Instructional Design in Africa

Instructional Design in Africa

Instructional Design, Educational Technology and Digital Teaching: Challenges in Higher Education in Africa 

We know that most African Higher Education Institutions have implemented forms of blended or online learning. Consequently, there has been a huge growth in the need for learning design in Africa. According to recent studies, learning design and the creation of online content are the most needed skills in African universities – and urgently too. (Pallitt et all, 2019:1). 

The current context of teaching and learning implies that instructional design should guide how teaching and learning are applied – specifically in reference to blended learning and online teaching contexts we are faced with, and therefore the use of technology in these scenarios is important. 

But how are we doing when it comes to Instructional Designers (IDs) in South African Institutions, and digital teaching or online learning application of learning design.  We asked various South African ID to share their views.  

A Lack of Capacity 

The lack of capacity was practically flagged by all. “Since the early 2000’s there is no longer a coursework Master’s degree for the formal training of Instructional Designers, while the available educational technology degrees lack the hands-on specialisation needed in this field,” says Miss Liana Venter (Snr ID) at North West University (NWU). Dr Setswe (Snr Instructional Designer) and Mr Harvey (ID) from Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) agree that there are few qualified instructional designers equipped to serve digital teaching and learning needs. Those who are available, often lack experience in the latest instructional design methodologies.  

A Lack of Skills  

In Higher Education, Instructional Design in Africa has become a scares skill. According to Ms Venter, We have seen a mass exit of qualified IDs from Higher Education to the private sector. This is due to a misalignment of skills and roles to reward. IDs who hold professional qualifications (such as a Masters or PhD) often end up as general support staff and are rewarded accordingly.  

A Lack of Resources 

The ratio of instructional designers to the ratio of academic staff and modules is not balanced.  Lecturers, therefore, do not always have the support they need in terms of instructional design in their courses, whether in class, online or for blended learning. In the same way, IDs cannot get to their role as Instructional Designer to its full capacity. 

Issues with quality assurance 

Dr Setswe and Mr Harvey highlighted that quality assurance is lacking. A system where documents or content are checked for quality is not in place. As a result, the Quality Assurance process seems to be viewed as a policing tool rather than integrated into the Instructional Design process.  

Constructive misalignment  

According to Dr Van Wyk (Snr Learning Designer) & Dr Moodley (Snr Learning Designer) from the University of Pretoria, lecturers often struggle with the alignment of the learning outcome, the assessment criteria, the activities, and/or assessments.

The outcome is often a module that is beautifully written and of the highest quality, but the assessment is a lower-level multiple-choice quiz. And while there is value in multiple-choice questions, this misalignment causes students to be able to skip the higher-order thinking activities and still pass the lower-order multiple-choice quizzes resulting in high marks.  

This can be solved by involving lecturers in analysing the outcomes and the assessment criteria first before they start designing the learning activities and or assessments. Preset templates can be valuable. 

Need to Know vs Nice to Know 

Dr Mari van Wyk (Snr Learning Designer) & Dr Kimera Moodley (Snr Learning Designer) explain that each lecturer is an enthusiastic advocate for their subject field.  To them, their field is the most important part of the qualification. Textbooks, scientific articles, games, videos, webinars, quizzes, and assignments are all added to the mix because it is so relevant and good. “We as learning designers, need to work closely with lecturers when designing online modules, otherwise there is a risk of overload (cognitive, multimedia).

It is part of our role to create a balance between what the learning outcomes expect students to be able to while engaging the student.” 

Lack of Technology: The easy way out 

Dr Van Wyk’s “favourite” as she calls it. Lecturers complain frequently that they cannot do an activity or use this technology because not all students have a smartphone/laptop/data/Wifi and the list continues. Yes, it is true, sometimes technology can become a stumbling block, but that doesn’t have to stop you from trying. Dr Van Wyk suggests that lecturers find a solution with the technology that the majority have access to. For those who do not – create alternative options or arrange time in a computer lab (residential students) to use technology. Don’t find excuses, find solutions.  

According to Dr Setswe and Mr Harvey, authoring tools and relevant applications to create digital content are also not up to date. In their experience, Instructional Designers are still using outdated software and not applications that are in line with the needs of the digital teaching and learning era.  

Rocking the Boat 

Dr Van Wyk and Dr Moodley add that for many lecturers the decision to change from contact to online teaching is easy, but the mind shift on how content needs to be delivered (pedagogically) is the greatest challenge. The age-old tried and tested methods need to be transformed to include technology and not only achieve learning outcomes but develop 21st-century skills that are just as valuable. Therefore, learning from others, staying abreast, and reading about best practices and new ways of teaching is imperative.  

