On 9-10 September 2019, Ms Celeste von Fintel and Mr Oscar Eybers represented the UAL at the Flexible Futures conference that was hosted by the University of Pretoria at the Future Africa Centre. The theme for the conference was ‘Impactful teaching between clicks and bricks’; therefore, the focus was on innovations in higher education in light of the fourth industrial revolution, as well as the ways in which higher education institutions can and must adapt in terms of teaching strategies, methods, and foci.
The conference itself showed the importance of the move towards technological innovations and sustainability. The various papers presented at the conference highlighted the importance of higher education institutions to adapt to a world in which technological advances are constantly changing the way people think, act and work. The keynote speaker, Heather McGowan, whose paper was presented through a video call, highlighted the fact that industries are constantly changing and, as a result, very few graduates end up working in the sector or discipline where their academic careers start. Therefore, higher education institutions must focus on developing the skills graduates will need to adapt and change along with their changing environments, as well as the uniquely human skills that cannot be replaced by technology.
In addition, the conference also illustrated the ways in which African institutions are leaders in the fourth industrial revolution. In light of this, von Fintel and Eybers’s paper showed how the UAL is paving the way when it comes to the move towards hybrid learning. The paper was an evaluation of the UAL’s first attempt to convert a large-scale, contact-based module, LST 110, into a hybrid learning module. The paper highlighted the successes as well as the problems encountered in this attempt, specifically focussing on lecturers’ concerns and the impact on the hours students spent working on the module. In this self-critical evaluation, von Fintel and Eybers clearly showed that, while there are areas where improvement is necessary and while the module cannot yet be considered hybrid learning, the results are promising and they are optimistic about the future of the UAL.