School of Education

Taking Education to the Next Level Online During and Post COVID-19

From left: Drs John O’Malley, Karen Ferguson, and Bethany Spilde, Professor Simon Bheki Khoza and Dr Cedric Mpungose.
From left: Drs John O’Malley, Karen Ferguson, and Bethany Spilde, Professor Simon Bheki Khoza and Dr Cedric Mpungose.

The College of Humanities’ webinar on Taking Education to the Next Level Online: During and Post COVID-19 Era featured Dr John O’Malley (University of Denver), Dr Karen Ferguson (Colorado State University Global) and Dr Bethany Spilde (Johnson County Community College). Professor Simon Bheki Khoza (UKZN) chaired the event and Dr Cedric Bheki Mpungose (UKZN, currently at the University of Denver) organised the presenters.

The webinar unpacked the rationale for and pedagogies of online learning and the learning management systems and social media sites used by universities.

O’Malley observed that many institutions of higher learning have adopted distance and on-line education as the next logical step in educational delivery systems. ‘These systems are being promoted as the educational pedagogy of the future. One overriding question that must be addressed is how these new educational delivery approaches will impact student learning and student perceptions of learning.’

He argued that changing student demographics call for new skills sets, and that new entrants to the Higher Education stage are driving the adoption of new educational delivery systems that bridge the time-place gap that traditional courses created. ‘The basis of teaching remains the same; the forms of teaching interaction may change but focus on your pedagogy, not the medium.’

Ferguson’s presentation focused on best practices for online learning via the use of technology and planning to ensure effective teaching and learning. She advised that planning is key and educators should try to understand students. ‘Identify the learning goals, create the course with intentionality, make sure assessments and content are tied to goals. Use technology and tools appropriately to achieve learning – stay away from shiny things – check on accessibility. Engage in the course and with your students,’ said Ferguson.

She noted that educators play an important role in the lives and education of their students, adding, ‘Focus on creating a supportive online community where students can feel empowered to engage and participate knowing that they are in a safe environment and feel at ease to communicate any questions or concerns to the instructor.’

In Spilde’s presentation, educators gained new insights and ideas on ways to leverage social media sites to deepen and enhance the online learning experience for students. A handful of digital tools and strategies were highlighted which encourage the highest levels of learning.

Spilde noted that blogs, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram could be used to enhance online learning and in turn brand the institution. ‘It deepens student learning (metacognition, critical and reflective thinking skills); inspires students to take ownership of their education and career (engagement, degree completion); and offers new ways to assess and showcase the competencies that students are gaining (stronger programme reviews and increased student employability).’

She advised educators to ‘remember to embrace the process of “growing” to the next level.’

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