Steering Through Troubled Waters 

Drs Van Wyk and Moodley continue that for many lecturers, change results in feelings of incompetence, lack of control, uncertainty, and negative attitudes because they are unable to predict how their students will respond. What needs more clarity? Is the content provided sufficient? The response in emotions includes fear, anxiety, and resistance.  To support this process, “it is important to take the humanistic approach and take the student’s (or alumni) voice into consideration. Once lecturers develop confidence in designing, developing, and teaching online they gradually become less reluctant to try new innovative methods.” 

Skilfully Learning to Sail  

The final thoughts from the Drs, are that the complexity of changing one’s teaching method should not go unrecognised. This shift shows great resilience towards forward-thinking and continuous development. True educationists are not afraid of change but instead, embrace it to stay in touch with the demands of the current student bodies. Lecturers are the change agents that create awareness, encourage critical thinking, develop new ideas and transform the subject field. Therefore, lecturers need to be encouraged to keep on developing and continuously embrace change.  

Finding Solutions That Work 

Our team serves people in higher education to enable greater access to a meaningful education. Through supporting educators in skills development, and sharing knowledge on the latest educational technology – we support digital teaching and learning and guide the relevant people through the change process. We understand that institutional success is reliant on student success. To achieve this, the quality of coursework, the credibility of qualifications and the learning experience have to align. We aid this process by partnering with higher education institutions in Africa to identify their challenges and find solutions to address these challenges, not only through EdTech but through equipping educators with the skills and solutions to achieve this.   

Reach out to learn how we can help 

 

Sources Consulted: 

Pallit, N., Carr, T., Gunness, S. and Dooga, J. Perspectives on Learning Design in African Higher Education (postprint) Conference Paper · July 2018. Available Online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329093544 (Accessed 09 May 2022). 

 

And Special Thanks to: 

Tshwane University of Technology: Dr Granny Setswe (Snr Instructional Designer) & Mr Andrew Harvey (Instructional Designer) 

North West University: Miss Liana Venter (Snr Instructional Designer) 

University of Pretoria: Dr Mari van Wyk (Snr Learning Designer) & Dr Kimera Moodley (Snr Learning Designer) 

For your insights and contributions. 

 

Durban University of Technology on How To Mitigate Academic Misconduct 

When Remote Emergency Teaching was put in place, it was meant to be a temporary solution – a month, two months, at most three. It soon became clear, however, that this pandemic and consequent circumstances, were not just going to blow over. The rest, as they say, is history. While many institutions carried on for the sake of keeping the momentum, others paused to re-evaluate the way they do things. 

The Durban University of Technology did exactly so. Dr Prinavin Govender shares their journey, “It started two years ago for DUT. We noticed there was dishonesty taking place during assessments. Our marks were improving exponentially. So, while we were in a position to carry on with teaching and learning, we overlooked this critical component of assessments.” Most institutions had turned to an emergency format of assessments, where continuous assessments were put into place. But  

DUT was not alone; several institutions now faced the challenge of academic integrity at online or remote assessments. Dr Govender shares that they picked up on misconduct – students copying each other’s work and working together on assessments together. It was easy to note as answers were similar, or marks were not reflective of the student’s usual marks. But unfortunately, they had no proof to show this was indeed the case. They needed hard, quantitative data.   

As the emergency in remote learning became more of a permanent solution, dishonesty among students became more apparent, and the pressing question was asked at DUT, “what are we doing about it.” 

The Durban University of Technology looked at various proctoring software solutions, from local to international. With specific criteria in mind and a researcher’s mind, Dr Govender found that most if not all solutions were pretty data-intensive and expensive.  And one had to keep the two major issues or challenges of students in mind, being 1) they don’t have expensive smartphones 2) they don’t have unlimited data available. Unfortunately, the solutions that they looked into require high-end equipment and full bandwidth. As a result, there were two main factors that would influence their final decision, access to connectivity/bandwidth and equipment (such as high-end laptops or phones).  

After running a few pilots of proctoring solutions, a peer from an alternative institution advised Dr Govender of The Invigilator. And so, Dr Govender tested it. As one of the first academics in the institutions to use it, Dr Govender was pleasantly surprised. Next step, they piloted the application with 30 students, and now picked up on irregularities through The Invigilator application. There was proof that students do tend to find shortcuts during assessments and behave in a manner that is not with integrity. In fact, through the various flagging features of The Invigilator, they could pick up within 30 minutes that some students were being dishonest.  It met all the criteria and put mitigation measures in place for students to be less tempted to cheat during assessments. 

Dr Govender presented the evidence (now hard data) to his faculty and the exco and moved on to piloting the application on a faculty level. The ideal is to implement the software in all faculties across the university. They are currently in the process of rolling it out to other faculties, i.e. at an institutional level. 

The app certainly deters academic misconduct and places students on the same playing field. This makes the results and outcomes of their academic records more realistic and fairer. As more institutions start using The Invigilator, the application adds an important element of credibility to qualifications in South Africa and hopefully soon around the world. As staff and students using it at DUT, “we can honestly say it is a deterrent for dishonesty,” Dr Prinavin Govender.  

