SA Higher Education and Online learning today

Posted by Bongani Khoza

In an article titled Online Learning in Higher Education: a review of research on interactions among teachers and students Wallace provides context around Online learning and Higher education “Online learning has become a widespread method for providing education at the graduate and undergraduate level.

“Although it is an extension of distance learning, the medium requires new modes of presentation and interaction”(WALLACE 2010: 241). I would argue that the observation made by Wallace’s is true and can be applied to the South African Higher Education landscape in that Wallace acknowledges the contribution made by the advances in information and communication technologies (ICT’s) as major contributing factors to the current Higher Education online learning landscape.

in order to make sense of the amalgamation of online learning and higher education, a number of questions have to be asked. How different is online learning to distance learning? How much impact and influence does online learning have on traditional Higher Education institutions largely associated with face-to-face learning environments. By face-to-face learning environment I mean spaces that offer a classroom platform for robust “discussion, feedback, encouragement, or explanation from or with a knowledgeable other”(WALLACE 2010: 241). The introduction of online learning has problematised such classroom environments by questioning the role of the teacher within the classroom, while on the other hand questioning the relevance and effect of activities that would be traditionally been facilitated by a teacher in a face-to-face teaching environment.

In my view it must also be recognised that the introduction and use of online learning and teaching methods in the current Higher Education landscape of South Africa is in some way done in an effort to try complement and enhance the traditional face-to-face teaching, at the same time trying to replace and some if not all costly redundant administrative manual processes.

For me the underlying issue is the advocacy used to promote successful implementation and integration of online learning with or without face-to-face learning, for me the TED Talk by Daphne Koller, one example where the advocacy for online learning is slightly out of context. I say this based on how Daphne used the unfortunate example of a death of a parent as an entry point to promote the idea that if online learning systems where in place this tragic incident could have and would be prevented in the age of online learning. The example Daphne used is still relevant in the context of the talk she was giving, but what the talk fails to acknowledge is the accessibility and affordability of such new ground baking educational technologies by institutions of higher learning as well as the would be users of such ICTs effectively and just in time service and use. it is this advocacy that I feel is still in its infancy stages on some parts of the Higher Education landscape while on other parts it is relatively still in its advanced stages. Ultimately the proliferation of online learning in the South African Higher Education landscape is adopted and adapted to enhance face-to-face.

Posted by Bongani Khoza

July 20, 2015

5 responses on "SA Higher Education and Online learning today"

  1. I agree with you that Daphne’s TED talk example is slightly off target and misinformed. You mention that we are in our infancy stages of online learning, where do you feel we (SA universities) should be in terms of online learning?

  2. Great read @bongani, I just have one question. Up to so far what tangible benefits (if any) have you seen arising from online learning in high education?

  3. Bongani, a very good question: What is the difference between online and distance learning? One can actually add blended learning to the question.
    It will be interesting to make a comparison. One difference that comes to my mind immediately is that distance learning is more accessible to students because not everyone has access to technology.

  4. Some good questions and comments from @martha, @davidjones, @wilma. Good coverage on the SA landscape. What do you feel should be universities next step in online learning? We are in our infancy, should we even be considering MOOCs?

  5. Although we are in our infancy we (our educational institutions) have the abilities and skills to implement MOOC’s. Isn’t this course a good example of being able? We still have a lot to learn but I think that we are off to a good start.

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