The Carnegie Foundation awarded a grant of $200 000 to the University of Pretoria and three other South African universities to fund research on the impact of the educational technology strategies that were deployed during the disruptions caused on campuses during the #feesmustfall campaign in 2016. In the course of the investigation, the perspectives of students, academic staff, instructional designers and other stakeholders will be considered. The research will culminate in case studies on blended learning that might enrich the South African higher education sector’s use of hybrid/blended learning. The overarching aim of the research is to develop an effective blended / hybrid model of teaching and learning that will enhance successful student learning in South African institutions of higher learning, as well as in the collaborating universities.
Each institution will investigate its own practices. At UP, a sequential mixed-methods research design focused on the development of case studies will be used to collect data to describe and explain various stakeholders’ experiences with the use of technology when classes were disrupted during the second semester of 2016. Lecturers and students from the Faculties of Economic and Management Sciences, Education, Engineering, Built Environment and IT, Humanities, Law, Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and Theology will participate in the study.
The collaborative nature of the project will provide a more holistic understanding of how students and academics view blended learning. It will also show which of the strategies employed were effective, and will identify the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches adopted in 2016. Ideally, this collaboration will reveal effective strategies for the use of technology to provide online education at our universities.
It is expected that, in the short term, the project will lead to the more effective use of clickUP by UP lecturers and students. The collaboration with other South African institutions should also contribute to the development of best practice guidelines for the use of technology at universities. The research team envisages two longer-term outcomes: first, increased use of the LMS by lecturers and students within a blended / hybrid model at the institutional and national levels; and second, the establishment of a network among South African higher education institutions to share information on the use of technology in innovative teaching and learning practices.