By Joran Molapo, CEO at VastraTech
The majority of Technical, Vocational, Education and Training (TVET) colleges are still reliant on on-premise equipment to run their learner management systems (LMS) and are looking to technology to mitigate against loadshedding and improve access to education. While they can look at alternative energy solutions and even switch to the cloud in an effort to keep teaching uninterrupted, these are just enablers and more needs to be done for hybrid or remote learning to be successful.
Right from the start, hybrid learning cannot be successfully done by continuing with existing processes. If one looks at a college today, for example, the default is for different campuses to have their lecturers taking students on varied learning journeys, each having their own framework to work from, and their own flavour of lecturing.
In this new hybrid learning environment, it is vital that all of this is aligned across campuses; it means that when a student from any campus joins online, they are able to follow the content and gain maximum value from the lesson. This requires that courses are created once with a standardised learning journey for every student regardless of which campus they are enrolled at.
Then, providing extensive training for lecturers is critical: they have long been used to teaching with chalkboards or whiteboards and they are now having to deal with unfamiliar technology, in front of a classroom of students who are likely all digital natives. Then there is the challenge of classroom management – how do they come to grips with technology while also managing students who might be present in person or joining the class online? Forcing too much change, too soon, on lecturers can result in them simply shutting down, resulting in technology becoming a burden rather than an enabler.
Furthermore, these professional development programmes (PDP) for lecturers have to be customised if TVET colleges are to maximise their investment in education technology (EdTech) for blended or hybrid learning. This is because each and every institution is at a different stage of its digital journey, and there needs to be an understanding of just how tech-savvy the current educators are in order to set the baseline.
Then, end-user training based on vendor-proposed training modules needs to be carried out either in face-to-face or online sessions in order to bring lecturers up to the standard that is required for them to get the best out of the specific solution that has been implemented. There is also a need to identify power users and set them apart so that they are not bored with basic training. While there is currently no requirement or standardised qualification for educators when it comes to online teaching, it is highly beneficial for those educators who are able to add these PDP points to their CVs – not only does it show that they are skilled to teach in a hybrid environment, but it also assists in improving their earning potential.
Progress is being made, however, and credit needs to be given to the proliferation of smartphones which has played a role in encouraging older generations to become more tech-savvy.
Of course, it’s not only the lecturers that need a change in mindset. While students are far more used to technology than the older generation, some adapting is needed when looking at blended or hybrid learning. For example, when there is loadshedding, not everyone is on the same schedule or can attend the same online classes. As a result, students need to have the discipline and self-management to carry on with learning at their own pace; they can log in when the power is back, go through the lesson content – which is available online at all times – and submit whatever is required for them to complete their course. Then, of course, apart from online content there will be some lessons that are in-person as well, and students need to adapt to this too.
Ultimately, the switch to hybrid learning – and the cloud – has to be a slow and steady journey. You can decide to implement every kind of technology you want in one go, but the adoption will be poor as too much pressure is being put on the users. This new way of teaching and learning is not a major change from what we have been used to in the past, but a change in mindset is required for hybrid learning to be a success. There are some pockets of resistance but we cannot let this hamper South Africa – the world around us is changing and we need to adapt along with it or risk being left further behind.