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Plotting the “E-way” Forward

Plotting the “E-way” Forward

The ground breaking work of trailblazers in e-learning at DUT was recently shared at a symposium for DUT staff held at the Botanical Gardens.

The symposium reviewed the work of the “Pathfinders” projects, so-called because their aim was to push the boundaries of what was possible technologically and institutionally in using e-learning to support teaching and learning. Key issues that emerged were around security (online and with regard to devices that were loaned), “bring your own device” versus the loan of devices, cost of data and how to purchase data within University systems, auto enrolment into Blackboard classrooms and login or password reissue problems experienced by students. Device recognition of Maths notation was another issue addressed at the event.

The day started with a video welcome from Professor Ahmed Bawa, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of DUT, where he expressed his strong interest in the progress of the projects. “I was intrigued by the choice of the term ‘Pathfinder’. It seems apt as these are the things we are going to do – how do we get to the point where we understand which path we take to achieve them?” said Prof Bawa, also noting the importance of experimentation in finding the way forward.

This was followed by presentations from six Pathfinders projects. The first project, led by Dr Delene Heukelman and Subashnie Soobramoney, used the Pearson product: MYITLAB, to deliver and assess a course in basic computer skills. The challenge in this case was to test the integration of the product with DUT’s Learning Management System: Blackboard. The next speakers were Dr Sury Rajah and Noor Ally who shared their findings from the project Academic Support in Basic Maths.

This project created a self study site to cover a unit within a course segment. Students were loaned either laptops or tablets and their performance on the course was monitored. Next up was the Mobile Learning Spaces Project. The brief was to develop flexible spaces on campus to support student learning. Sagren Moodley described how the library at the ML Sultan Campus had been entirely reconfigured to make it a more student-centric space. Marí Peté from the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) talked about how a popular but unkempt area of ML Sultan Campus was revamped to become a learning garden.

During the afternoon session, Shannon du Randt talked about Emergency Medical Care and Rescue’s project where students had been loaned tablets. These allowed for remote supervision whilst in the field and the downloading of instructional videos. Sipho Zulu from CELT shared how technology was being used to train peer tutors. Finally, Ayesha Mall from the University’s Journalism Programme spoke about the Massive Open Online Course that is being developed on the topic of Social Media.

Prof Graham Stewart, e-Learning Project Co-ordinator at DUT, outlined the plan for implementation of e-learning at DUT, progress thus far and looked to the future in the short and long term, with particular mention of the aspiration to use e-learning to better track and support student progress.

Pathfinders projects were part funded by the Teaching and Learning Development Grant and the Symposium helped to take stock at the end of the two year funding cycle.

Comments from attendees included:
– “I was privileged to be part of the feedback which awakened in me the interest in e-learning”.
– “It was a wonderful platform to share our experiences, successes and failures and learn from it”.
– “This symposium motivates me to continue developing my online classrooms”.
– “I am excited about the roll out of technology and the students’ responses”.
– “Well done to the trailblazers, laying a path for others to follow”.

– Ursula Vooght

Pictured: Noor Ally, DUT Mathematics Lecturer, reporting back on the Pathfinders project: Academic Support in Basic Maths.

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