South Africa Needs To Challenge Its Contemporary View Of Education

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Since the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2015, and its subsequent rise in prominence, the global view of education has been challenged to the extent that education systems need to be adaptable, or they will face becoming irrelevant.

 

 


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“The existing view of education is changing at a rapid rate. What was considered contemporary yesterday, rapidly transitions into traditional. This is a major challenge facing tertiary education providers as they try to find their niche in a world that is being increasingly disrupted and driven by change,” says Dr Aradhana Mansingh, an Academic at MANCOSA.

She adds that while South Africa has a lot of catching up to do, there is still abundant potential within the country to produce world class graduates who are highly employable and sought after by global organizations who want to tap into their digital skill set.

The COVID-19 Springboard

While many global tertiary education institutions had already developed frameworks and platforms to transition to a digital model, many South African institutions used COVID as a springboard to move courses online. Dr Mansingh points out that as the South African COVID lockdown was announced, the online transition was done hastily, and many institutions grappled to fully develop the tools that were necessary to meet student needs.

 “The Pandemic has now created a suitable platform for online delivery. However, 2 years post-emergency online delivery, tertiary institutions are being forced to assess the quality of their delivery in line with global benchmarks. Additionally, they are being forced to evaluate contemporary online teaching platforms and ICT tools that are constantly evolving, and improving by taking into consideration student expectations,” says Dr Mansingh.

 As the leading distance learning provider in South Africa, MANCOSA embraced these tools long before the Pandemic, applying them throughout the student journey via the learning management system, assessments and webinars. She adds that it is vital that tertiary education providers keep up to date with the latest developments in digital education and how they can use this to cater to the needs of their students.

An ideal space

Dr Mansingh points out that the 2029 student intake will be the first intake of the Alpha Generation. This is the second generation of digital natives who are referred to as the iPad generation. Their education or learning expectations and values are completely different to previous generations.

This generation focuses on self-discovery learning with a heavy reliance on gamification and AI. Their thirst for knowledge and learning may not be limited to formalized qualifications. In preparation for the Alpha Generation, it is futile for higher education institutions to revert to contact-based education. Online learning platforms will take precedence in the future.

Engagement is a challenge that many online teaching platforms struggle to address. “Keeping students engaged in an online space is challenging. Current tools such as Mentimeter and Kahoot change the online learning landscape. Mentimeter allows students to answer questions as a class in real-time. 

This gives the academic a snapshot of the level of understanding of the content. If the academic finds that 70% of the students respond with the incorrect answer, a different learning strategy is needed. This is just one of the many tools available to enhance the student experience,” says Dr Mansingh.

The flexibility of asynchronous learning is proving to be a positive student intervention. "Students are employed; some live or work in various international time zones, while others do not have the resources to attend a live online class. The appeal of distance learning is the on-demand aspect- allowing learners to view recorded lessons made available on the learning management system. This is supported by notes, additional resources and access to the module expert via the platform," says Dr Mansingh.

 The current energy crisis in South Africa has been prioritized over the development of the technological infrastructure, with both these being a challenge to students in certain geographic areas. Therefore, the flexibility of the asynchronous learning model adds undeniable value to students.

Add value to the end user

Now, more than ever, tertiary institutions will remain relevant if they align with changing digital trends, while adapting to student needs.

“Academics play a major role in moving the institutions forward. The pace of modernization and technology will be at the forefront of higher education. The academic has already began transitioning from the content heavy slides to interactive slides in Slido or Mentimeter and integrating videos and case studies in the online class discussions.

This may not be adequate for the Alpha generation, and the academic may have to resort to teaching assistant bots and other advanced AI technology,” says Dr Mansingh.

 A country of innovators

While it is true that South Africa has much to do in bridging the equality in education gap, the country has the right DNA to forge our students forward into a global workspace.

“Partnerships with organisations and collaborations with industry leaders assures our understanding of local and global business needs to adequately prepare our students for the hyper-competitive workspace,” according to Dr Mansingh.


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