The University of Venda (UNIVEN)’s Centre for Higher Education Teaching and Learning (CHETL) successfully hosted the 3rd Teaching and Learning Day on 09 July 2019 at 2Ten Hotel. The event was held under the theme ‘Challenges and milestones of technology integration for teaching and learning at UNIVEN.’
“We have to prepare for great changes in the way we do things because of the emergence and development of technology. We cannot remain behind as an institution of higher learning,” said the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Prof Jan Crafford.
Prof Crafford said that people should not see technology as a threat. “Let us embrace this technology with everything we have. Otherwise we are going to be caught unaware. The future is going to catch up with us and we will not be ready by that time,” he said.
“Within our university there are people who have really embraced E-learning. It should be possible in an ideal situation for a lecturer to show the students a PowerPoint now and immediately after the lecture, students access it from the LMS. If we make full use of technology in teaching and learning we will not require many lecture theatres,” he added.
During his welcome remarks, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Operations, Dr Robert Martin said that they have started to review the strategy of the institution. “Our strategy was created in 2015 and it should then come to an end in 2020. We want to rejuvenate UNIVEN and to recognize all the good things that have happened in this institution.”
Dr Martin said they want to change the people’s mindset away from the fact that UNIVEN is a rural University. “We should be talking about ourselves as an institution that is rural-based rather than a rural University. There is a huge difference between a rural university and a rural-based university. We are an institution that is in a rural location, but we are also an institution that has an impact to make in the world.”
Dr Martin said UNIVEN has developed four strategic thrusts which are: academic programme and curriculum; governance of the institution and administration; the international role that the institution must play; and entrepreneurial University. Dr Martin continued to express that the university must be able to make an impact within the local communities. He said that most of the problems that are faced by communities around Thohoyandou should be solved by the University.”
He also encouraged students not to use their tablets for entertainment. “Use your tablets for academic purposes.” he said.
Delivering the purpose of the gathering, the Director of CHETL, Prof Humbulani Nancy Mutshaeni said that the use of technology in teaching and learning has grown remarkably especially at UNIVEN.
Prof Mutshaeni outlined some benefits of the Learning Management Systems (LMS). “LMS organises learning content into one location; provides unlimited access to E-learning materials; easily tracks the students’ progress and performance; reduces learning and development costs, quickly and conveniently expands E-learning courses. It is possible to add additional information. It also integrates social learning experience,” Prof Mutshaeni said.
Prof Mutshaeni indicated that E-learning don’t just happen overnight because it requires careful planning and implementation.
Presenting about the implications of differently abled on learning through technology, the Head of Disability Unit, Dr Tshifhiwa Mbuvha said most students fake disability because it has some benefits. “If you are disabled automatically you get accommodation and free bursary from NSFAS and assistive devices. If you see a student with disability, please refer him/her to the disability unit. We train students on adapted technology and advise on the accessibility of physical environment. Our environment should be conducive and user friendly to those using wheelchairs.”
Dr Mbuvha continued to highlight that, E-learning is gaining momentum in institutions of higher learning because contact learning is no longer favourable. “Contact learning is expensive because you must have a lecturer, chairs and space which is much needed in our education sector. The use of ICT in teaching and learning is very crucial. We can no longer ignore E-learning in our teaching methodology.
“We should stop discriminating students with disabilities. All the computer labs should have a computer that can be used by a student with disability so that you do not refer them to the Disability Unit computer lab”.
The keynote speaker, a Senior Instructional Designer at Tshwane University of Technology, Dr Sibongile Mnisi, said technology is used to enhance teaching and learning and brings professional development.
She continued to express that every student in higher education must know how to use technology and encourage lecturers to take advantage of students’ tablets and use them for the purpose of teaching and learning. “You can use PowerPoint presentations to be interactive with students in class. Use Google slides so that you can interact with your students. Some students are shy to ask questions in class, so Google slides allow such students to ask questions online.”
Dr Mnisi further highlighted that the challenges facing the adoption of technologies in education is that lecturers do not want to change their traditional teaching methods. “You must know your students. If you have a student with disability in your class, include that student when you develop your course material,” She added.
A Lecturer in the Department of Computer Sciences, Mr Kudakwashe Madzima said Lecturers do not need to come to the lecture theatres knowing everything. “Lecturers need to understand that they must become facilitators rather than a godly possessed with knowledge.”
Mr Madzima said that he no longer prints course materials for his students. “The students find everything online. Many lecturers are not comfortable with the technology, PowerPoint and typing. The challenges facing the implementation of E-learning is the cost of data and low internet penetration rate; lack of instructional designers; absence of face-to-face communication; and perceived lack of control by staff,” he said.
Dr Thabisa Matsea, lecturer in the Department of Social Work, said students who are off campus should use their own money to buy data and it remains a challenge for some students to access the blackboard content. “Some of these devices are unable to access the blackboard content, but we hope that the tablets will enable them to access the content.”
“I have already started using E-learning because I have many students. I also use WhatsApp to communicate with my students,” said Florence Murungweni a lecturer in the School of Environmental Sciences.
Mr Tebello Mofokeng from Management Information System (MIS) office said that they use data to make informed decisions. “Through the MIS office, we have contributed to the students’ success by collecting student’s biographical data. We want to do a profile of our students and we want to know where our students come from. Most of UNIVEN students come from predominantly rural areas, so their support mechanisms will not be the same with those who come from metropolitan areas.”
Mr Mofokeng said the point of using technology in teaching and learning is to ensure that students pass their modules on record time. “There is no point of supporting students when they have already failed their modules. We want to have alerts ready so that we have support mechanisms that would then alleviate the issue of low throughput. We have to make sure that our students graduate on time,” he added.
Mr Mofokeng shared the stage with Dr Mary Masehela from CHETL. Her role was to put emphasis on the point that it is important to know our students if we are serious about student success. She indicated that after the MIS team have conducted data analytics about students, that information is shared with her office which is the Academic Development Unit (ADU) under CHETL. ADU then designs academic development programmes that directly address identified challenges that students experience. Dr Masehela further shared that they are currently implementing what they call an integrated student development programme wherein they work with module lecturers to offer various development programmes aimed at improved student success.
Presenting on the implications of emotional instability on teaching and learning using technology, the Head of Student Counselling and Career Development Unit, Dr Violet Mathye said that many students come with family issues to class that’s why sometimes they fail. “Some students are forced by their parents to pursue careers that they are not passionate about. We give counselling to students who have problems, help them cope and address problems that will impact negatively on their success. We also prevent problems before they really occur,” Dr Mathye said.
Mr Willy Xazela, Head of E-learning Unit, said training for E-learning has been available and the IT department has been providing basic training for staff to get started like computer literacy but only few staff members are attending. “People are not really making use of the available opportunities. We are providing trainings online for student orientation. We have trained about 53.2% of staff at our institution. We should have a mobile app in which students should be able to see courses and check registration,” said Mr Xazela.
Presenting on ‘My experiences with technology at UNIVEN’, Unarine Ndou who is a UNIVEN student said that when he came to UNIVEN, he was not familiar with technology. “I didn’t know how to operate a computer. I came from an area where there is no access to internet cafe and due to that, I wasn’t able to apply online,” Ndou said.
“Although I was experiencing challenges at home, I had to work hard to better my future. Sometimes if you don’t know how to use a computer, it hinders your academic progress at tertiary level,” Ndou said.
Dr Fhatuwani Ravhuhali from CHETL thanked the attendees for attending the event and for their participation. “We need to be proactive on how we embrace the use of technology in our teaching.”
Department of Communications & Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525
Date: 18 July 2019