Pospad Leads the Way

Introduction

Unizul as an institution steeped in tradition, culture and history, provides the didactic needs of students drawn from throughout the Africa continent. Alumni passing through this haloed sanctum have spawned leaders in politics, law, education, science and the health disciplines.

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Unizul is facing challenges from varying quarters vis-a-vis competition from fraternal state universities to attract students; funding from the national department of higher education and a high turnover of experienced academics – this begs the question: what does it take to construct an enabling environment to produce graduates to meet the future challenges

Student enrolment over the past two years has increased exponentially yet this excellent institutional growth poses serious capacitorial challenges as this unnatural state places strain on existing scarce resources. The introduction of eLearning and other teaching methodology has impacted positively on teaching and the overall results of students at universities throughout the world.

Hence, Unizul??™s Senate Resolution on e-Learning was adopted in September 2009.

The traditional ???classroom??™ at Unizul is currently not a conducive teaching environment. To test the efficacy of the eLearning process, students (from 1st year to 3rd) were engaged to ascertain educational impediments and to establish the level of basic Computer Literacy preparedness and their ability to adopt eLearning technology. Data collected identified several contributory factors: student malaise; absenteeism; delays by students in getting to lecture venues; student inability to comprehend lectures; lack of research resources, indigent students unable to pay for photocopies, cost of textbooks and insufficient computer facilities, etc. ??“ all being catalysts for failure.

Open Source Software allows for customisation of individual websites on ???Google??™ at no cost to the University of Zululand. Lecture notes were posted in pdf. format to protect the integrity of the information. The information is not propriety linked (i.e. intellectual property or copyright) but all material used has been duly acknowledged/referenced.

Since classrooms are fitted with computers (with internet connectivity) and projectors, students were given comprehensive tutorials and provided with a username and password.

The use of electronic technology has enhanced student engagement. Students can access their website using a cell phone from anywhere over the weekends/night/vacation. This forum allows for comments from any student and can be directed to the lecturer or a group network. This good analytical tool allows evaluation for efficacy of the lecture/course material. Student assistants were trained to facilitate additional training.

Data was subjected to a reliability and validation process against an empirical study undertaken at a postgraduate (Masters) level. This finding corroborated that the use of eLearning is not being utilised by academics despite the widespread and generic challenges faced by the student population.

A ???Moodle??™ workshop was held on 15 September 2010.The system is not without its challenges. It debunked the fallacy that lecturers will become redundant as the dissemination of information is strenuously lecturer dependent and the several interventionist measures enforceable by the lecturer.

This process has revolutionised the traditional classroom, replacing static information (books) with blended teaching techniques and interactive multimedia presentations turning lectures into virtual classrooms.

POSPAD, the forerunner in rolling-out eLearning hopes to achieve 100% connectivity in pursuing a scheme to ensure all students are able to own a laptop (hopefully through a corporate social responsibility programme) and make his/her digital footprint into the 21st century.

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