College of Education

Practical knowledge to lead ODeL

“Successful universities are dynamic and always changing their offerings,” pronounced Prof Mandla Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, during the official opening of the Unisa 2017 academic calendar.

Prof Geesje van den Berg (CoD: Curriculum and Instructional Studies and UMUC project leader), Prof Gugu Moche (Vice-Principal Teaching, Learning, Community Engagement and Student Support and UMUC project sponsor), and Prof Peter Havenga (Executive Director: Academic Planner and UMUC project owner)

The event also served as the graduation ceremony of the fourth cohort of Unisa colleagues to be awarded the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Certificate in Technology in Distance Learning and e-Learning:

  • Prof Tameshnie Deane, College of Law (Criminal & Procedural Law)
  • Prof Rendani Maladzhi, College of Science, Engineering and Technology (Mechanical & Industrial Engineering)
  • Prof Sarah Johnston, College of Science, Engineering and Technology (Mathematical Sciences)
  • Dr Sindile Ngubane-Mokiwa, College of Graduate Studies (Open Distance and Learning Institute
  • Dr Denis Ikpe, College of Science, Engineering and Technology (Mathematical Sciences)
  • Dr Ingrid Marais, College of Human Sciences (Anthropology and Archaeology);
  • Veronica Mkhabela, Unisa Press (Marketing)

The enthusiasm of the awardees could not be contained. Johnston expressed her appreciation for the level of support and efficiency she experienced from the UMUC team. Ngubane-Mokiwa said: “It’s been a very welcoming experience for me.” Mkhabela added: “I cannot wait to undertake the research component of the MEd in ODL.”

What is the UMUC Certificate?

After negotiations and discussions between the UMUC and Unisa, a cooperative agreement was signed between the two institutions in 2012. Under this agreement both parties expressed their desire to cooperatively offer Unisa colleagues the Certificate in Technology in Distance Learning and e-Learning from the UMUC, while at the same time pursuing the Master of Education in Open and Distance Learning (MEd in ODL) at Unisa. Prof Gugu Moche, Vice-Principal of Teaching, Learning, Community Engagement and Student Support, who is also the project sponsor, added that an amended cooperative agreement was effected on 24 February 2017.

Prof Peter Havenga, Executive Director of Academic Planner, and the UMUC project owner at Unisa, spoke about how the technology in distance learning and e-learning certificate courses is constantly being adapted, to not only make learning relevant, but also pleasant and productive.

Havenga explained that the courses are curated by globally renowned academics, scientists, and field professionals. The programme was developed in response to a growing challenge at Unisa to advance excellence, innovation and leadership in open, distance, and e-learning (ODeL) teaching, learning and research. The programme will contribute to Unisa, since it has increasingly been acknowledged in international and national contexts in broadening theorisation in ODeL and informing ODeL practice and policy development.

Prof Geesje van den Berg, Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies, expressed her joy and congratulations to the awardees and said: “This is indeed the product of many hours of dedication and hard work.” According to Van den Berg, who is also the project leader of the UMUC project, the ceremony was indeed a special occasion. Despite all the hard work, she trusted that all the awardees had found it a fruitful experience and that the programme had met all expectations.

Moreover, she expressed confidence in the fact that the awardees would be able to apply the knowledge and skills they gained at UMUC here at Unisa. Van den Berg challenged the awardees to take the lead in their respective environments regarding theory and practice of technology-enhanced teaching and learning in ODeL. She also thanked the College of Education Management as well as the Unisa Executive Management, for supporting this initiative towards making Unisa an even greater ODeL institution.

Prof Veronica McKay, Executive Dean of the College of Education, said: “The UMUC programme has made a huge contribution to enhancing ODeL skills across the university.”

Some of the award winners who were honoured at the 2017 academic opening of Unisa, including UMUC certificate awardees, are pictured with the new Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, and the Chairperson of Council.

In welcoming the fourth cohort of Unisa colleagues into the Master’s Degree in Open Distance and Learning programme, Moche said that “many individuals, departments and institutions at great distances from each other, some away from a desk and a lecture room deserve our special thanks for their efforts and support”. She said she hoped that the 2017 cohort would translate into Unisa as a leading African ODeL institution. Furthermore, Moche expressed gratitude towards the Department of Higher Education and Training, the UMUC, and the Unisa Office of the Principal, among others. The MEd in ODeL is founded on the historic legacy of Unisa and is offered by the College of Education.

The first cohort of colleagues received their certificates in 2014. These colleagues have over the years formed a steady cohort of Unisa colleagues, qualified for the Master’s Degree in ODeL. The programme follows a heutagogical approach, which is built on humanistic theory, where determination and direction are determined by the student. The MEd in ODeL will educate leaders in education across professions to capacitate lecturers and others in ODeL practices.

Van den Berg explained that the primary purpose of this degree is to educate and train practitioners and researchers in the field of ODeL practice and research, contributing to the development of knowledge at an advanced level. It is an intensive programme designed to challenge students who intend to enter a career in open or/and distance learning locally, nationally and internationally. The programme intends to equip students on ODeL matters, policies, theories, technology, ethics, and quality, change and management skills in ODeL with a strong emphasis on research in ODeL. The course modules are aimed at equipping student with the ability to conceptualise and understand the policies, theories and complex issues and dynamics of ODeL delivery and appreciate ODeL practices at different ODeL institutions, nationally and internationally.

Dineo Horner, the administrative coordinator for the UMUC Certificate in Technology in Distance Learning and e-Learning and Marketing and Communication administrator at the Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies in the College of Education, mentioned: “The Master’s Degree in Open Distance and eLearning is offered not only to the UMUC Certificate in Technology in Distance Learning and e-Learning awardees but to the general public.”

Unisa has one registration period per annum, during February/March. The admission requirements for the Master’s Degree in ODeL are:

  • Students with a four-year degree or a three-year bachelors and an honours qualification, a postgraduate diploma or equivalent in any academic or professional field. (120 credits at level 8)
  • Students must have internet access.

*By Dineo Horner