Speaking at a recent meeting between TUT, TVET colleges, the Directorate of TVET Curriculum Development and Support (CDS) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Prof Mpofu said the proposed VR solution will expand the capacity of TVET colleges by making virtual replicas of workshops and trade test centres available. This will create access to workplace-based training across multiple devices, especially amid the COVID-19 social distancing regulations.
“The offering will assist TVET colleges in developing skills needed for the rapidly changing economy and supporting the efforts of the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP). More significantly, this initiative will reduce training time, costs and the learner failure rate. Colleagues from DHET also applauded how this solution addresses burning issues at TVET colleges. They are convinced about the indefinite adoption of VR as a training tool. In addition, they have offered to avail curriculum-related information and support that will be required during prototype development,” explained Prof Mpofu.
Other concerns raised at the meeting included the imbalance between rural and urban areas in terms of access to training infrastructure, ensuring technology transfer to reduce lecturer reliance on the service provider and leverage of the economy of scales by digitalising non-engineering courses to increase the number of users at reduced license costs.
In response to these concerns, Prof Mpofu and his team introduced the Proof of Concepts (PoCs) developed by the X-Reality Lab, an incubator of the RMCERI under the project titled Digital Railcar Manufacturing Factory (DRMF).
DHET commended the PoCs’ alignment with the Occupational Programmes being introduced in TVET colleges, while it also offered to assist in identifying and selecting priority programmes to digitalise, in conjunction with the relevant Quality Council.
Thivhudziwi Vele, DHET is Director for Curriculum Development and Support; David Modiba, the Deputy Director for Fundamentals; Pierre De Villiers, Deputy Director for Engineering Studies; Malehlohonolo Mbuli, Deputy Director for Business Studies; and Nosipho Ngcukayitobi, Deputy Director for Services Studies all attended the meeting.
Prof Mpofu said the participants were excited about the virtual experience enabling presence at the plant without physically being there. “The Research Chair, Incubator and XR Lab will continue to raise funds for the prototype; therefore the support pledged by the DHET Directorate is invaluable. DHET was taken through the various prototypes that are locally patented and that can be used in the localisation agenda to ensure young people are trained on locally-developed technologies”, concluded Prof Mpofu.