Dr Govender extends a big thank you to the Eiffel Corp and The Invigilator Team for their patience and professionalism when it came to all the red tape they had to overcome at the institution to roll out the application on a large scale. The support and service were applaudable.

 

Dr Prinavin Govender is currently employed at the Durban University of Technology in the Information Technology (IT) Department as a Computer Science Academic. He received his PhD in Education in 2020. He has been in the IT field for over 30 years and is passionate about both teaching and research.

 

 

 

Improved Pedagogy Enabled by Assessment Using Gradescope

Gradescope is a Turnitin solution that enables quick and easy grading.

This useful tool saves instructors time and lets them focus on teaching, which is the most important part of the learning process.

It is undisputed that feedback is very crucial where learning is concerned. This is to help students know how they are doing, which areas to focus on, and so on. It also helps instructors know how they can help their students improve, which concepts to revisit and also to help them better understand those concepts. While Turnitin’s main focus is to empower students to do their best, authentic work, their team identified the importance of providing a tool to help deliver effective feedback, while saving instructors grading time.

Gradescope has solved grading problems for many institutions, big or small. One such example is of a large institution that had to find a system to suit thousands of students.  The institution needed a solution that would create consistency all round – for every module, teaching has to be the same for every student, and the experience has to be as similar as possible. However, with more than 30 000 students, grading each student’s paper was not that easy. The initial method that the university used was grading exams based on the rubric developed by a team and then they had to trust and hope that instructors would all interpret and apply the rubric in the way it was intended (and in the same way). With each instructor drawing their own conclusion from what they were noticing while marking the papers, it was difficult to know how all the students were performing as a whole.

Gradescope changed all this. The university’s grading problems were solved! It enabled data-informed instruction and consistent grading. Instructors could now gain insight into how all the students answered certain questions. Gradescope provided the university with unique and clear information for every question regardless of type, from multiple-choice to open-response questions. In response, instructors had the opportunity to adjust instruction, review test questions, and easily compare the similarity between versions of exams.

Instructors could identify the variance of different answers students gave, as well as group answers together. This allows instructors to provide a standard comment with just one click, for every common response. This saves instructors time, and gives them a chance to focus on instruction based on the data and insights they would get from the test or assessment results. Insight into graded results data, standard feedback to students, students receiving feedback faster due to streamlined grading process, and instructors saving a tremendous amount of time – all these factors help instructors and align coursework with pedagogical goals at the institution.

How Does Gradescope Work?

Here is how the rubric based digital grading tool works in assessing exams:

  1. It grades student submissions online, in any location
  2. Gradescope changes the point value associated with a particular mistake once and applies to the entire population
  3. Gradescope references similar mistakes so that the grader does not have to rewrite the same comment
  4. It facilitates a database that keeps a digital record of the student work
  5. It allows feedback digitally outside of classroom time

These activities help Gradescope to focus on four principles of effective feedback:

Gradescope

Institutions that use Gradescope have found that teaching and learning outcomes improve with the insights gained from using Gradescope, supporting them in meeting their pedagogical commitment.

 

 

Cloud-based LMS

Cloud-based LMS

The New Age of Cloud-based LMS

A recent encounter brought about a chuckle in our offices. Two colleagues sharing information with each other, frustrated with a temporary lag on the internet. Finally, a third colleague emerges with a flash disk, “Why not just use this?” Now, why did we not think of that! And laughter ensued. 

We have become so accustomed to sharing high volumes of data via the internet, it has rendered Cds/DVDs and even flash disks and external hard drives close to useless.  

In the era of cloud computing, we are no longer bound by a local machine or software files installed on a computer or server.  SaaS applications have become the go-to in the new world that is in the Cloud. What is SaaS though? And how has this move impacted the educational technology world? 

SaaS or a “Software as a Service” application is software that is delivered via the internet as a service. This means these applications are available from anywhere, and from any device. The provider of the services then hosts the applications on behalf of the customer, delivering them to the user via the internet. In a similar manner, a SaaS LMS (Learning Management System) is an LMS that is hosted in the Cloud. But why would you need a Cloud-based Learning Management System? 

Self-hosted vs Cloud-based LMS  

Traditionally, software is purchased as a license. This means an organisation would pay a once-off or upfront fee for software to be installed onto your computer or server. Typically, this is a very high cost to organisations, and a software license is paid per user or device.  With SaaS, software organisations can subscribe on a monthly or annual basis. This means the cost is not as upfront and becomes more affordable. Users can also end the subscription when services are no longer applicable.  

A SaaS-hosted LMS means all the technical work is usually done for you by an LMS provider. One of the biggest advantages is that, since the software is all cloud-based, apps are updated automatically. In other words, there is no need for the IT team to sort out each individual computer or user with updates – saving resources from day one, both in terms of time and capacity. 

