Our future teachers are benefiting from the huge expansion of e-learning at the Pietermaritzburg campuses. The Blackboard classroom, also called the THINK LEARN ZONE, has been extended to include Bachelor of Education Economics and Management Science, Technology, and Natural Science programmes. Almost 1000 BEd students are now using the Zone, often in several different classes – resulting in 4060 Blackboard registrations.
BEd Technology student Siyabonga Ngwane and BEd Economic and Management Sciences student Bhekisisa Mthembu are amongst those who have felt the benefits of the Zone.
Bheki says: “It’s very very helpful. I can access print outs that were handed out in class and course notes online. I’ve also used it to submit my assignments and done some tests online. It makes my life easier.”
Siyabonga echoes this. “If for some reason a student is working elsewhere and cannot be at a class they can access class materials online. They don’t get behind.”
Ben Tarr, BEd lecturer, describes how he uses Blackboard to make better use of time in class.
“I get many questions sent to me from students via the Zone. If lots of students are asking similar questions I use this as guidance for what needs to be covered in the lectures.”
Ben also requires students to send in their assignments to the Zone, allowing him to make comments electronically on the text which students can then immediately access. Facilitating communication between lecturer and student is for him one of the biggest benefits of the Blackboard classroom.
Bheki echoes this: “What I also like is that we can ask questions via Blackboard even when the school is closed. It is a 24 hour thing. We can also pick up messages that our lecturers have sent even when they are not available.”
Using the Zone has, however, required some orientation from students. Among the hiccups have been assignments submitted under someone else’s name by accident and even rude emails sent out to large groups of people that the identified ‘sender’ never wrote. ”
It’s happened, they’ve seen the proof and felt the embarrassment,” jokes Ben Tarr. “Students now know – log out when you’re done and don’t let someone else hijack your profile!”
Bheki and Siyabonga can’t wait until the Zone is available for all classes. Siyabonga says, “It would be best if all classes could subscribe to Blackboard and post materials online. That way students won’t miss out on any part of their education.” They would also like to be able to use their phones to access the Zone and were interested to discover that DUT is in the process of designing a DUT App which will allow better access to the Zone as well as other DUT information.
Pictured:BEd Technology student Siyabonga Ngwane and BEd Economic and Management Sciences student Bhekisisa Mthembu are amongst those who have felt the benefits of the Zone.