Optimisation of educational technology on campuses
As part of a strategic intent to promote usage of educational technology especially off campus, the TSLG undertook a survey to establish a baseline understanding of technology usage in the sector. The emerging report, tabled at the TLSG meeting of 27 February 2018, shows, in the main, that a) most participating institutions have reliable connectivity and that the online learning environment is growing; b) Wi-fi is a significant factor in student success, and it is critical that this functions effectively; c) there is a need to train academics to use technology meaningfully, and this should be investigated at institutional level.
The USAf office has since brought these matters to the attention of DVCs: Academic, and encouraged them to initiate institutional discussions on the implications of these findings on models of teaching and learning at the institution. The TSLG will continue to monitor advances in this area and continue to engage as appropriate.
Students huddle around Wi-fi hotspots to access internet. Wi-fi availability has been proven to be a significant contributor to student success. Photo: courtesy of the Vaal University of Technology (VUT).
Enhancing the student learning experience
In 2016 the TSLG expressed a concern that students’ learning experience was not getting the attention it deserved through the Quality Enhancement Project (QEP0 of the CHE, or through the initiatives of the Staffing South African Universities Framework (SSAUF) of the DHET.
The TSLG commissioned a survey to establish a baseline of what initiatives were in place at universities to assess students’ learning experiences. The report noted that the South African Survey of Student Engagement (SASSE), undertaken by the Centre of Teaching and Learning at the University of the Free State to assess the student experience, was used by a number of universities.
Following a recommendation to the USAf Office to explore collaborating with the UFS’s CTL to provide aggregated data reports for the sector, such collaboration is underway. The first such report, titled Understanding Students; A key to systemic success, was issued in the last week of March 2018 and distributed amongst Vice-Chancellors, DVCs Academic and heads of Marketing, Communication and Advancement in the system. This inaugural report, in a series of three anticipated for 2018, focused on data emerging from the Beginning University Survey of Student Engagement (BUSSE) administered among 14,872 students from 2015 to 2017. The students were from nine institutions – three traditional universities, two comprehensive universities and four universities of technology.
Understanding what kind of students we have enrolled in first year is a critical pre-requisite for designing appropriate responses to ensure their retention and ultimate success. Photo: courtesy of the University of Limpopo (UL).
Communicating sector-wide findings of student engagement surveys is aimed at improving institutions’ understanding of a) the kind of students they are enrolling, as a collective; b) what it is that they bring into the higher education environment — thereby enabling the institutions to design that environment better to respond to the students’ needs. Institutional responses can entail changing approaches to teaching and learning; how students are orientated to the first year experience; how tutorials are managed, and how students receive academic advice.
The USAf office has again since brought these matters to the attention of VCs, DVCs: Academic and heads of Advancement, Communication and Marketing.
Click on this link to access the first report issued in this regard. http://www.usaf.ac.za/what-were-learning-about/ More reports will follow in due course.
Deferral of universities’ enrolment plans
The TLSG stated that the DHET had requested universities to submit their enrolment plans beyond 2019, in September 2018. Taking into consideration, the concerns raised above on the 2018 enrolments, and the need for the sector to debate the issues before working on the next enrolment cycle, the Board acceded to the TLSG proposal to request a deferral of the DHET submission date. The USAf Office was instructed to issue a letter to the DHET, requesting that the submission of enrolment plans be extended to December 2018.