Costing – What You See is What You Get 

Unlike software installations on-site, the initial investment in new software is minimal. In some cases, the set-up cost may even be nothing. The monthly cost is known in advance (and transparent with a trusted provider). Over and above the software costs, there are also savings on installation time and troubleshooting. 

Fast Deployment 

With all software being in the Cloud, it is all systems go when it comes to deployment. Technical processes, hosting, and setup are sorted by your service provider, saving your technical team and organisation a great deal of time and money. 

 Easy to Maintain 

When it comes to an LMS that is cloud-based, technical glitches and troubleshooting errors are usually part of the service. Regular software updates constantly improve user experience. Software updates are usually automatic, which is also one less thing to worry about – and agile applications mean you always have the latest software, without additional costs.  

Scalability  

The next great thing about the SaaS LMS is that there is no limit when it comes to growth. Your organisation can upscale users overnight, without any intervention required. Furthermore, there is no limit on the number of courses, materials, or instructors that can be uploaded to the system.  

Does your organisation or institution need to move to Cloud-based LMS? Reach out today for more information. 

United Kingdom, 2022– MEA Markets magazine has announced the winners of the 2021 MEA Business Awards

We are honoured to share the news that Eiffel Corp has been recognised as the eLearning Innovators of the Year – Africa (for 2021).

Running consecutively in its fifth year, the MEA Business Awards programme acknowledges and celebrates diversely talented businesses based in the Middle East and Africa. In 2021, the focus has been on recovery and moving forward after a turbulent first year of the pandemic. The aim of the MEA Business Awards is to award those businesses and professional individuals who have shown resilience and demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit by taking their business to a new level of success.

Our Awards Coordinator, Victoria Cotton, has expressed her joy over hosting the awards programme this year: “I am delighted to have been associated with the Awards programme this year and would like to offer my biggest congratulations to all the winners this year. I am very proud of all the businesses associated with MEA Markets this year and would like to wish them all the best for their future endeavours!”

To find out more about these prestigious awards, and the dedicated professionals selected for them, please visit https://www.mea-markets.com/awards/mea-business-awards/ where you can view our winners supplement and full winners list.

At Eiffel Corp, we are a strategic Edtech partner specialising in modern learning solutions for African contexts. We partner with academic institutions to understand their processes and challenges, and create unique solutions to better educate and empower their learners. Ultimately we work towards enabling greater access to meaningful education.

Equipped to Fight Plagiarism

“When a society’s educational institutions are infused with integrity, they help create a stronger civic culture for society as a whole.”

International Centre for Academic Integrity

The Age-old Challenge of Academic Misconduct

Although universities and higher learning institutions have been fighting against academic misconduct among students, academics and staff, it remains a challenge. The result of course is mistrust of both students and educators.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism has many shapes and forms, but it boils down to any one person using the words ideas or work products of another identifiable person or source, without attributing this to its original source; in a situation where there is a legitimate expectation of original authorship; in order to obtain some benefit, credit or gain – which need not necessarily be of a monetary nature (Fishman, 2009). In short, when students try to pass off others’ work or ideas as their own.

The temptation to draw on resources in a dishonest manner during exams, assessments, projects and so forth, has been ascribed to pressure placed on students. Sometimes students aren’t even aware that they are committing plagiarism as they reference all sources. In other cases, it is simply to find dishonest ways to submit work – often disregarding the impact of not acquiring their qualifications in an honest manner may have on their future (or on others). (Read more on why students plagiarise here)

How to Tackle Plagiarism

Plagiarism is not a new concept – over the years it has just become easier to copy other ideas due to the easy access to information, other students’ work or paying someone else to do the work for him or her.

Rather than implementing stricter policing tools, educators should find ways to identify and address the root of the problem. And institutions should guide this process with policies and processes.  The key focus should be on raising awareness of what academic integrity is and how to uphold it, to educate and support students through building their skills around research, citation, writing and academic integrity practises. Through this, institutions also protect their values and ultimately their credibility.

Equipped to Build a Culture of Academic Integrity

Turnitin helps both students and educators limit plagiarism and encourages original writing. There are various solutions offered by Turnitin to help guide this process at every step of academic writing.

The reasoning behind this is that in order to create a culture of fairness, students need to understand how to act with integrity. Educators need the tools to efficiently act with fairness in mind, helping students to help understand the importance thereof. Institutions need insights that can secure integrity as part of every aspect of the education they provide their students.

In essence, Turnitin’s solutions provide insights to the right people at the right moment, so that they can respond proactively. This is achieved through presenting data and insights within teaching and learning tools.

Figure 1.1: Turnitin Solutions

How does Turnitin Similarity Work?

Turnitin Similarity is not an anti-plagiarism tool. Rather, it checks for the level of similarity in a research report or assignment. Once flagged, the educator can investigate whether work is cited correctly or not.

