Over the last few months, Saide has been working with Vaal University of Technology (VUT) on a capacity building exercise to support their introduction of a blended learning approach.
Blended learning refers to the provision of structured learning opportunities using a combination of contact, distance, and/or educational technology - supported opportunities (modes of provision) to suit different purposes, audiences and contexts. While technology can play an important role in teaching, learning, assessment, management and professional development, it only supports learning but can never supplant the importance of a teacher. Thus educational technology is viewed as a tool to enhance teaching, learning, assessment, management and professional development, with the pedagogical approach being more important than the technology.
VUT’s aim to introduce the blended learning approach is to tackle the problem of passive learning and also provide greater opportunities for a more informed student-lecturer engagement. In particular, introducing activity-based tasks reflecting on authentic learning practices, they hope that this will give students greater agency.
Saide held workshops with a group of VUT Centre for Academic Development staff members to support the design of blended learning and train-the-trainer sessions.
The first workshop focussed on exploring the Saide framework for blended learning, which included the aims of blended learning, an appropriate approach to teaching and learning with technology and the use of open learning principles for learning design.
The second workshop aimed to engage the team in programme, course and materials design, which included engagement and activity-based design, appropriate use of ICT for teaching and learning, and Learning Management Systems related to learning design. In the second workshop, participants showcased existing work which included presentations and learner guides, course outlines, lecture notes and related material to design and develop activities that were later shared with the VUT-appointed provider, Eiffel Corp, who were appointed to digitise the courses for the Blackboard/VUTela Learning Management System (LMS) platform.
In the next stage Saide led a Facilitating Online Learning Course (FOLC). The purpose of the course was to support the development of online facilitation knowledge, skills, and behaviours/attitudes. The course was designed to let participants experience an online course from a student perspective.
Reflecting on lessons learned, participants felt that the workload of academics needs to be taken into consideration when arranging training programmes and it is important to select the right time on the academic calendar. Securing buy-in from academics is also crucial. However, those who were able to participate are excited about the emerging community of practice and are looking forward to the next phase of the project in line with lessons learned.