Online learning for student success
The University of Pretoria (UP) is committed to excellence in teaching and learning while improving student access, success and diversity. UP started blended learning in 1997 and in 2014 stepped up the concept to a hybrid model of learning and teaching enabled by its e-maturity. The approach represents an optimal blend of face-to-face teaching enriched by virtual (or online) learning tools and products that provide the best of both worlds to all students at UP – the learning mix matters.
While the traditional lecture is still the foundation of most learning at the University, the contemporary online learning environment (branded as clickUP) provides students with the complementary learning opportunities required for achieving deep learning. Users can engage online through discussion forums, wikis, blogs and journals and access self-study material, links to recorded lectures and voiced-over PowerPoint presentations (both hosted on YouTube) and online quizzes. On completion of online tests, students receive immediate and detailed feedback, enabling them to monitor and measure their own progress.
Students access online resources as and when they need to by using any internet-enabled device, including mobile phones, either via campus Wi-Fi hotspots or through alternative internet connections in laboratories or using their own data. Students have access to more than 6 000 computers across all campuses and residences.
Professor Wendy Kilfoil, Director of the Department for Education Innovation, is delighted with the increased use of the hybrid learning. According to Prof Kilfoil ‘Usage of the alternative learning environments has grown steadily at the university with some faculties reaching an uptake of 100% at undergraduate level and 87% of all undergraduate modules being online in 2016’. But it is not just about numbers; it’s about design and quality of the environment as they enrich students’ experience and contribute to their engagement and success.
The hybrid teaching and learning model at UP gives students all the benefits of campus life, together with the advantages of technological connectivity and allows them to graduate technologically-savvy and workplace-ready. Research also shows that students who study in an environment with a planned mix of contact and online exposure outperform those who learn by contact only or online only.
The University does offer some fully online modules and programmes (some running for more than a decade) and more are on the horizon. The University provides experts with knowledge of online learning to assist with instructional design and to train lecturers in the facilitation of e-learning. Fully online programmes are about flexibility for the student.
The University of Pretoria continues its leadership in the field of online learning twenty years after it first adopted a learning management system. Free online short learning programmes are available to staff and students through Enterprises at UP. A free online development course in Sepedi was launched in 2016 and a range of work-readiness courses opened to students early in .
For more information, please visit http://www.up.ac.za/en/hybrid-learning.
– Author Department of University Relations