Davis et al., (2010, p. 19) state that it is important to note that eLearning is not a separate mode of learning but it is embedded mode of learning. It is one of the learning tools that is gaining its momentum in learning and teaching environment. Individuals learn differently and situations differ for each learner. When some learn best in groups and with peers others learn best on their own. While some have access to technology and are well versed with it there may be others who may not have it readily available and are learning it. According to Davis et al., (2010, p. 21) ability to use computer systems have been coined 21st century literacy skills - what also has been termed digital literacy (Ohler, 2009, p.9).

The lack access and digital literacy has led to a phenomenon known as the digital divide. In a keynote addressing at NetHui, Barbara Craig – stated "New Zealand's digital divide has left hundreds of thousands of Kiwi kids isolated and cut off from their communities. She further emphasised more than 200,000 Kiwi children don’t have internet access at home. Most of those affected live in low socioeconomic areas and are unable to pay for an internet connection, while some struggle with confidence and feel they have been left behind by the ever-changing technology (Mead, 2014)

 "We know that out there in many communities there are a lot of people who have never touched a computer or a mouse,” she said. There’s a real cost to not being connected – to both to the Government and the individuals and families who are being left behind.”

According to research by 2013 World Internet Project New Zealand (WIPNZ) Report, part of the international World Internet Project

 “The report shows a ‘digital divide’ exists, particularly for Māori, Pasifika, those in rural areas, and those on lower household incomes. It shows it has a significant impact on people and their ability to participate in society. Government has an important role in addressing these issues." (Ashok, 2013, para. 3).

Research conducted by Te Puni Kokiri states Maori eLearning experience states that no more than 10% of participants had sound computer skills, approximately 60% were first time computer users, few had ready access to computers and 10% of participants did not have telephone access. These issues were alleviated with rigorous support structures both electronically, additional face-to-face sessions and with a telephone help desk (Murphy, Bright, and Collins, n.d.). 

Lack of technical support has been identified as a barrier for Maori students:

                    a)    Tertiary institutions provide little training for students to become accustomed to the software used

                    b)    Access to the course website is slow, and sometimes there’s no access for lengthy periods of time

                    c)     Students have limited confidence in eLearning technical support

 (Porima, n.d. p.11).

Rogers, Graham, & Mayes, (2007) outline the importance of culturally responsive teaching and learning contexts for Māori students. Rogers et.al., (2007, p. 198) have identified that course designers of eLearning programmes need to be more conscious of culture in their work that they do. Specifically, the three key barriers to being more culturally responsive outlined by Rogers et al. (2007, p. 207) are :

a)    an over emphasis on content development as the centre of practice and under

emphasis on context and learner experience

b)    a relative lack of evaluation in real-world practice; and

c)    roles that designers assume in larger organizations.

Rogers et. al. found that instructional designers were more focused on content development, They concentrate more on designing programmes which is a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Unfortunately it ignores the different realities and contexts of the learner and it creates a disconnection between the course designer, the product, the learner and the end-user of the product (2007, p.207).

Another challenge to e-Learning was the ability of teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of the tools used to design their programmes they were teaching and utilising in their classrooms. The key issue was the development of sufficiently skilled staff – who were proficient not only in curriculum subject content as well as Te reo Māori. This is a significant challenge for Māori immersion schools – but who were also skilled in e-Learning pedagogy and teaching (Tiakiwai and Tiakiwai, 2010, p.20).

Isolation in the virtual learning environments has been identified also (Porima, n.d., p.10; Piccoli, Ahmed & Ives, 2001, p.409). Interaction and collaborative practice between students and teachers (Ministry of Education, 2009, Ako section, para, 1), students and students, tuakana-teina (Greenwood and Te Aika, 2008, p.92), and links to whanau and the wider community (Greenwood and Te Aika, 2008, p.88, 90).

Figure 2.1 below summarises the issues and challenges faced by all eLearners and Figure 2.2 discusses the additional challenges faced by Maori eLearners.

