SUCSESS: UP academics receive training to enhance teaching and boost student employability

Posted on April 26, 2021

University of Pretoria (UP) academics were part of a group of 40 academics that received the first training through a project aimed at equipping them with additional skills to enhance the teaching experience and increase student employability. The training focussed on innovative ways in which technology can support industry collaboration through real-life and simulated case studies and programmes.  

The training is the second phase of the project ‘Strengthening university-enterprise cooperation in South Africa to support regional development by enhancing lifelong learning skills, social innovations and inclusivity (SUCSESS)’. Professor Berendien Lubbe of UP’s Department of Historical and Heritage Studies led the project’s first phase in 2020, which focused on the research that served to guide the training. Co-funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme, the project will be presented in South Africa and Finland. The first training programme was facilitated by an international team and included seven virtual sessions that ran from 15-26 February, with three more programmes planned for the rest of 2021-2022, one of which will take place in Finland. Following the training phase, the implementation phase will get underway.

This training phase of the project is focussed on providing students and lecturers with the latest technologies to prepare students for the workplace. This technology will allow lecturers and students to utilise software or simulate industry problems through custom apps to achieve a greater level of work readiness, a gap that was identified in the research preceding the training phase. By benchmarking against best practices, the project also shows how students benefit through experiential-, project-based-and inquiry learning.

UP participants included staff members from the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, the Department of Business Management, and Career Services.

Prof Lubbe explained that there are six partners in the project: “In South Africa, these include the University of Pretoria, which led the first research phase, the University of Johannesburg, and the University of Zululand. The international partners in the project are the University of Oulu and Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Finland, and Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. All the partners are working towards the common goals of increasing the employability of students, and how universities or institutions of higher education can collaborate with industry, and the public sector, to ensure the students are equipped to participate effectively in industries. This is a three-year programme, and will run until 2022.”

The training created a platform for participants to link the training to research done by UP. Topics included employability, health, wealth, growth, entrepreneurship, tourism and education, and all the issues addressed could be looked at from both a societal and an economic perspective.

Participants stated that the training so far has been invaluable and has provided them with an opportunity to examine their own teaching pedagogies.

“This project is very insightful, it is an opportunity to examine our own teaching pedagogies, to compare and analyse what other universities have implemented and what works for them and advance our own,” said Winnie Senoamadi, a tutor and master’s student in the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies. “It enables us to bring something back to our table at the end of the day. Their pedagogies may not create a blue print scenario that we can all adopt because of many differences, such as geographical locations, but we can acquire skills, ideas and knowledge that we can take back to our own departments to further assist students into the future.”

Charlene Herselman, a lecturer in the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, also spoke about her experience: “The SUCSESS training has been incredibly beneficial and thought-provoking. I think it is very necessary to be introduced to new and innovative ways of teaching that challenge you as a lecturer. This training is providing wonderful insights into promoting better collaboration with industry and how to engage students to make them partners in their own learning, which is very relevant in the context of the fast-evolving and multi-disciplinary tourism industry. It is also wonderful to connect with colleagues across different disciplines and continents to learn from their experience.”

Professor Lubbe said it is her department’s hope that at the end of the training programmes participants will not only have gained more knowledge, but also some innovative ideas on how to create opportunities for their students.

“This project has come just at the right time given how stressful our environment currently is. It has allowed the flow of new ideas and the identification of opportunities from which both lecturers and students are benefitting. The EU-funding of new technologies allows us to experiment with these new ideas and to also put them into practice in the third phase of the project. We need our students to bring innovation and commitment into the workplace so that we can be part of the renewal and growth in the economy,” Prof Lubbe said.

To learn more about the SUCSESS Project, visit the following links:

Website: https://www.sucsessproject.co.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SUCSESSproject/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SUCSESSProject

- Author Masego Panyane
Published by Xolani Mathibela

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