UP wins two international awards for using technology to ensure student success

Posted on July 01, 2022

Two teams from the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Department for Education Innovation recently won honours at the Anthology Catalyst Awards, where they were selected from a record number of 149 nominees from institutions in 22 countries including the United States, Canada and Australia.

The awards programme recognises and honours innovation and excellence in the global community of practice, through the use of Anthology and Blackboard software solutions. Anthology provides solutions for student enrolment, student engagement, success and retention; while Blackboard, which recently merged with Anthology, provides comprehensive educational technology solutions including a learning management system. The Catalyst Awards included nine categories this year.

The Department for Education Innovation at UP provides vision, training and support to optimise student learning and success. It won an award in the Optimizing Student Experience category. The team comprised of Professor Norman Duncan, Vice-Principal: Academic; Dr Hestie Byles, Manager: Academic advising and [email protected]; Lerato Sethoga, Senior Administrative Assistant; Johan Slabbert, Educational Technology Project Manager; Dolf Jordaan, Deputy Director of E-Learning and Media Development; and Dr Kgadi Mathabathe, Deputy Director of Academic Development.

The Department also won an award in the Student Success category. The team comprised of Dr Juan-Claude Lemmens, Head of Education Innovation and Research; Professor Gerrit Stols, Director of the Department of Education Innovation; Dr Sanet Haupt, Head: Education Consultants;  Detken Scheepers, Head: E-Learning and  Dolf Jordaan, Deputy Director of E-Learning and Media Development.

Dr Byles said her team won for its work on the three-tiered orientation programme consisting of the Pre-orientation module, the Academic Orientation Week and the UP Online Extended Orientation modules. “The Pre-orientation module was developed for all provisionally accepted students. The aim is to provide all learners who may become UP students with the opportunity to receive a glimpse into what they may expect from academic life at UP.”

The UP Department for Education Innovation team that won an award in the Optimizing Student Experience category.

The Department for Education Innovation team that won an award in the Optimizing Student Experience category. Front row from left: Lerato Sethoga, Dr Juan-Claude Lemmens and Dr Kgadi Mathabathe. Back row from left: Prof Gerrit Stols, Dr Hestie Byles and Dolf Jordaan

Attendance of the Academic Orientation Week is compulsory for all first-year students as this supports and prepares them for the year ahead. “The aim of the Academic Orientation Week is to, among other things,
help students adapt to the University environment, and ensure they cope with the academic demands of being at university.

“The objective of the UP Online Extended Orientation modules is to further assist first-year students with their transition from high school to university by supporting them with various skills required to adapt to university life. The additional spin-off is boosting their academic performance by giving them experience with UP’s Learning Management System, clickUP,” explained Dr Byles.

She added, “This award is a great honour and recognition of a wonderful team effort. In the end, our passion and commitment is for our students and to assist them to transition into university and reach their finish lines successfully. Being recognised for our attempt to do that inspires us to aim even higher and do even more.”

Dr Lemmens said his team’s award was for the High-Impact Modules Project at UP, through which his team implemented effective course evaluation practices that resulted in improved student outcomes and improvement in the quality of teaching and learning. “The purpose of this project was to provide a holistic review of a selection of courses with targeted interventions to increase the pass rates of the course. Blackboard Analytics4Learn data and qualitative course reviews were used to understand the specific issues that impact the performance of a course; namely, in terms of curriculum, assessment, policies and practices, support services, communication, students and lecturers.”

The Department for Education Innovation team that won an award for the High-Impact Modules Project at UP.

The Department for Education Innovation team that won an award for the High-Impact Modules Project at UP. Front row from left:  Detken Scheepers and Dolf Jordaan. Middle row from left: Dr Juan-Claude Lemmens and Dr Sanet Haupt. Back row: Prof Gerrit Stols

He said that it is a privilege to accept the award on behalf of a dedicated group of UP staff that has invested much effort and time to improve the success rates of modules and to have also improved the quality of teaching and learning, in general, at UP.

Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, said, “We are delighted with these awards. It shows that we have the ability to compete internationally against world-renowned universities.”

Prof Kupe added that UP is committed to helping first-year students settle into the academic environment as well as helping them graduate within the stipulated time through the Finish Line is Yours ([email protected]) programme. This is so that “they can go on to find employment or start businesses and contribute to the economy”.  

Anthology Catalyst Award winners were selected by a cross-functional team of Anthology experts and represent the very best in their field. Winners from across the globe will be recognised during the Anthology Together Conference to be held from 11-14 July in Florida, United States.

“It’s an honour to recognise this year’s Anthology Catalyst Award winners for their commitment to technology to enhance the learning experience and improve educational outcomes for all learners,” said Jim Brigadier, President of Global Markets at Anthology. “This year’s winners demonstrate excellence in innovation and are key drivers of global student success.”

Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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