Figure 1.2: Flagged citations 

Here is how the process works. A typical submission made to an assignment in Turnitin generates a Similarity Report. The Similarity Report is the result of comparison between the text of the submission against the search targets selected for the assignment; this may include billions of pages of active and archived internet information, a repository of works previously submitted to Turnitin, and a repository of tens of thousands of periodicals, journals, and publications. Any matching or highly similar text discovered is detailed in the Similarity Report that is available in the assignment inbox.

The similarity score is a percentage of a paper’s content that matches Turnitin’s databases; it is not an assessment of whether the paper includes plagiarised material or not.

Key features

  • Color-coding, filters, and source comparison for easy interpretation.
  • Data insights to show deliberate text manipulation.
  • Compare against the industry-leading database of content for comprehensive results.
  • Integrates with today’s top learning management systems, collaboration tools, and single-sign-on services. 

Which Plagiarism Solution is Right for You?

This buyer’s guide will help you find the plagiarism-checking solution that meets your institution’s needs and instructional goals.

Download "Plagiarism Solution Checklist'

Complete the form to download "Plagiarism Solution Checklist

 

Resource

https://www.turnitin.com/products/similarity

Fishman. T. (2009) “We know it when we see it” is not good enough: toward a standard definition of plagiarism that transcends theft, fraud, and copyright. Paper presented at 4th Asia Pacific Conference on Educational Integrity, 28–30 September 2009, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia. https://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/09-4apcei/4apcei-Fishman.pdf (Accessed: 13 February 2019).

International Center for Academic Integrity: Fundamental values of Academic Integrity (2019) Available at: https://academicintegrity.org/fundamental-values/ (Accessed: 15 January 2019).

 

Challaenges ahead for Educators in2022

Predicted challenges ahead for educators that lecturers at South African Higher Education Institutions could face in 2022

The outbreak of Covid 19 worldwide placed the education sector in unfamiliar and uncertain times. Lecturers did not know what to expect and how they would continue with the academic year among hard lockdown periods and restrictions on accessing campuses. Change in higher education institutions happened fast, with lecturers being left underprepared and overwhelmed. The focus was placed on moving teaching and learning online rapidly, in an attempt to continue the academic year with as little disruption as possible.  Making teaching and learning accessible in uncertain times was a challenge.

Higher education institutions adopted a variety of strategies, some applied low-tech teaching and learning strategies, others offered all their courses fully online, and others combined fully online course delivery with sending instructional materials to students via courier services. A variety of factors influenced the success of students. Factors such as access to devices and data have been an overwhelming focus when designing and delivering programmes. During this time the role of the lecturer quickly increased to being, not only the subject matter expert but also becoming a support structure for their students.

Now, almost 2 years after the first global lockdown students and lecturers have had time to adapt to this ‘new normal’ and have learned lessons that they can now incorporate into teaching and learning in 2022. However, there are still some challenges faced by lecturers in standing at the beginning of a new academic year. Institutions are still uncertain of what this academic year of 2022 entails.

Some of the challenges (with possible solutions) lecturers will face in 2022, as predicted by various national and international sources and bodies like the Council for Higher Education in South Africa are:

  1. Engaging students during synchronous (live virtual) sessions

Many lecturers tried to mimic the normal face-to-face class time by presenting synchronous classes. Most of these lecturers would use these sessions to present a lecturer like they would have done in class. The challenge voiced by many lecturers is that these synchronous sessions are either not well attended, or students won’t engage in discussion prompts.  However, there are lecturers that have been very successful in utilizing synchronous sessions in their courses. These lecturers changed their perception of a synchronous session from using it as a replacement for the face-to-face lecture to now using it to engage with the students through critical discussions, breakout rooms, and polling tools. The lecture would still be done, but through a lecture recording and readings that the students then work through on their own in preparation for the synchronous session. This gives the students an opportunity to engage with the content, their peers, and their lecturer in the synchronous sessions. These sessions are recorded for those that have issues with accessibility and for those that want to revisit the discussions afterward for deeper learning and to clarify concepts that they struggle with.

  1. Online assessments remain an issue

Although many people have used different types of online assessments like quizzes, assignments, discussions, journals, etc. many aspects around conducting assessments online remain a challenge. Lecturers feel anxious about online assessments because in some cases they might not know what the possibilities are on the online platform, or they’ve had online assessments running on the system previously but the student queries were overwhelming. Academic integrity and accessibility are also still some of the factors that cause anxiety around conducting online assessments. Some of the ways in which lecturers have dealt with these challenges are through rethinking their assessment strategy and including assessment methodologies like authentic assessments and open-book tests and exams, redesigning summative assessments to include different parts that students complete that count as a whole. For example, having the summative assessment be one part multiple choice and one part open-book exam. Or in some cases, people do away with exams and make use of portfolios of evidence or a project as a summative assessment. Multiple-choice questions can be used to test higher-order thinking skills. Making use of objective assessment methods / Socratic questioning methods as well as case studies are all assessment strategies that have been successfully implemented by lecturers during the emergency remote teaching circumstances the past 2 years.

