WITS School of Literature, Language and Media has launched a platform that allows communicative interaction between lecturers and students of tertiary institutions worldwide.

Blended and Online South Africa (Blosa) is a social media-style digital platform that aims to facilitate a discussion about technology and the ways in which it can enhance curriculum design and educational practices across multiple disciplines. The platform was launched in March 2019.

Online learning is cheaper than face-to-face learning. However, to avoid making face-to-face learning something only rich students enjoy, the concept of blended learning was introduced.

Centre of Learning and Teaching Development Director, Dr Rita Kizito, told Wits Vuvuzela, “A hybrid model would be very beneficial to students because online offers opportunities that face-to-face learning does not, for example simulating reality.

“Online provides a safe environment to experiment with things such as building bridges, without the cost of actually doing so.”

The Blosa platform was founded by three Wits staff members: Dr Brian Zuccala, Dr Christopher Fotheringham and Dr Anita Virga.

Co-founder and coordinator Zuccala told Wits Vuvuzela, “Blosa aims to rethink the way we do education.

“The digital solves the problem of synchronicity. Connectivity may not be there all the time, but if I have a question, I can pose the question and somebody will eventually answer,” he said.

Dr Colette Gordon, a member of the Blosa scientific committee and lecturer at Wits, said the whole project “is about meaningful engagement”.

While the platform was initially created to facilitate communication between staff members of universities, it has since expanded to include students.

Zuccala said it was “about breaking the boundaries between staff, as well as between staff and students”.

These sentiments were echoed by Gordon who said, “We are in an economy of scarcity where everyone is short on time. Blended learning is addressing this problem of scarcity.

“Technology has changed the way we think about learning and research. It can be both a solution and a problem, but we want to use it as a solution to a problem,” she said.

“Online is amazing when used as a tool of engagement, but it can also be a tool of disengagement. This is why a purely tech approach to university doesn’t work.”

The platform is still being fine-tuned, but students are encouraged to join and start contributing. For more information, please visit the Blosa website.