The University of Witwatersrand will persist with the blended learning programme for the foreseeable future.
The mix of in-person and online teaching methods from the last three years is what Wits University students and academic staff have had to navigate in 2022. The university plans to continue with the blended approach to battle covid-19 waves and any other potential interruptions to teaching and learning.
Diane Grayson, the senior director of academic affairs at Wits, said blended learning has been on the university’s agenda since 2015. “Our intention is to not go back to the way things were previously,” said Grayson. The university will continue with the blended learning approach despite the recent lifting of the National State of Disaster.
The Wits approach to blended learning balances the four teaching principals put forward by Tanya Joosten. The aims of this approach include: Having information available at any time, promoting student engagement, and allowing interaction between students, lecturers and tutors.
Grayson said so far both students and staff have taken to blended learning quite well, “Students had an opportunity to have some on campus activities and some interaction face to face, but we kept them safe from covid.”
But it has not been without its challenges. Steven James, a lecturer in the school of computer science and applied mathematics, said, “…finding the right balance of interaction with students,” has been a struggle. For Lyndal Keeton, a lecturer in the school of economics and finance, the difficulty has been: “Trying to integrate what we used to do with what we [have] been doing for the last two years.”
Some students have said that they prefer blended learning to online learning. “Blended [learning] has definitely been better, having in-person tests and tutorials is just a lot better. You just feel more engaged with the university,” said Zach Schwark, a second-year computer science student.
The university is open to suggestions which may improve on this method of teaching and learning. George Marantos, a third-year information engineering student, suggested that the university completely remove online tests, as it enabled “cheating” among students. Tiago Luis, a first-year aeronautical engineering student, said online lectures are more “chaotic” than in person lectures.
Gareth Roberts, a lecturer in the school of economics and finance, questions the overreliance on using video recordings. James suggests a system “Where students have access to not just in-person material, but also online material specifically developed for their particular course.”
The university praised the Wits community on being “extraordinarily resilient” during the last two years and congratulates the Wits community on a “superb job” under the circumstances of the last two years.
FEATURED IMAGE: Second year chemical engineering student works through a blended learning lab. Photo: Colin Hugo
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