  1. Delving deeper into the opportunities that the online environment offers

Lecturers have indicated that although they had to move their courses rapidly to the online platform, they made use of more tools than they previously had when they taught their courses in a blended learning modality. They do admit that the variety of tools available on the learning platform makes them excited about what online learning can offer and that they want to use the tools more and better in future course designs. Some of them indicated that they learned a lot of lessons while using the tools and therefore want to utilize them better to enhance teaching and learning.

  1. Using reporting to track students’ progress and identifying at-risk students early

Online platforms have a variety of reporting functionalities built into the systems however they are not being fully utilized yet. Some reporting through grade centers are used to see when students accessed the course, and what assessments they’ve done. But there are reporting tools available that can help lecturers identify at-risk students early and offer support to them. Lecturers should explore the built-in reporting tools on their online platforms.

  1. Creating quality evaluation frameworks

Quality assurance measures and policies at institutions help lecturers have a set of standards that they work towards when designing and developing courses. However even though some institutions have them in place, these aren’t always written for all modes of delivery, depending on what the traditional course delivery method is of the specific institution. During the last 2 years courses were moved online rapidly and a lot of the quality assurance couldn’t take place. This is now a good time to make sure the policies are updated for similar circumstances and are easily useable for the lecturers. Having a quality course evaluation process in place, together with frameworks like the Quality Matters rubric or the 4Cs checklist is a good place to start.

  1. Training and supporting lecturers

The global pandemic shed light on training and support needs for lecturers and students at institutions. Helping lecturers understand the different modes of delivery and how to design for them is an important skill needed. As well as supporting them in using online tools to enhance the teaching and learning and not disrupt it. Making training available to lecturers in digital skills is much needed.

There are a vast majority of open and free resources available in the higher education sector that has been shared by lecturers at national and international institutions. Lecturers share their experiences on how they used certain tools and practices in their courses. They share what worked, what didn’t work and how they overcome many teaching and learning challenges during the last 2 years. The way in which people are willing to openly share their ideas and their stories is definitely a practice that has grown significantly due to the global pandemic and we hope it continues for years to come.

Higher Education has seen many changes due to Covid-19. The needs and demands of students are rapidly changing along with the development of educational technology. These are the trends to look out for in terms of student needs when it comes to the future of higher education institutions.

Student Career Pathways are Top of Mind

Students place a high value on how their institution is preparing them for a career post-graduation. Data highlights that career concerns start before students attend a college/university. To remain relevant, institutions must focus on attracting more students and increasing alumni connections with a focus on career pathways, as well as strong links to professional bodies and workplace organizations that promote quality and high standards in their membership

This then also raises the issue that with so many more choices, pathways, industry qualifications, and the expense of a university education how do colleges, etc. make their offerings attractive? Universities must demonstrate the value they bring to the table to remain relevant.

Flexible Learning Options

Covid-19 has highlighted the possibility of remote or online learning, where students do not have to be on campus daily. Flexible course options are a top consideration for prospective students and have to be taken into account going forward.

Learner and Institution Success Require Innovation

The adoption of new models and student-centric innovation requires the use of an agile platform to empower faculty and staff throughout the entire learner journey. The sudden shutdown proved the long-term worth of digital strategies in areas like virtual campus tours, digital advertising, virtual advising, and hybrid courses.

Keep in mind that university innovation and Edtech innovation don’t have to be at odds with each other. At the same time, the needs of students should always trump the needs of technology and innovation. It is a fine balance.

Information Dissemination vs Cerebral Personal Transformation

Information is available freely on the internet. That is why it has become extremely important to deliver educational experiences. Approaches to teaching and learning need to be focused on expanding knowledge application and personal development, rather than retaining information.

Intentional and Relevant Learning Content

Quality and relevance of content become increasingly relevant. Institutions can no longer rely on prescribed textbooks and articles only. They need to generate their own content and adapt learning to be more personalised. Technology and the available data play a big role in teaching and learning from an adaptive and/or personalised approach.

Growth in the Importance of Advanced Technologies in Learning

The introduction of advanced technologies including VR, cloud-based LMS, and AI will drive the market growth. In short, AI is coming, don’t say you weren’t warned!

Gaming and gamification have already become part of new, innovative teaching and learning methods, and will no doubt become increasingly part of the learning experience in the future – engaging learners in their world.

Datafication, Privacy and Student activism

With the growth of the use of technology in education and the development of remote or distance learning monitoring (such as proctoring tools for assessments), the issue of privacy is growing. Data security and student information are contentious issues, and while we use data to improve learning experiences, students are becoming more actively concerned with privacy matters, which means we are seeing an uprise in student activism in response.

