Dr Riana Steyn in the Department of Informatics is awarded the 2018 AIS Award for Innovation in Teaching

Posted on February 05, 2019

The 2018 AIS Award for Innovation in Teaching, rewarded by the AIS Education Committee, was awarded to Dr Riana Steyn in the Department of Informatics in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology at UP.   

She was selected as the winner based on a global call for nominations and a thorough evaluation process by the AIS Education Committee.  Dr Steyn received the reward based on her highly innovative work at University of Pretoria. 

Reflections of a  teaching philosophy: The tale of two projects

In this article Dr. Riana Steyn shares some of the projects and research studies that contributed to her nomination and ultimate award of the EBIT Teaching and Learning Award for innovative teaching methods, teaching systems analysis and design.

Throughout the years, I have tried and tested many teaching methods with varying degrees of success. The main subjects that I teach, is in the business analysis and design domain. In these subjects, students are taught creative problem-solving skills to address real-life business problems and analyse business problems in such a way that they can design effective software solutions.

My teaching philosophy started to change around the ultimate belief that every student is willing and able to achieve their full potential if given the relevant access and opportunities. Furthermore, that they learn best when challenged and involved in activities they can relate to their own experience and daily life. I therefore believe that the adoption of technologies for learning should ultimately address the question of “what does it take to learn?”

Teaching specific research projects

The first project that I would like to share is the textbook research project. The development of this textbook was a long journey that started in 2015. One of the key problems that both the INF171 and INF271 modules face is the absence of a proper textbook that focuses on all the aspects of the module. I started considering the idea of getting the millennials, the entire class as talent pool, to design and contribute to the development of a cost-effective textbook. The project was kicked off by giving the students an assignment based on use cases. The idea behind this assignment was to see if one can have student-created content that speaks to the average millennial student who wants to contribute to the content.

In July 2018, the first draft of the textbook was launched and students had to complete an assignment using the textbook as an additional resource. The purpose of this assignment and textbook was to see if the students found the textbook useful in completing their assignment.

I am currently involved in discussions with a company to create a more formal interactive textbook and the idea is that this textbook will be adapted annually to accommodate not only the rapidly changing technological environment, but also the different students who enter UP annually.

The second project is the iPeer research project. In 2017, I investigated peer participation and during the next year worked with EBIT’s Education Innovation consultant, Adriana Botha, conducting research on peer participation evaluation (PPE) in the UP learner management system, Blackboard. The first PPE research paper was presented at the SETE Conference 2018 and it featured the first lessons learnt from using the iPeer tool. In this paper, we argued that technology-supported PPE seems to provide the solution to these group work assessment challenges and that care should be taken to use it as formative assessment “as learning” and not only in a summative way “for learning”. Multiple future research projects based on these findings will be concluded during 2019 and 2020.

These projects outline my teaching philosophy that I believe make a difference in students’ lives. Due to the ever-changing and evolving technological era in which we currently live, training does not only mean portraying knowledge, but rather teaching how to adapt to change.

- Author Hanlie Smuts

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