UKZN Academic Develops Conceptual Framework for Online Learning
Senior lecturer in Information Systems and Technology, Dr Upasana Singh has developed a conceptual framework, ASSET© (Academic SkillSET) for online teaching, learning and assessment.
The framework was developed as part of her research on the impact of COVID-19 on academics in Higher Education. ASSET© is designed to assist lecturers as they navigate the online learning space.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required academics to make a sudden transition from contact to online learning. Singh notes that this calls for serious attention to re-skilling, ‘Academics need to adapt to this unexpected change, sometimes with minimal digital teaching skills and capabilities. They need to equip themselves with a new skillset for successful navigation of the online teaching, learning and assessment spaces that have been created.’
The ASSET© framework outlines eight basic skills that lecturers need to develop or possess to support a smooth transition from the face-to-face to the online space, which will most likely find its balance in a blended space post COVID-19. These skills are:
- Digital Literacy – Having basic technology-based skills to implement online teaching
- Digital Pedagogy – Knowing which technology tool is best suited to the content being taught and/or assessed
- Emotional Intelligence – Having empathy for both students and colleagues who may be studying or working from non-conducive environments
- Communities of Practice – Academics sharing what they know or learn with colleagues, to support their transition to online learning
- Digital Identity – Creating and maintaining a digital profile and footprint
- Recognising Diversity – Understanding the cultural, social, economic and digital capital in classrooms
- Time Management – Avoiding burnout through a structured routine
- Communication Skills – Considering the nuances of non-contact communication.
Singh commented that the academic skillset required to educate online is vastly different from that needed in a traditional face-to-face environment. ‘Academics need to become familiar with tools to professionalise lectures and actively engage students in the virtual learning space. They have to manage their digital identity and master useful tools to navigate online teaching cautiously but in an exploratory manner.
‘Inducting students on their online learning space requires academics to teach them new skills such as harnessing persistence; independence; technical skills; reading and writing skills; motivation; time management; communication skills and empathy.The academic skillset required to engage successfully in these new learning spaces extends beyond just knowing and learning the technology.’
Singh added that the sudden shift has been compounded by the forced work-from-home scenario, a safety precaution with its own set of challenges. ‘Many academics are teaching from their personal spaces, and this will have its challenges - there may be a baby crying in the background during a lecture, or disruption if technology fails. Academics must also be kinder and more patient with one another during these unprecedented times. Supporting one another is critical in this environment, so if someone has learnt one useful tool, it is important to try and share this knowledge with others in your discipline, institution and network.’
The framework is currently being pilot tested and will be validated through interaction with academics at Higher Education Institutions. Singh has invited more than 500 academics in 18 countries to participate in the pilot. She hopes to implement the validated ASSET© framework as an electronic tool by the end of this year, when it would be available online for academics to ascertain their areas of strength and opportunities to improve their skills.
Singh has a keen interest in Educational Technologies. In 2019 she completed her Fellowship in “Teaching Advancement in Universities” (TAU), from the Council on Higher Education (CHE). Her primary area of research is Digital Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
Words: Sejal Desai
Photograph and image: Supplied