It is no secret that technology is excelling at an unprecedented pace. These past two years have led to many shifts within higher education. Driven by the pandemic, educational technology has become the go-to solution in emergency remote teaching, but it has evolved into more than that. We unboxed the higher education trends in 2022 for you here.

As much as we are all trying to combat the spread of Covid 19, it is still here and does not look like it is going away anytime soon. This means even if campuses and businesses are physically open, the hybrid model will carry on for some institutions as we need to be cautious and for others, it will have become the norm. Therefore, many of the shifts at higher education institutions have become part of a long-term strategic approach. The pandemic, along with the natural progression of Edtech trends, is shaping the trends in higher education and technology.

To understand what this means for the near future, we highlight some of the trends we predict will be of key importance in 2022, starting with institutions and educators, and then moving on to a focus on students and their expectations and needs for teaching and learning development.

Staff Wellbeing

Recent studies show that mental and emotional wellbeing have been and continue to be a top challenge identified by both students and staff. While this has always been a focal point, Covid-19 has further highlighted this need, especially for educators. The existing pressures of studying at the tertiary level, combined with adapting to new technology and the study environments of students all contribute to stress levels. Educators have also had to adjust to new ways of doing things, and the stress of students who may not have access to the technology needed to continue their studies.

Educator Skills Sets in a Rapidly Evolving Technology Landscape

A strong focus on contextual and complimentary educator skills development should be at the top of the list of priorities for institutions. Institutions and teams need to encourage and coordinate rapid enablement to meet the needs of new learning needs and be in a position to debate and decide what technologies best serve the needs of their students, their teaching, and their institutions teaching and learning strategy.

Flexible Working Options

Staff will most likely expect more flexibility offered by their institutions coming out of the pandemic. This will have to be taken into consideration with face-to-face learning on campus and would leave space for blended learning models.

Universities to Explore New Business Models

Investment in new business models is key to the future, with an emphasis on attracting and engaging lifelong learners. Demands for shorter, more flexible programs are on the rise, while enrollment numbers on traditional qualifications decline.

In response to this, institutions are needing to expand their offerings, add new leadership roles to their departments, and double down on strategic plans for the long term.

Institutions also need to look at the role of Edtech business at institutions and work with partners they feel match their outlook, strategy, and culture.

Growth in the importance of Communities of Inquiry

Humans do not learn in a vacuum – we learn in communities, through social interaction, i.e. from each other. Digitally mediated Communities of Inquiry should increasingly play an important role in teaching and learning even if only as a secondary mode to ensure future study disruption is managed and hopefully prevented from shuttering learning altogether. Going forward, the focus should be on the creation of deep and meaningful transformative learning experiences, and communities of inquiry help this process along.

Think Globally, Act Locally

One of the biggest lessons learned from the past and important paths for the future is for Africa to solve our future in education through local, homegrown solutions. As the penetration of the internet and mobile learning grows, opportunities for teaching and learning increase. We should embrace these opportunities, take advantage of international developments, and find local solutions to implement them. The key here is contextualization and ensuring that the technology providers and partners used, share the same values.

 

For institutions to stay relevant, it is important to take the above trends into consideration going forward. Student perceptions and needs have also changed and are trending in the following directions…Read more.

The Shift to Online Learning 

Technology-based learning and digital teaching are increasingly part of every individual’s learning experience. This has become even more relevant over the past two years. Evolving from school level to university level, this mode of teaching and learning is even becoming relevant at the work level too.  

This means that while educators have needed to adapt to the changes that technology brings to education, COVID-19 caused a Tsunami of change, with everyone needing to adjust even faster. The scope of the changes has also grown seeing that for digital technology and education to work, it must be used effectively and incorporated in the right way. If not, the whole exercise is futile. 

We recently had an interesting conversation on the topic of digital teaching and learning with Anne-Mart Olsen from Nelson Mandela University. A group of staff members participated in our Digital Teaching eXpert Course (DTX), and we reflected on the course and the abovementioned issues surrounding Covid-19 and the shift to digital teaching. 

The Need for Professional Development 

Anne-Mart Olsen is the Academic Developer at Nelson Mandela University (NMU). Her focus is generally curriculum design and learning design. Her role also entails the induction of newly appointed academics at NMU. The juggle between work and being a homeschooling mom, was possibly the worst experience ever. In the same breath, it was through trying to homeschool a Grade One who is still learning to read, that helped Anne-Mart learn patience and develop her skills further in digital learning.  

After completing the DTX course, Anne-Mart reflected with us on her experience. “It’s kind of hard to admit…but I realised that I had quite a big gap in my own digital teaching skills. I mean, I used to do adoption of technology but that was back in the day when web 2.0 was still the thing….” 

