Never too Old to Learn
Professor Michael Savage, a Senior Professor in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who has been an academic member of staff at the University of KwaZulu-Natal since 1977, has received his Masters in Agriculture cum laude. This despite the fact that he already holds both a PhD degree and a Doctor of Science degree.
Savage, who began pursuing this degree in the late 1970s, was able to convert his Masters into a PhD after publishing his research in an international journal in 1979. At the time of submission he had not realised that being published in such a journal qualified him for a degree conversion.
Having decided that he still wanted to achieve a Masters degree and submitted his thesis in October 2013, despite being one of the most highly-qualified academics at the University! He made history as the first recipient of UKZN’s Doctor of Science in Agriculture degree in 2010.
His supervisor, Dr Colin Everson, said the masters thesis, which was accepted with no corrections, was of such a high quality that it far surpassed what one would expect from Masters-level research.
Savage’s thesis, titled: “Web-Based Teaching, Learning and Research using Real-Time Data from Field-Based Agrometeorological Measurement Systems”, included educational, environmental and agrometeorological research which resulted from the development of his innovative web-based teaching and learning system which has won the Discipline much acclaim.
Savage has been responsible for the development of all Agrometeorology courses since 1977 and continues his work today.
His web-based teaching and learning system uses a sophisticated weather station based on the Pietermaritzburg Agricultural campus which incorporates instruments not normally found at traditional weather stations. Using instruments which measure a number of factors, from soil-water content to sensors for measuring leaf wetness to calculations of heat index, the system provides near real-time data and information displays and alerts. This has enabled students to collect and analyse data with ease.
Savage has won numerous awards for his research over the years, the most recent being the award for the best paper published in 2013 at the 2014 Combined Congress of Soil Science, Crop Science, Horticultural Science and Weed Science Societies in Grahamstown.
Savage’s enjoyment of teaching and research has led him to explore how his web-based system has improved understanding across language divides using its particular representations of meteorological data. His students acknowledge that the system has improved their understanding of the field despite the language barrier.
Savage has also initiated an effort to begin translating the English terms found in Agrometeorology into Zulu with the collaboration of his students to improve the accessibility of the Discipline.
The web-based teaching and learning system is also a flagship project for the University Teaching and Learning Office, which recently hosted a seminar given by Savage on the topic of using real-time/live data to enhance teaching and learning in Higher Education.
- Christine Cuénod