Figure 2.1 Issues and challenges for eLearners 

Figure 2.2 Issues and challenges for eLearners in Maori context (summarised from Porima n.d. research)

Positive approaches in eLearning

Several studies (Askov, Johnston, Petty and Young, 2003: Benseman and Sutton, 2007; Dofs, 2007; Litster, 2007 as cited in Davis et al.,2010, p.21) suggest that adult learners become autonomous users of e-learning tools and gain maximum benefit if they have the following characteristics and opportunities. The findings are summarised in Figure 2.3 below.

Figure 2.3

Additional to these positive approaches Porima (n.d.,.pp. 8-9) shares the positive factors of eLearning for Maori participating in eLearnng courses:

  • flexibility, Being able to study at times convenient to the learner also acknowledged as useful when supporting whanau (Porima, n.d., p.8).    \
  • engagement, central factor in learning and learning online. As for anyone, whether face to face or online, engagement is a key element to learning and engagement is related to motivation.
  • financial, being able to download resources from the internet instead of incurring printing  costs (Porima, n.d., p.8)
  • distance, being able to study from a distance via eLearning has been identified as a benefit for Maori, in regards to staying near and with whanau and whanau support (Porima, n.d, p.8).
  • confidence, learning in an online environment can support akonga who are sometimes shy in full class environments or confrontational situations.


Ashok, S.M. (2013). Internet report shows digital divide among kiwis. Retrieved August 12, 2014 from http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/kiwi-kids-isolated-by-digital-divide-2014070916

Davis & Fletcher et al., (2010). E-learning for adult literacy, language and numeracy: a review of the literature. Ministry of Education. New Zealand

Ferguson, S. L., (2008). Key elements for a Maori e-Learning framework. MAI Review. Article 3

Greenwood, J., & Te Aika, L. (2008). Hei tauira: Teaching and learning for success fro Maori in tertiary settings. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education

Mead, T. (2014). Kiwi kids isolated by digital divide. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from: http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/kiwi-kids-isolated-by-digital-divide-2014070916

Mead, H. M. (2003). Tikanga Maori: Living by Maori values. Wellington: Huia. 

Ministry of Education.(2013). Ka Hikitia. Accelerating success 2013-2017: The Maori Education Strategy. Wallington, New Zealand: Author

Ministry of Education. (2009). Ako. Retrieved for the Ministry of Education website: http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry/PolicyAndStrategy/KaHikitia/History/KaHikitia2008To2012/StrategyApproach/Ako.aspx

Murphy, H., Bright, N. & Collins, P. (n.d.). He tirohanga akoranga: An explanation of in-service support and professional development provision for Maori-medium teachers. Retrieved from Te Puni Kokori website: http://www.tpk.govt.nz/en/in-print/kokiri/kokiri-29-2013/

Ohler, J. (2009). Orchestrating the media collage. Educational Leadership 66(6), 9-13

Porima, L. (n.d.). Understanding the needs of Maori learners for the effective use of eLearnng. Wellington, New Zealand: ITPNZ. Retrieved July 15th from https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/download/ng/file/group-199/understanding-the-needs-of-mori-learners-for-the-effective-use-of-elearning.pdf

Piccoli, G., Ahmad, R., & Ives, B. (2001). Web-Based Virtual Learning Environments: A Research Framework and a Preliminary Assessment of Effectiveness in Basic IT Skills Training. MIS Quarterly, 2 5(4), pp. 401-426

Rogers, P.C., Graham, C. R., & Mayes, C.T. (2007). Cultural competence and instructional design: Exploration research into he delivery of online instruction cross-culturally. Educational Technology Research and Development, 55(2), 197-217

Tiakiwai, S., & Tiakiwai, H. (2010). A literature review based on virtual learning environments (VLEs) and e-Learning in the context of te reo Maori and kaupapa Maori education. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.