“I realised that in my case, I had to help academics get online, I have to support students if they’re struggling, and I have my kids who I have to help.” In other words, the DTX course had a multi-purpose in Anne-Mart’s case.  Anne-Mart received numerous queries that she did not know how to respond to, and had to research or figure out first before she could get back to the student or lecturer. With lockdown, they suddenly faced new challenges. “We were thrown into Zoom, we were thrown into Teams. We’ve always had Moodle, but Moodle was often used as a repository even by ourselves when we were creating our own Moodle sites. We were assisting academics to conceptualise their curriculum and, in a way, developing it with learning design, and we have a learning design team.”  

Anne-Mart’s role is to bridge the two – to bring learning design and the curriculum together. Anne-Mart explains, “I reached the point where I realised there was such a big gap between what we say we want to do… and what is actually realistic or implementable. We needed to upskill. I had no idea what to expect, but I was hoping that I could develop myself quickly, both personally and professionally, while attending an online course. While I’ve done MOOCs before, MOOCS are, as you know quite vicious, if you drop in your drop out. This was different – I wanted an online experience. I needed to understand how to transition materials from face-to-face teaching to online teaching.” 

Expectations of the Course 

The need for NMU was to upskill lecturers to digital teaching and learning. Realising that they now offered fully online courses, but none of the lecturers actually ever attended a fully online course themselves. It was important for them to experience the course, but also to learn how to adjust what they do for online teaching – as it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Contexts differ, learners differ. The course helped us understand how to tackle these scenarios.  Anne-Mart explains, “I needed to understand the how – and the engaging experience was such a bonus as it really helped me learn. To be honest, I was not prepared for the intensity of the course, but it was really worth it. I had to learn how to bridge the gap between what best practice and what can be done in practice.”  

The Course Experience and Outcomes 

The DTX course was delivered to NMU over a period of five days. One of the outcomes highlighted by Anne-Mart was that the course blended theory and practical to a point where attendees could actually go and practically apply the theory. It meant that participants could take the theory and create a learning resource. Putting theory in practice creates a resource that the lecturer can carry on using throughout their future course planning or development.  

Another realisation was that online learning should not just be about assessments. There should be some elements of “fun” too and with the right application of tools, this is possible. This raised many questions, such as do we need to assess everything we do, just because it was done in this manner in the past? It became an opportunity to evaluate course material and to convert content to be UDL compliant.  

While this was a daunting concept, the way the course was structured also helped with this process. Participants gained confidence and now had a grasp of how to adjust content and presentations to suit the online learning environment. They realised that they have the capability if they just understand better what is needed and how to apply the technology – reflecting on what you have in place already and seeing how to adjust it. There was a shift from feeling overwhelmed, to feeling empowered. “The reflective practice aspect was phenomenal to bring in.” 

The Impact on Teaching Practises 

The sessions throughout the course helped participants to look at the technology at their disposal differently, “I looked at the online space that I’ve created, which is on Moodle. There are a few things I can add and tweak, but it’s not too bad. But it is not integrated with Teams in any way. So I recreated my platform.” 

Another important change after the course was the use of other applications to increase interactive activities and engagement, rather than just uploading content onto Moodle. Reducing assessments and finding ways to get away from just using the online space for uploading content. 

Anne-Mart mentions the barrier to asynchronous teaching before completing the course. Previously, they had tried to have more of a flipped approach, but they did not have the means to implement asynchronous methods in their classes. For the course, Anne-Mart developed her skills by tackling a presentation on teaching asynchronously. This helped Anne-Mart understand how to do so within a class context too. Realising that a lecturer does not always have to be “live” when teaching. After a few days of live-streaming classes, it is possible to step out and simply set aside consultation times and let students know when you are available. 

Realising there are other pathways as well ways of delivering content we’ve learned that we can hand over some of the work and let our participants use their autonomy to deliver their class content. This has changed how we engage with academics going forward.  

Academics on the course initially felt overwhelmed by the programme and in effect, the experience was a great equaliser of academic staff.  

Biggest Lessons Learnt 

Lessons learnt include chunking the information for students. In other words, bite-sized information is key, so that it is enough to digest, but not too much to process. We also learned that you have time to develop the course further as you go – not every course will be perfect.  

Secondly, academics learned that experience is the best way to learn how to deliver course material online. The process also taught them to be kind to themselves as well as their students. Both lecturers and students alike may feel like a fish out of water initially, together you will learn to swim.  

Thirdly, the collaboration through the course created a community of practice that can be continued after the course. It is so important for lecturers to speak to each other, share experiences, and build confidence in this manner.  

A big outcome from all of this was that lecturers who participated felt they now “speak the same language”. “We’ve learned the theory and also learned how to apply it.” Going forward lecturers have been enabled to teach more comfortably through digital teaching platforms.  

Want to learn more about our Digital Teaching eXpert course? Get in touch. Also, see our current promotion running here