Online learning…the new normal

29th April 2020

UKZN Extended Learning

– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

Is face to face teaching becoming a thing of the past? The profession of teaching and the art of learning techniques is evolving. Computer-based learning is taking over and is allowing students the opportunity to grasp comprehensive content provided by an online interface. Regardless of how people feel about tech taking over the classroom, it is a learning development that cannot be avoided any longer. The convenience of completing your courses from the comfort of the environment of your choice could make the learning experience conducive and enticing. However, online learning has its pros and cons in the South African context.

Naturally, there will be barriers with online learning as it is still in the trial and error stage for many currently trying to work within this area. Issues such as technical glitches and internet connectivity are bound to arise, and we need to prepare for such challenges. In addition, not all students and facilitators are tech-savvy. For one to complete an online course, adaption to new technologies is key, and some students might not be competent in this regard nor have access to devices that are an essential part of online learning. An immense sense of discipline is non-negotiable with online learning as many online courses do not have time constraints, however students need to exercise diligence if they wish to complete their tasks in a timeous manner.

The options that come with online learning are in abundance and offer opportunities in shaping careers and minds. A global network can also be developed through these learning platforms, especially if the institutions that are offering the courses are internationally recognised. Students can exchange material, and this interaction could offer a wide range of perspectives and content interpretation from multi-cultural backgrounds, which may prove to be an enlightening experience.

The online learning environment also poses an opportunity for educators, experienced industry professionals and academics. Facilitators would have just as much freedom as their students, as they would be able to set their own ‘working hours’. This is also beneficial when teaching students that are working in different time-zones, as facilitators will also be able to accommodate their different schedules. Another advantage for facilitators is that there are many digital platforms that support online learning, allowing for the sharing and accessing of information with ease.

Many institutions are finally embracing the idea of online learning and some have committed to the introduction of distance learning as there is so much unlocked potential. Distance learning, connecting with other students digitally, effective time management and discipline will soon become a way of life in the educational space for both facilitator and student. Online learning may be new and different, but it also allows the student to take the courses they need to earn the qualification they want.

At UKZN Extended Learning we are embracing the changes and are working on a number of projects aimed at providing free access to learning materials. Firstly, we have taken all our workshops online and are offering regular online webinars. Click here to view our exciting line-up! Secondly, we are offering free online courses and are regularly partnering with organisations to increase the offerings available. Click here to view our latest offerings!