The Office of the Deputy Vice – Chancellor: Teaching and Learning hosted a celebratory launch of the Online Distance Learning partnership agreement between the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the Higher Education Partnerships South Africa (HEPSA), at the Hilton Hotel on 16 October 2019.
The event was also a platform to formally welcome and introduce the executive members of the HEPSA and to design the way ahead for the exciting, new venture at the institution. In attendance at the event were DUT’s Professor Nomthandazo Gwele, Professor Thengani Ngwenya, CELT’s Gita Mistri (Interim Project Coordinator), DUT academic and CELT staff, HEP-A’s Nicholas Kendall (President and Chief Operations Officer), Brian Naicker (Managing Director: University Partnerships), Varaidzo Mhangami (Managing Director: University Partnerships), Donovan Moloney (Director: Partner Support), Nico Baird (Director: Academic Services), Jeswin Leckram (Director: Marketing) and Neal Jephtha (Director: Enrolment and Retention Services).
Giving more insight at the launch was Director of CELT-Professor Thengani Ngwenya, who said that at DUT the online distance learning (ODL) project was initiated as a strategic priority project in the Office of the DUT’s Deputy Vice – Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Nomthandazo Gwele: Teaching and Learning, comprising of nominated high demand academic programmes and short courses.
He further added that following the clear directive from DHET promoting distance learning at universities in South Africa, and the envisaged growth in demand for learning opportunities for adult learners, the executive management at DUT took decisive steps to facilitate the expansion of ‘the University’s footprint and provide education to working adults who would not have time to enroll as full-time students’.
“A partnership agreement between DUT and Higher Education Partnerships-Africa (HEP-A), was reached to assist the DUT to launch, grow and sustain online distance learning. In keeping with DUT’s 2030 vision focusing on ‘improved lives and livelihoods’, the ODL project will utilise integrated digital systems to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in a socially and environmentally responsive manner,” said DUT’s Deputy Vice – Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Nomthandazo Gwele, who welcomed the guests.
She also said that DUT began its discussions in earnest with Higher Education partners in late 2018 and had a portfolio of programmes nominated by the Faculty Deans for development for distance learning by April 2019 and the contractual agreement signed by September 2019. She further said that the aim of the launch was to also look at the project, scope, approach, as well as the roles of each role player, going forward.
Giving an overview of the HEP-A partnership was Nicholas Kendall, who is the President and Chief Operations Officer. He said HEP-A is based in Johannesburg, and was launched by Academic Partnerships (AP) in 2016 to service Africa. He added that it one of the OPM providers to assist public universities to offer online degrees, and currently HEP-A have eight University partners in South Africa.
“What makes us (HEP-A) unique is the fact that it is a proven model perfected in the US and Latin America, it has a competitive revenue share model, and partners like DUT will retain full control of the Intellectual Property (IP) curriculum and programme quality. We also help build the partner brand and provide academic support to ensure high quality, scable programmes to drive student retention. Also, we make available ongoing retention services through to graduation,” he said.
He added that in terms of the partnership goals, HEP-A aims to expand access to top quality and affordable higher education to South African citizens and beyond through distribution of online degree programmes that are in high-demand disciplines. “We want to grow the University’s online enrolment and access to ensure economic viability of our partnership and help partner universities – public institutions – expand access to high-quality higher education through online delivery of instruction,” Kendall stressed.
Donovan Moloney, HEP-A Director: Partner Support, further added that the HEP-A platform was designed specifically to provide a best-in-class online student experience, from a student’s initial application to completion of modules, while minimising partner administrative overhead and manual workarounds. He concluded by saying that the benefits are also that the HEP team can provide rapid direct support to applicants and students based on real-time information, assuring maximum responsiveness.
All in all, CELT’s Gita Mistri, Interim project coordinator, concluded that the next step will be to set up a steering committee to guide the DUT-HEP-A partnership and prepare the accreditation-bound programmes for submission and approval by the higher education accreditation bodies.
Pictured: DUT’s Director of CELT-Professor Thengani Ngwenya.
Pictured: HEP-A’s Nicholas Kendall, President and Chief Operations Officer.