DHHS Goes Virtual

Posted on August 05, 2020

As a result of the national lockdown and closure of the University of Pretoria campuses since the end of March 2020 due to the COVID19 pandemic, the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies (DHHS), along with the rest of the University of Pretoria, has successfully concluded the first semester of 2020 online. 

While the Department held extensive internal consultation on how to proceed, each lecturer was given freedom to apply an online learning approach that best suited their particular module. A variety of digital platforms were used, including BlackBoard Collaborate, Google Hangouts and Zoom. The Department mostly used an asynchronous approach supplemented with synchronous, live sessions. 

In first year history more than 700 students were guided to completion by Dr Nisa Paleker and Mr Jaco Bothma, relying on the exceptional contribution of the first-year tutors together with the virtual-volunteer peer tutors. Ms Charlene Herselman coordinated the first year Heritage and Cultural Tourism module, where students were able to complete their practical components online.

In second year Heritage and Cultural Tourism, despite large-scale problems with connectivity, electricity and devices, students managed to do large group work research assignments successfully, using ClickUP, WhatsApp, e-mails and even photos of hand-written answers and guided by lecturer Mrs Karina Sevenhuysen.  

At third-year history level students successfully submitted their individual and group research assignments, and as a class achieved a high pass rate.

At history honours level, students successfully completed the archival project “What’s in the Box?”, with the help of the UP Archive staff, and presented their findings to over 80 people at a virtual seminar on 29 June. The honours students are to be particularly congratulated for remaining focused and applying themselves fully and for performing so well in the final examinations.  

The honours Heritage and Cultural tourism students managed well, especially in their research and methodology course, utilising the various skills learned online by working through their study material, readings and practising the skill of reducing large amounts of information into a comprehensive and synthesised unit.

In particular, the Heritage and Cultural Tourism honours students deserve special mention, converting their campus tours into virtual interactive tours giving them an experience in coping with tourism in the time of a pandemic, a development which is already making news.

Across all levels, the class representatives have been integral to the success of all the modules.

While far from ideal, the transition to online teaching has been a huge learning experience for the DHHS staff and students and, based on the positive student feedback, the Department has performed well. To quote one student: “DHHS has been in a league of their own, but we still miss having our live classes with the lecturers so much”

Although the Department has successfully made the required transition to virtual learning, we acknowledge its limitations, and look forward to the resumption of face-to-face classes with the opening of the University of Pretoria campuses.

We would like to extend our thanks and congratulations to all our students and staff in the Department who have risen so effectively to the lockdown challenge and to wish them well for the second semester of 2020.

Published by Ian Macqueen

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