DEHub/Research Themes/Access, equity, social inclusion and ethics project 1

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Commissioned Research
Curriculum design
Access, equity, social inclusion and ethics
Globalisation of education
Interaction and communication in learning communities

Access, equity, social inclusion and ethics

What are the barriers and affordances in the Australian higher education context of using new and emerging ICT mediated distance learning for social excluded groups?

Summary of narrative syntheses, meta-analyses, meta-evaluations, and best evidence syntheses that currently exist.

The existence of a “digital divide” in Australian society has been the subject of intensive debate since the 1990s. Landmark studies include Hellwig & Lloyd (2000), Lloyd, Jock & Hellwig (2000), Curtin (2001), McLaren & Zappalà (2002), Gibson (2003), Holloway (2005), Samaras (2005), Willis & Tranter (2006), Atkinson, Black & Cutis (2008) and Notley & Foth (2008). Significant Australian studies on ICT-mediated distance learning and social excluded groups include Barrakett, Payne, Scott & Cameron (2000), Barrakett & Scott (2001) and Meyers (2006). Other studies of interest include Sherwood (2006) and Wilding (2009).

The best available syntheses of the field in the Australian context are ANTA (2002), Barrakett (2004), Kilpatrick & Bound (2003), AISR (2006) and ACSA (2008).

Recommended keywords for searches

access, Australia, digital divide, digital exclusion, distance learning, education, e-learning, employment, ethics, ICT, inequality, m-learning, mobile devices, mobile learning, online learning, rural and remote young people, social deprivation, social exclusion, social inclusion, digital literacy, computer literacy, higher education

Recommended search databases

A+ Education, Australian Public Affairs – Full Text, Emerald, ERIC, Google Scholar, SpringerLink, Taylor & Francis, Wiley InterScience

Additional references and links

The DE Hub Access, equity, social inclusion and ethics research theme page provides additional links to relevant material.


ACSA (2008). Putting learning back into E-learning: A Survey of Good Practice in E-Learning. South Melbourne: Aged & Community Services Australia.

AISR. (2006). The Digital Divide - Barriers to e-learning: Final Report. Adelaide: Australian Institute of Social Research, University of Adelaide.

ANTA (2002). Rural and Remote Learners: Access and Equity in Online Learning: Australian National Training Authority.

Atkinson, J., Black, R. & Curtis, A. (2008). Exploring the Digital Divide in an Australian Regional City. Australian Geographer, 39(4), 479-493.

Barraket, J., Payne, A. Scott, G. & Cameron, L. (2000) Equity and the use of communications technology in higher education: A UTS case study Canberra: AGPS.

Barraket, J. & Scott, G. (2001) Virtual Equality? Equity and the Use of Information Technology in Higher Education. Australian Academic and Research Libraries Journal, 32(2), 204-212.

Barraket, J. (2004) “E-Learning and Access: Getting Behind the Hype” in Osborne, M., Gallacher, J. & McCrossin, B. (eds.) Researching Widening Access to Lifelong Learning: Issues and Approaches in International Research. London: Routledge Falmer, 93-102.

Curtin, J. (2001). A digital divide in rural and regional Australia? Canberra: Department of the Parliamentary Library.

Gibson, C. (2003). Digital Divides in New South Wales: a research note on socio-spatial inequality using 2001 Census data on computer and Internet technology. Australian Geographer, 34(2), 239-257.

Hellwig, O. & Lloyd, R. (2000). Sociodemographic barriers to utilisation and participation in telecommunications services and their regional distribution: A quantitative analysis. Canberra: National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, University of Canberra. Holloway, D. (2005). The digital divide in Sydney. Information, Communication and Society, 8(2), 168-193.

Kirkpatrick, S. & Bound, H. (2003). Learing Online: Benefits and Barriers in Regional Australia. Leabrook, SA: National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

Lloyd, R., Given, J. & Hellwig, O. (2000). The Digital Divide: Some Explanations. Agenda, 7(4), 345-358.

McLaren, J. & Zappalà, G. (2002). The 'Digital Divide' Among Financially Disadvantaged Families in Australia. First Monday, 7(11).

Meyers, W. (2006) Equity Issues in ICT in Higher Education: The Experience of Mature-age Rural Women. Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong.

Notley, T., & Foth, M. (2008). Extending Australia's digital divide policy: An examination of the value of social inclusion and social capital policy frameworks. Australian Social Policy, 7, 87-110.

Samaras, K. (2005). Indigenous Australians and the ‘digital divide’. Libri, 55, 84-95.

Sherwood, C. (2006). The Use of Mobile Devices for Learning and Communication in Rural Communities. In T. Y. Reeves, S. (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education. Chesapeake, VA: Association for Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Wilding, R. (2009). Refugee youth, social inclusion, and ICTs: can good intentions go bad? Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 7(2/3), 159-174.

Willis, S., & Tranter, B. (2006). Beyond the Digital Divide: Internet Diffusion and Inequality in Australia. Journal of Sociology, 42(1), 43-59.