UEL Moves with the Times

21st January 2022

UKZN Extended Learning

– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase and Sujay Seodutt

At UKZN Extended Learning, the adaptation of technology has provided new insights into the learning process, utilised to re-envision the learning process. Previously, students’ educational opportunities were limited by their resources and physical environment within the traditional learning environment.

The worldwide pandemic accelerated change across all sectors, including higher education. Never before has the disruption of Edtech impacted so many lives.

At UKZN Extended Learning, we adapted, adopted, and learnt that the uncertainty amongst students, and the rapid change facing each of us, would be the first and most important hurdle we will need to overcome to continue lifelong learning in new and evolving ways.  

South Africa has diverse cultures; however, it also has a history of having unequal societies. During the pandemic, this was magnified as we encountered students who did not use technology previously in any shape or form. The pandemic forced students to learn computer basics using platforms like WhatsApp, used more as an online coaching system rather than the traditional instant messaging platform many of us know it to be.

UKZN Extended Learning offered several free online certificates and programmes and zero-rated data through our online campus. This was done with the vision of improving technology literacy amongst our communities and learners.

We steadily deployed platforms and systems to refocus our blended teaching and learning approach. To date, we have completely revamped our online learner systems, the core focus has been on promoting engagement and communication between facilitators and students alike. Our courses offer content-rich libraries together with synchronous and asynchronous learning methods, promoting learning both in an online and offline state.

Our executive management and leadership programs use online platforms to conduct simulations and other virtual activities, enabling our delegates to experience a technology-rich learning experience. Our platform offers world-class business simulations, featuring real-life events and impacts to your business, all wrapped in a powerful simulator.

With remote working, we further refocused our delegate interaction points with staff. Using the latest technology in machine learning and automation, we now attend to queries and applications promptly regardless of the physical location of the team.

The opportunities have been endless while affording greater equality and positive learning experiences that improve students’ chances of success in the future.

With the increase in connectivity, the soon to be launching 5G technology stack, connectivity and access will be revolutionised and available to more communities. It is also essential to ensure students understand the importance of having a responsible digital presence.

Students need to be guided on safely and productively navigating the digital world. Technology can transform learning if leaders in higher education create a shared vision in which all community members believe. Technological innovation alone is not sufficient to enable transformative learning in higher education, but it does help to facilitate it. Embracing technology in the learning process can influence the specific skills and competencies required in the future. To improve the quality of learning, institutions should be knowledgeable about learning technologies and be in tune with their advancements while understanding how to effectively use them.