The year 2020 has been one of the most globally disruptive periods in living memory. Apart from a significant loss of life through the virus itself, Covid-19 has brought about tectonic shifts in the way that people live, work and learn.

In this discussion, we heard from diverse voices, both near and far, about the experiences during Covid-19, both positive and negative.
We also reflected on how those affected have faced these challenges. This includes those directly involved in front line teaching; in institutional decision- making; as well as supporting of colleagues in digital teaching. We created a platform for our panelists and guests to share their views on what they think the next months and years will look like for – all stakeholders – in an even more technology permeated learning space.
Herewith some of the questions and relevant comments that were shared during our session, as well as the recording in the video below.

Supporting and enabling all educators to apply technology to blended and fully online teaching was traditionally a challenge. Have you seen any shift in recognition within teaching staff about the possibilities of technology and its wide range of possibilities, especially in diverse places like South Africa.


Derek Moore:  This is our second dramatic switch to digital in the last 5 years. Did the campus shut down in 2015 associated with #feesmustfall “assist” your organization kick into gear? Or were the two situations completely different?

Stephen Marquard: Lots of differences, Derek, but it did mean that we were aware of many of the likely issues.

Magriet de Villiers: It’s rather speeding up the process – not actually starting it anew.

Stephen Marquard: I don’t think there was ever a complete “switch to digital” in 2015-2017; more mitigation of impossible situations.

Nicola Pallitt: Very different situations, I think the socio-emotional load between then and now has been different. Now the online is forced, it is still political but different.

Dolf Jordaan: We have to acknowledge the value of the student experience ….in the same fashion our 2021 first entry student generation will struggle with their student experience if we continue as is.

Neil Kramm: Yes we cannot get away from that. UNISA always has a crisis – the student body wants more contact.

Dr Sonja Strydom: Agree – differences between ERTL and fully online learning to be acknowledged.

Magriet de Villiers: Many of our student communities worked very hard at creating the ‘campus away from campus’, and that worked well socially. It is, however, not so easy to do from an academic perspective.

Stephen Marquard: We’ve reproduced quite a narrow range of what a campus can be in the online space; we still need to imagine and bring into being some of the more complex and serendipitous aspects of learning together in a physical space.

Maria Hedberg – LU: Yes, the social part is very challenging, we have been discussing how to support it better here in Lund.

Nicola Pallitt: Some of the most physical fields have been most creative – the Drama department at Rhodes have really impressed us.

Magriet de Villiers: That is very true, Nicola – necessity brought out a lot of creativity.

Magriet de Villiers:  Agree, Maria, many lecturers want to come back to campus specifically to access the tools and technologies. They may want to T&L online but cannot due to physical challenges.

Jolene:  So interesting to see how similar experiences are.

Magriet de Villiers: Hopefully the peer-to-peer support and discussions amongst lecturers will continue!



Traditional forms of assessment have taken a major knock in 2020. What measures have your organization taken to respond to the challenges associated with examinations and testing and which of these do you see as being the most successful and sustainable in future?

Derek Moore: Has there been any pressure from management and lecturers for remote proctoring services?

Jolene:  Thank you Derek for your question!

Nicola Pallitt: In some spaces proctoring was already happening, where there are professional boards. Think it might work better for postgrads. Proctoring might not be a one size fits all.

Magriet de Villiers: Absolutely Stephen! And our students have said on numerous occasions that they do not want to go back to the previous types of assessments.

Carina van Rooyen: I am so concerned about the uncritical adopting of proctoring. I’ve heard call from lecturers for proctoring, with the justification that students are cheaters, without evidence of cheating. I would rather us think serious about the nature of assessment.

Maria Hedberg – LU: There is also the uncertainty issues among our teachers of what is allowed and ok to do – for instance regarding GDPR etc etc .

Magriet de Villiers: Agree, Carina.

Dr Sonja Strydom:  Agree with you Carina – many ethical questions to be considered.

Maria Hedberg – LU:  Yes, we have also heard from student voices that they feel ”watched”. The response from them is turning camera off during zoom-lectures, which makes the lectures less engaging for both teachers and students alike.

Stephen Marquard:  We’ve had hugely varied experiences – courses where lecturers thought the assessments were much better, more authentic and more rigorous, and others where lecturers felt less confident in their reliability and validity of their assessments than before. We’re collecting a set of case studies about assessment during ERT to move forward the campus conversation about good assessment practice.

Dr Sonja Strydom:  A good idea of the assessment case studies Stephen.

Magriet de Villiers: Looking forward to seeing those case studies, Stephen.

Derek Moore: Interesting how professional bodies expect HE to prepare students for work, but the same bodies won’t accept sound advice around assessing competency.

Jarryd Futcher:  Maria, I agree with you. I find it is difficult to balance or come to an understanding between those who feel watched/judged (and switch-off their video) and to maintain staff/student engagement (ensuring videos are on).



Could there have been more collaboration amongst institutions/Would you have done anything differently?



Nicola Pallitt: I think it happened organically – CILT OERs rock:) My bigger gripe is the CHE whose guidelines came a little to late and didn’t acknowledge all the unis guidelines, looks like they are out of the loop with the sector. I feel we need to use our collective agency to talk back to stuff like that

Nicola Pallitt: Fort Hare got a major award recently – lots of good stuff happening at unis many don’t know about

Maria Hedberg – LU: In Sweden we have networks that collaborate, for instance 28 institutions have Canvas. We discuss different issues and collaborate around teaching and learning material

Nicola Pallitt: UP2U will be hosted by NMU and Rhodes in collaboration, next year.

Nicola Pallitt: Thanks to UP2U we piloted The Invigilator and going to try out Connect Yard. One of the most useful events for me in 2020

If you had to sum up the year of 2020 in one word, or one sentence (in reference to education)?

Carina van Rooyen: Much learning, and collaboration!

Maria Hedberg – LU: Agree – collaboration is key, very appreciated in Lund as well

Dr Sonja Strydom: A year to never forget.

Dr Sonja Strydom: Learnings & appreciation for what worked well.

Carina van Rooyen: The system was pushed further than I thought it would go – this gives me hope!


General comments and question:

Sukaina Walji: I’m interested in hearing about planning for 2021 and what is being done by different institutions.

Nicola Pallitt: Fascinating discussion, was a useful temperature check. Advice for supporting lecturers and students next year – now that we are going beyond ERT, how should we be preparing folks – any advice?

Mercy Mbewe:   Thanks for this discussion learnt some useful insights especially for some of us who originally had our LMS in its infancy of development . We had to fast track into digital teal teaching and assessments.


A special thank you to our panelists:

University of Cape Town (UCT)
Stephen Marquard
Acting Deputy Director
Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching

Nelson Mandela University (NMU)
Mike Swanepoel
Project Lead: Digital Learning Design & Innovation

University of Pretoria (UP)
Dolf Jordaan
Deputy Director: eLearning and Media Development

Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)
Associate Professor Dr Eunice Ivala
Director: Centre for Innovative Educational Technology

Stellenbosch University
Dr Sonja Strydom
Consultant: Centre for Learning Technologies

Magriet de Villiers
Advisor: Centre for Learning Technologies

International Guests
Representatives from
Lund University, Sweden and Spain