Launching Siyaphumelela Network 2.0 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s restraint on conference gatherings, Saide managed to replicate its previous Siyaphumelela conference attendance figures in the recent online webinar to launch the Siyaphumelela Network 2.0, writes Saide’s Fatima Rahiman. 

The launch webinar held on 26 August 2020 unveiled the new and expanded Siyaphumelela Network, which focuses on increasing student success through the use of evidence based approaches.  It aims to work together with participating universities to further develop and share the expertise, learnings and tools curated from the first 5 years. The launch enjoyed the participation of most of South Africa’s universities with some 160 participants logged on.

The tightly packed programme, steered by Saide’s Alan Amory’s deft hand and a seamless transition of slides, commenced with a presentation by Bill Moses from the Kresge Foundation, who reaffirmed the foundation’s ongoing support for the expansion of the initiative.   His presentation also elucidated the notion of student success and Siyaphumelela’s nuanced approach to data analytics, highlighting how this was underscored by the pillar of inclusivity and a collaborative working approach. He stressed the following:

Jenny Glennie, Director of Saide - the coordinating body of the Siyaphumelela initiative, provided an overview of how the Network will operate through regional and national networks and through a range of services offered by Saide, partner universities, and other agencies. A partner university will lead each of six regional sub networks as shown below.

She outlined the envisaged ecosystem within which the Network will work -represented below - and described some of the envisaged services. These include student success coaching, the Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (ICAT) system, Know your Data webinar offerings as well as an Ethics workshop offering. The proposed partner services include national services such as the National Student Success Data Warehouse, student advising, a framework for student success and tracking of the PSET system with SALDRU’s Phambili project.

Speaking on behalf of the Department of Higher Education Training (DHET), Whitty Green applauded the Kresge Foundation for its continued commitment to higher education development. He reflected on the maturation of the partnership, having evolved to a mutually beneficial one through the professional contributions of understandings of student success in the SA context. 

Green expressed DHET’s recognition of the significant contribution of the Siyaphumelela partnership on student success in the SA higher education sector, citing the positive trajectory of the system with improvement evidenced on most indicators. He was, however, quick to point out that there remain differential success rates with regards to the nature of programmes being offered, the medium of delivery i.e. contacts versus distance programmes, as well as the success gaps between gender and population groups. Student success thus remained an apex priority for the department. Click here to listen to Whitty Green’s full presentation

The seven partner institutions provided a cogent summary of their respective institution activities. 

University of Cape Town
The University of Cape Town will develop an institution-wide, integrated, data analytics system with faculty-specific dashboards to provide data for the development of interventions to support student success and improve quality of teaching and learning.

University of Western Cape
The University of the Western Cape will concentrate on strengthening its data analytics capacity, including enhancing the understanding of academic and support staff in the role of data analytics in driving student success.

University of KwaZulu Natal
At the University of KwaZulu-Natal, a three-year research study into the impact of various institutional policy interventions on student access and progression will be implemented.

Durban University of Technology
The Durban University of Technology will be strengthening its data analytics capacity to build and encourage an evidence-led culture of decision-making and planning.

Nelson Mandela University
Nelson Mandela University is seeking to enhance training for student success coaches and academic advisors, as well as develop an integrative student success monitoring, tracking, and evaluation system.

University of Free State 
The University of the Free State will evaluate the implementation of advising strategies to determine the impact of these interventions on students’ development and success.

University of Witswatersand
The University of the Witwatersrand will research the prevalence and risk factors of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation among students, and develop targeted interventions aimed at improving student quality of life.

University of Pretoria
The University of Pretoria, which was part of the original group in Siyaphumelela 1.0, will remain part of the network but will self-fund its work.

Alan Amory introduced members of the new cadre of South African coaches, and described their role – see the separate article in this newsletter.

Not to be deterred by the absence of the cocktail event and tea-time chats in previous conferences, delegates took to the Zoom chat channel instead and engaged in active participation, proffering questions such as the ethics of data use, access to internet connectivity in remote areas etc. which were dealt with in the closing session (1:45:22).  Saide is pleased to note that the comments expressed attests to an event well received!

 Overview extracted from the University World News coverage of the event, written by Meneesha Govender. Read the full story here.