Article: courtesy Times Higher Education

South African higher education’s opportunity to embrace digital transformation

New models for online learning can help reduce inequality and improve access, say experts

The coronavirus has undoubtedly accelerated the shift towards multimodal learning, teaching and assessment in higher education. However, this has increased the challenges facing South Africa, where institutions were struggling with a lack of capacity and gaps between employers’ needs and students’ skills before the pandemic. 

This is why, says Dhaya Naidoo, chief information officer at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), there has never been a better time to discuss best practice for the digital transformation of South African universities – particularly increasing access to a university education to a much wider audience.

“South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. A fair number of our students come from poor communities or are the first in their family to access higher education,” he says. “What will take us forward is digital transformation: how we leverage technology to bridge the pervasive inequalities so students can access it via a smartphone. This is an environment where access to technology many of us take for granted is not in place.” 

On 12 August 2020, Times Higher Education will host the webinar “Enabling digital transformation in South Africa”, in partnership with learning platform specialist D2L. Dr Naidoo will feature on its panel of experts from academia and industry, and share TUT’s journey towards equipping its 64,000 students with personalised learning experiences  to become future-ready graduates that make a positive societal impact.

“We had always been planning for how we respond to a VUCA [volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity] world,” he says, “then Covid hit and it has become a catalyst to bring about the transformation we’ve been talking about.”

The webinar will also discuss student engagement and how institutions can partner with government and industry to increase students’ access to devices and data. 

Stewart Watts, vice president for EMEA at D2L, hopes the event will enable universities at different stages of digital transformation to share experiences and discuss both the pain points and the logistics of moving courses into the digital world.

“The pandemic has shown us that the VLE [virtual learning environment] has simply become the ‘LE’. So, it has to take on much greater strategic significance,” he says. “It’s not simply about replicating what you have already. The webinar format will allow people to hear TUT’s story, as they have thought about this long before many other institutions. We hope it will spur others on to go down the same route.” 

Register now to attend the Times Higher Education and D2L webinar “Enabling digital transformation in South Africa” on 12 August 2020. 

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Willa de Ruyter, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
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