceptual framework for the study, accepting an understanding of literacy as being constitutive of the sociocultural environments and practices in which reading and writing is used. In keeping with the methodological perspectives espoused by academic literacies research, an ethnographic oriented approach was used. Data collection was primarily informed by participant observation activities and semi-structured interviews with student participants. Thematic analysis of fieldnotes and interview transcripts was used as the main data analysis tool. The analysis of the study highlights the primacy of the multimodal text and its influence in shaping the academic literacy practices in the course, along with the ways in which digital technologies, foregrounded in the professional domain of web design and development, mediate the nature of these literacy practices. Overall the study confirms the awareness, in much research in the academic literacies field, of the need to recognise and respect the distinctiveness of literacy practices in different academic contexts.

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