Hybrid learning – South Africa faces a two-pronged challenge in higher education which requires greater creativity in utilising technology to create more capacity at a time when state resources are limited. Nationally capacity remains one of the great challenges facing the state while the gap between what the education system has been producing and what industry requires grows ever wider.
Covid-19 has further exposed the short-comings in the higher education environment and some of the deficiencies of the teaching models. A diverse student population with varying levels of starting knowledge makes a traditional ‘one size fits all’ teaching approach less likely to succeed.
The Covid-19 induced lockdown has forced universities and colleges to find an online solution to keep studies going and avoid cancelling the academic year. The biggest hurdle has been in ensuring all students have access to a device and data. Added to student access to devices is support for the assistive devices and the requirement to upskill teachers to teach online.
Post Covid-19 the need to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds without access to finance who struggle to travel to university or find accommodation, are fuelling the drive towards redesigning the higher learning hybrid learning model according to global educational learning expert D2L.
The organisation recommends online and hybrid learning models as the answer to help meet South Africa’s education and skills needs through feature-rich, scalable courses tailored to deliver learning outcomes.
A hybrid learning model blends online with face-to-face tutoring. It opens up studying opportunities by reducing the amount of time that students need to physically spend at university. Through virtual learning via a learning management system (LMS), students may attend university only one week out of four. In this way, capacity becomes four times what it would otherwise be.
- Technology enabled virtual learning can help support the provision of flexible, personalised and engaging learning experiences. Additional resources could include training in digital skills to bring students less literate in this area up to speed.
- Range of teaching models – support for face-to-face, blended and fully online methods which enable students to learn at their own pace through a range of supported content formats which offer feedback, reward and recognition as well as offer collaboration.
- Allowance for various devices as not all students have laptops but may have access to a smart phone or tablet. Students should have the same experience whichever device they are using and be able to seamlessly pick up from where they left off with access to full functionality whether they are on a PC, tablet or smart phone.
- Ability for students to download course materials to their devices whilst at the university/college and then work offline when they may not have data/connectivity. (Agricolleges in South Africa is a successful case study in SA) .
- Through individualised learning pathways that can be accessed from a range of devices, student needs can be supported, minimising student drop-out and maximising learning outcomes. Innovative tools help teaching, and administrative staff implement course programmes efficiently, while data from the platform supports progress monitoring and timely interventions to keep students on track.