News & Media

Unisa commences rollout of high-tech teaching and learning system

On Tuesday 30 March 2021, the Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) celebrated the successful rollout of the digital teaching and learning system (DTLS), which is one of the key projects under the teaching and learning workstream of the ODeL programme. The SBL was identified as the pilot college to roll out the DTLS in the university.

During the opening address at the virtual launch event, the executive dean and CEO of the SBL, Prof Pumela Msweli, emphasised that as a business school the SBL understands the place of technology in teaching and learning, and that the pedagogy of teaching must be in the forefront of teaching and learning, supported by technology. "In fact, the pedagogy of teaching cannot go very far without technology. And therefore for us, this ODeL project is not only to strengthen our teaching and learning, but it is to legitimise us as a fully-fledged ODeL institution," said Msweli. She also praised the DTLS project implementation team for achieving great heights with the rollout of the Moodle platform, for being trailblazers and being able to take the "heat of change".

The Vice-Principal of ICT and CIO, Poppy Tshabalala, who is also the ODeL programme executive, celebrated the milestone achieved by the Unisa SBL in successfully implementing and launching the university’s first DTLS platform. She proudly announced that even though it has been a long journey since the first discussions started to introduce the SBL as the launch site in 2018, "having created a successful model and framework here at SBL, we are planning to move with speed in rolling out the DTLS in all colleges".

Prof Truida Oosthuizen, from the College of Economic and Management Sciences, gave a comprehensive presentation on the background of the development of ODeL and how the journey started. Oosthuizen mentioned that for the university to become a fully-fledged ODeL institution, there needs to be a strong emphasis at the "O" as well as the "e" in ODeL to become open in application, open in registration and open in admission, while embracing online assessment opportunities, e-learning through digitally delivered continuous learning and end-user devices, and using artificial intelligence to improve learning experiences.

Covid-19 was not the only disruptor since 2020; the DTLS project and implementation would also become a significant disruptor in every facet of the SBL strategy and operations. Dhaya Sewduth, SBL instructional designer, shared his personal reflections on the DTLS journey: "In learning about the processes to transform our delivery from a paper-behind-glass online delivery to a truly immersive, interactive and engaging learning experience for the student on the new Moodle LMS, a digital immigrant like myself has suddenly been provided with a range of new opportunities to learn, unlearn, relearn and develop new skills." He further mentioned that since he has been afforded the opportunity to coordinate instructional design activities for the SBL module development, the road has not been without speed bumps and potholes. It did, however, present renewed and innovative ways in which SBL academics and support staff have rallied to support their students. "This augurs well for the next phase of our teaching and learning journey on the new platform."

DTLS project steering committee chairperson, Prof Oupa Mashile, concluded the celebrations with a presentation on providing higher education from an ODeL perspective. In his opening statement, Mashile reminded everyone on the importance of the role of the SBL in developing the competence of Africans "bringing about economic development for the masses". This can only be done by providing quality education and through the student experience – it is not only academic content which plays an important role in ensuring student success. He further said that in order to provide quality education, academics need specific digital skills. "We need confident staff to engage with students and we need a seamless technology infrastructure." In conclusion, he said that "the era brought by the DTLS as part of the ODeL project will usher in a set of confidence amongst our staff that digital interventions can be trusted, that this will be accessible to our students and staff and it will be a timely introduction of technology-enhanced teaching and learning throughout the entire system".

"As the pilot college to roll out the DTLS project, it is not only our responsibility as the flagship college of Unisa, but it is our duty to be the forerunners in this journey to successfully transform the university into a comprehensive, student-centred open distance e-learning institution."

* Submitted by Cristal Peterson, Deputy Director, Communication and Marketing, Unisa SBL

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Publish date: 2021/04/12