29 October 2021 Volume :9 Issue :46

UKZN Hosts Inaugural Virtual E-learning Symposium

UKZN Hosts Inaugural Virtual E-learning Symposium
Scenes from the E-learning Symposium.

UKZN’s Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO) hosted its inaugural Virtual E-Learning Symposium showcasing innovative approaches to delivering Higher Education.

Titled: New Horizons in Teaching and Learning in a Changing Higher Educational Landscape, the symposium, was attended by around 180 delegates who were welcomed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Sandile Songca.

Saying it was a great pleasure for him to be part of an event, which focused on e-learning, Songca congratulated the University for completing the 2020 academic year using online facilities made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director of Teaching and Learning Professor Rubby Dhunpath said the past 20 months at UKZN had been ‘the best of times along with the worst of times. Negotiating Higher Education catapulted us into an age of promise and possibility, which would not have happened without the impact of the pandemic.’

Keynote speaker and Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, discussed how COVID-19 had disrupted the conventional and traditional modes of teaching and learning, further deepening inequality.

Marwala said with Higher Education Institutions being crucial spaces for learning he noted how South Africa’s internet network suffered with a variety of issues, imploring online institutions of the future to procure telecommunications infrastructure of their own.

He said students converted theoretical training into practical expertise through guided learning and examined how online learning had left a gap for that which could be used to drive education on demand. He noted access as the leading challenge of using learning management systems (LMS) in online learning and urged institutions to take these concerns into account in future planning.

Marwala examined how integrated online and contact education were important in ensuring that learning took place, was accessible to all and effective. He also listed how online learning could support, expand and strengthen contact learning.

Co-keynote speaker Professor Craig Blewett of UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance cited the 18 months of the pandemic as an experiment in which Higher Education Institutions explored online learning.

Using Mentimeter, an interactive presentation tool, Blewett engaged and connected with his audience throughout his presentation. He reviewed the four eras of the EdTech Revolution, listing them as textual, printing, digital and internet-connected. Examining teaching and learning as e-Education Island trapped between two zones - the digital and connected - he noted how a bridge was required to connect the two zones and referred to the TPACK (Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge) model. 

Blewett highlighted the following five active pedagogies required to work as the bridge in order for the e-Education Island to operate effectively: curation, conversation, correction, creation and chaos. ‘We are going to be teaching on an e-Education Island and there is no going back. The question is how are we going to do that? So, we have to find ways of engagement, paradigm shifts and active digital pedagogies for this to be achieved.’

Earlier this year, students were asked to identify and share - in an e-learning essay competition - challenges and experiences associated with online learning. Tablet prizes were presented to three winners: Mr Simangaliso Madondo, Mr Nelson Nkunda and Mr Sizwe Sidaza.

Third-year Bachelor of Laws student Madondo said he was inspired to enter the competition because he loves essay writing; a Master’s student in Marketing, Nkunda highlighted some of the challenges of online learning including accessibility, intermittent load shedding, style of assessments and staff capacity development; while PhD candidate in Humanities, Sidaza concentrated on the importance of education evolving and adapting in order to remain relevant.

A panel discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning at UKZN was chaired by Professor Rubby Dhunpath, and featured the four College Deans of Teaching and Learning; Professor Naven Chetty (Agriculture, Engineering and Science), Professor Sinegugu Duma (Health Sciences), Professor Ruth Hoskins (Humanities) and Professor Msizi Mkhize (Law and Management Studies).

The Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO), Student Services Division, Information and Communication Services (ICS), Disability Unit and the University Technology Enhanced Learning (UTEL) departments at UKZN also presented on their roles in supporting students in online learning.

Closing the event, organising committee chair Mr Abdulbaqi Badru announced Dr Roshni Gokool and Professor Andre Vosloo as winners for the best presentations at the symposium.

Badru concluded with the vote of thanks, acknowledging the members of the organising committee, the media team (UTEL), the abstract review committee, and the essay review committee.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Images: Symposium Committee

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