Teaching and learning - Prof M Holmner

Teaching and learning - Prof Marlene Holmner




Lecturer for INL 110 – Introduction to Information Science
Learning communities facilitate academic success through emotional support


Prof Marlene Holmner: Profile


Prof Marlene Holmner is an Associate Professor in the Department of Information Science. She lectures in the first- year Information Science module (INL 110), which is compulsory for students from all three of the Department’s degree programmes – Information Science, Publishing and Multimedia. During her years of teaching this module, Prof Holmner has come to learn that the emotional wellbeing of first-year students can have a significant impact on their academic performance.

To support first-year students in the process of adjusting to university life and the academic demands that come with it, Prof Holmner has spearheaded the establishment of departmental learning communities.

These learning communities are facilitated using the group chat feature on WhatsApp. Some 30 to 35 students are placed on a group chat, along with a module tutor. The instant interactive platform has proven itself to be ideal for communicating with students in a more personal manner.

The purpose of these learning communities is multi-faceted, addressing both the students’ academic and emotional needs. Students are, for example, reminded of due dates for assignments, while also receive messages of encouragement from the module tutors. Features such as “emojis” streamline the process of determining students’ emotional state, whereby each student can quickly indicate feelings such as anxiety or stress, or indicate that they are coping. The platform also open lines of communication by encouraging question-and-answer exchanges.

To ensure no misuse of the platform, supervision becomes an essential component. In this regard, Prof Holmner oversees the group chats, which also allows her to anticipate any problem areas in the module.

During exceptionally stressful times, the learning communities enable the Department’s support structures to intervene with relevant measures to promote the emotional welfare of the students. The learning communities have been embraced by both staff and students in the Department.


Published by Joukje Geertsema

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