Pupils need more investment in tech to succeed in modern workplace, parliament hears

26 May 2021 - 18:04 By nonkululeko njilo
For a more technologically enabled learning environment, all staff and students have to have a basic learning infrastructure which includes appropriate devices, data and connectivity. Stock photo.
For a more technologically enabled learning environment, all staff and students have to have a basic learning infrastructure which includes appropriate devices, data and connectivity. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/EVERYTHING POSSIBLE

The higher education and training department told parliament on Wednesday that there was a need to develop advanced technology for teaching and learning.

These “pedagogical practices” — everything that teachers and students make use of during the teaching/learning process, according to researchgate.net — would allow the sector to adapt to socio-economic and political disruptions to enhance education in the “21st century workplace and world”.

The department, however, warned the higher education and training oversight committee that the initial set-up costs of these curriculum platforms would be extremely high and required particular expertise.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced the sector to make use of multi-modal learning and teaching, said Thandi Lewin, chief director in the department.

Without the requisite competencies to deliver remote learning, lecturers will not succeed in meeting the full scale of demands required for online and remote learning support and the development of students’ digital skills.
Thandi Lewin

The transition from traditional methods of learning and teaching was fairly smooth with most students achieving commendable results compared with the previous year, the sector said.

The levels of student participation in learning is said to have soared in the 2020 academic year, with no universities reporting percentages higher than 10% for students not engaged and four universities reporting higher than 5%. This despite a substantial number of students who do not have internet.

“Monitoring of remote teaching and learning activities is not easy to undertake and requires further work to arrive at a model that is implementable and effective.

“While connectivity remains a challenge for students to access the internet from home, students are able to use Wi-Fi hotspots and learning centres in many colleges to download material and use it later, off-site and offline. All colleges should have this facility available to students, at the minimum,” said Lewin.

Though several institutions of higher learning were only able to complete the 2020 academic year this year, the department said it had drawn considerable lessons from the pandemic.   

“Without the requisite competencies to deliver remote learning, lecturers will not succeed in meeting the full scale of demands required for online and remote learning support and the development of students’ digital skills. The development of digital curriculum content to support online and remote learning is vital make this form of curriculum delivery useful and to ensure the success of students,” said Lewin.

Among other things, she said, the pandemic had pushed the sector to rapidly adapt to circumstances they had not experienced. These included the ability to adapt and engage with technologies to create a new way of offering teaching and learning.

“That does not mean that technology should replace teaching and learning, but it does imply that the sector is ready to embrace technology to enhance education.

“In order for a more technologically enabled teaching and learning environment to flourish, the findings of the Students’ Access to and Use of Learning Materials (SAULM) survey could contribute to policy and practice by making a case for ensuring that all staff and students have access to basic learning infrastructure, which includes appropriate devices, data and connectivity, to address the digital divide.”

The pandemic worsened the need for the sector to embark on collaborative initiatives to consider the implication of a “new normal” for subsidy, quality assurance and quality enhancement, said Lewin. 

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